The Nebraska Supreme Court has denied a request made by Attorney General Jon Bruning that the Pardons Board be allowed to hear the cases of 24 prisoners serving life in prison for crimes committed as juveniles.
The court has ordered that the cases go through the appellate process to satisfy provisions in a United States Supreme Court ruling handed down in June. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled that judges deciding the punishment for juveniles convicted of capital crimes must be given options other than just life imprisonment.
Bruning had argued that the Pardons Board, made up of Gov. Dave Heineman, himself and Secretary of State John Gale, be allowed to handle the cases. State Chief Justice Michael Heavican rejected the argument and upheld a ruling by Douglas County District Judge Thomas Otepka that barred the Pardons Board from hearing the cases.
“This ruling is contrary to Attorney General Bruning’s goal of protecting the public from violent criminals. These are 24 of the most violent offenders in the Nebraska prison system. It’s now up to the legislature to consider the very real threat to the public and ensure tough sentences,” Shannon Kingery, spokesperson for Bruning said in a written statement.
All of the cases involve convictions for First Degree Murder, except for one, which was a kidnapping case. The oldest case stretches back to 1971; that of Luigi Grayer convicted in Douglas County of First Degree Murder While in the Commission of Robbery.