Jury awards $28.1 million to Beatrice Six exonerated inmates

Posted By: Channel 8 Eyewitness News


 A federal jury has awarded $28.1 million to six people who were wrongfully convicted in an 1985 rape and slaying in southeast Nebraska.        

The jury’s verdict against Gage County and several of the officials who carried out the investigation was announced Wednesday.      

"The people at the Beatrice police department didn’t think they had the right people and they told them that from the very beginning. The Beatrice police department had worked on this for 4 years, but for some reason the Gage county sheriff’s office decided to prosecute these folks on what we thought was very slim evidence so the jury agreed with us," Herb Friedman, James Dean’s lawyer, said.

The six people who sued James Dean, Kathleen Gonzalez, Debra Shelden, Ada JoAnn Taylor, Joseph White and Thomas Winslow, were wrongly convicted of killing Helen Wilson in Beatrice and served a combined 77 years in prison before DNA testing cleared them in 2008. They’ve become known as the Beatrice Six.

"Our clients are really very happy about this, you know they suffered an enormous amount because of this. Altogether they served about 77 years in the penitentiary for something that they simply didn’t do," Friedman said.

The first trial last year ended in a mistrial.

"Its a huge weight off our back, I mean to this day there’s still people that thought that they were guilty and that there as a stigma, and this does a lot to removing that stigma, they can get on with their lives now," Friedman said.