WASHINGTON (AP) — The Supreme Court on Monday rejected a rural Nebraska county's appeal of a $28 million court judgment aimed at compensating six people wrongfully convicted of a 1985 slaying.
The justices turned away Gage County's last-ditch effort to avoid the hefty judgment, after a federal appeals court in St. Louis found the award was justified because of egregious law enforcement conduct. In August, the county raised its local property tax levy as high as state law allows to pay off the debt — a move that could become a major drag on the local economy.
All six people were wrongfully convicted for the rape and murder of Helen Wilson. They spent more than 75 years combined in prison until DNA evidence cleared them in 2008. Wilson's death has since been linked to a former Beatrice, Nebraska, resident who died in 1992. Beatrice is about 100 miles (161 kilometers) southwest of Omaha.
Jeff Patterson, an attorney for four of the six who were wrongfully accused, said his clients "are just happy that things are moving along" with the case.
The lawsuit alleged that law enforcement officials recklessly strove to close the case despite contradictory evidence and coerced false confessions. The three people who gave false confessions all had histories of psychological problems. One of the six, Joseph White, died in a workplace accident in Alabama in 2011.
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