A woman who spent nearly two decades in prison in Nebraska for a crime she did not commit is speaking out against the death penalty.
JoAnn Taylor is one of the exonerated Beatrice Six.
She says the prosecutor’s threat of the death penalty coerced her into confessing to a 1985 rape and murder.
Taylor says she is grateful the legislature repealed capital punishment last year.
“Because I would never want any of this to happen to someone else. I wouldn’t wish this kind of heart ache and stress on my worst enemy,” Taylor says.
Years after her release, she is still putting her life together.
“Trying to reconnect with family members who are still living that I have lost contact with.”
Taylor says she can never get back the years of her son’s life she missed because of the wrongful conviction.
“I was taken away from my 14 month old son in the middle of the night,” she says. “I didn’t see my son again until last December when we finally met in Omaha, 26 years after I was taken away from him.”
Jeff Patterson, one of the attorneys who represented five of the Beatrice Six in a civil trial, says four of the six pleaded guilty or no contest to a crime they did not commit, because prosecutors threatened them with the death penalty.
“If law enforcement tells you the threat of the death penalty helps to obtain guilty pleas, ask yourself – is what happened to JoAnn the kind of guilty plea we really want to have,” he says. “Threatening suspects with execution may resolve cases, but is it the kind of resolution we can afford?”
Patterson says the threat of the death penalty did not serve the interest of justice.
Nebraska voters will decide this election whether to retain the repeal of the death penalty or reinstate it.