Turned down by the 8th US Circuit Court of Appeals, Gage County officials will appeal a $28 million civil rights judgment in the infamous Beatrice Six case to the United States Supreme Court.
The 8th United States Court of Appeals has rejected a request by the county officials to re-hear the case.
Gage County Board Chair Myron Dorn announced the decision today after a closed-door meeting with attorneys.
“We will start filing those papers shortly and because of that then we do have a seven-day stay on the judgment of the 8th Circuit Court,” Dorn stated.
Dorn says it will be the appellate court’s decision on whether the county is granted a longer stay while it asks the Supreme Court to hear its case.
A three-judge panel of the 8th Circuit Court ruled the county will have to pay six defendants wrongly convicted in the rape and murder of Helen Wilson a total of $28 million. The court turned down an appeal for the full court to re-hear the case.
Dorn said it could be some time before the county knows if the Supreme Court will even hear its appeal.
“The last time we did this, when we did it approximately two years ago, then it took somewhere around two-and-a-half, three months; don’t know if it’d be the same time or not,” Dorn said.
In 2016, a federal jury in Lincoln ordered the county to pay Kathy Gonzales, Thomas Winslow, James Dean, Debra Shelden, Ada JoAnn Taylor and the estate of Joseph White for a reckless investigation which framed six innocent people.
The Beatrice Six served a total of 75+ years in prison before DNA evidence implicated a drifter, Bruce Allen Smith, committed the murder. Smith died in Oklahoma in 1992. Wilson was raped and murdered in her downtown Beatrice apartment in 1985.
Dorn says the county has few options left.
“We’re down to the Supreme Court or negotiations, visiting with the plaintiffs, and preparing for that,” according to Dorn.
In addition to making another long-shot appeal, county officials will retain the services of a Kansas City financial firm and two Omaha attorneys to investigate various ways to pay the verdict should the appeals fail, which could include issuing bonds to pay the judgment.
Doug Kennedy, KWBE, contributed to this article.