Earnest Jackson case inspires bill in Nebraska on requests for new trial

LINCOLN, Neb. (KLKN) – There’s an effort in the Nebraska Legislature that would lower the threshold for convicted people to request a new trial.

Legislative Bill 18, introduced by Sen. Justin Wayne of Northeast Omaha, is centered around Earnest Jackson’s conviction and denial of a new trial.

In 1999, Earnest Jackson was convicted of first-degree murder.  One of the attorneys testifying at a legislative hearing on Thursday says the theory was that Jackson aided and abetted someone else in the crime.

Another defendant in the case testified in his own trial that he shot the victim in self-defense and Jackson wasn’t there.

He was found not guilty by reason of self-defense.

But Jackson can’t use the testimony from that trial because the Nebraska Supreme Court said the evidence was not newly discovered, but only newly available.

Wayne called that a “true injustice.”

“So why is somebody sitting in jail for a murder that was never a murder?” he asked.

Wayne made a plea to the Judiciary Committee to advance his bill, which would allow new trials based on evidence that is newly available, not just newly discovered.

He has introduced similar legislation previously.

The opposition consisted of two people: Douglas County Attorney Don Kleine and Mike Guinan, the criminal bureau chief at the Nebraska Attorney General’s Office. Guinan was there on behalf of AG Mike Hilgers.

They said the bill shouldn’t become law, pointing to the Supreme Court’s opinion that testimony from an acquitted defendant “would be untrustworthy and should not be encouraged.”

Guinan said that “such a remedy would encourage perjury.”

Committee members questioned that belief.

They asked if, currently, it is possible for someone who was acquitted of a crime to testify in another person’s trial. Kleine and Guinan said yes.

The committee members questioned what the difference was, but no one could answer that.

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