Gage County officials have called a special meeting for Wednesday to decide whether to continue to fight a $26 million judgment against the county in the infamous Beatrice Six case.
A three- judge panel of the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has upheld a jury verdict and judgment reached in 2016 which awarded six Beatrice residents $26 million for being falsely imprisoned for a 1985 rape and murder.
Gage County Board Chairman Myron Dorn says the county has 14 days to decide to appeal to the full 8th Circuit Court of Appeals.
“Sitting here today, that’s probably a pretty likely scenario,” Dorn tells Nebraska Radio Network affiliate KWBE.
Dorn admits the appellate court ruling disappoints him.
“Very disappointed,” Dorn says. “Ever since the jury verdict there in July of 2016 it’s kind of what has been facing us. You are always hoping or planning on that maybe we could have enough information to change their decision, but that apparently wasn’t what they decided.”
Legal bills have been mounting and Gage County could be on the hook for more than $31 million.
Gage County appealed the 2016 jury verdict and judgment against it, in the convictions of the Beatrice Six. They were arrested and served time for the February 1985 rape and murder of Helen Wilson, of Beatrice.
The six were exonerated by DNA evidence in 2008, gaining pardons from the State of Nebraska in 2009. The group later filed a lawsuit saying their arrests and imprisonment were the result of a reckless investigation, manufactured false evidence, and coerced confessions.
The appeals panel ruled that deputies knowingly violated the due process rights of the defendants by applying “systematic pressure” to implicate the defendants and by “purposefully ignoring” exonerating evidence.
Doug Kennedy, KWBE, contributed to this story.