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Nebraska officials could resentence 27 inmates
After being sentenced to life in prison, over 2 dozen inmates could be resentenced here in Nebraska. The Nebraska Pardons Board has a plan to give new sentences to those inmates.
Previously in the state of Nebraska if a person under the age of 18 was convicted of murder they were automatically sentenced to life in prison without parole.
"I don't think that we should cast a net on every juvenile and say that you have to in certain cases impose life sentences," said Attorney T. Charles James.
Back in June the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that mandating a life sentence for juveniles convicted of murder is unconstitutional.
"The ruling simply says there cannot be one option, there has to be at least other factors considered," said Attorney Nicholas Valle.
Which begs the question what happens to the 27 inmates who have received life sentences in the state of Nebraska?
The Nebraska Pardons Board, which includes Governor Dave Heineman, Attorney General Jon Bruning, and Secretary of State John Gale, is devising a plan to resentence the inmates, which could save time rather than reopening the cases in court.
"The Executive Branch through the Pardon's Board can commute a sentence as it deems appropriate," Valle said.
The Board will meet next week to hold hearings on the cases.
But attorney Nicholas Valle, who specializes in juvenile law, says there is another option.
"Those juveniles, I think, will also have the ability to file what's called Post Conviction Relief seeking to have a trial judge review their sentence and resentence those," said Valle.
Meaning if they don't agree with the sentencing of the Nebraska Pardon's Board, they can file a Post Conviction Relief.
"If 25 percent of them are just as happy with what the Pardon's Board has done, you've relieved some of the pressure I suppose on the court system," said Valle.
While it may give a glimmer of hope to some inmates it doesn't mean it won't be the same sentence.
So what about future cases where juveniles are convicted of murder?
During the next Session the legislature plans to figure out what alternative sentencing could be for juveniles convicted of murder.
"The Unicameral is taking a look at the law so that they can comply with that the Supreme Court dictates," Valle said.
All but one of the 27 inmates involves a person convicted of murder.
28 other states are in the same dilemma.
The governor of Iowa restructured the sentencing to allow parole after 60 years in prison.
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