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Dean v. State

Supreme Court of Nebraska

July 18, 2014

JAMES DEAN, APPELLEE AND CROSS-APPELLANT,
v.
STATE OF NEBRASKA, APPELLANT AND CROSS-APPELLEE. ADA JOANN TAYLOR, APPELLEE,
v.
STATE OF NEBRASKA, APPELLANT

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Appeals from the District Court for Gage County: DANIEL E. BRYAN, JR., Judge.

JUDGMENT IN NO. S-12-974 AFFIRMED IN PART AND IN PART REVERSED AND VACATED, AND CAUSE REMANDED WITH DIRECTIONS. JUDGMENT IN NO. S-12-975 AFFIRMED.

Jon Bruning, Attorney General, and James D. Smith for appellant.

Herbert J. Friedman, of Friedman Law Offices, P.C., L.L.O., for appellee James Dean.

Jeffry D. Patterson and Robert F. Bartle, of Bartle & Geier Law Firm, and Douglas Stratton, of Stratton, DeLay & Doele, for appellee Ada JoAnn Taylor.

HEAVICAN, C.J., WRIGHT, CONNOLLY, STEPHAN, MCCORMACK, MILLER-LERMAN, and CASSEL, JJ.

OPINION

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[288 Neb. 531] Stephan, J.

Following their pleas of guilty, James Dean and Ada JoAnn Taylor were convicted of second degree murder in connection [288 Neb. 532] with the 1985 death of Helen Wilson in Beatrice, Nebraska. Both gave incriminating testimony at the trial of Joseph White who was convicted of first degree murder in connection with Wilson's death. But years later, DNA tests determined that

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neither Dean, Taylor, White, nor any of the other three persons convicted in connection with the crime had any involvement in it.

After they were released from prison and pardoned, Dean and Taylor brought actions against the State pursuant to the Nebraska Claims for Wrongful Conviction and Imprisonment Act [1] (the Act) which was enacted by the Nebraska Legislature in 2009.[2] The district court for Gage County found in favor of Dean and Taylor and awarded damages to each of them. In these consolidated appeals, the State contends that Dean and Taylor cannot recover under the Act, because they made false statements in connection with Wilson's murder. Dean cross-appeals, arguing that his damage award was insufficient. We affirm the judgment in favor of Taylor in its entirety and the judgment in favor of Dean with respect to the State's liability, but we reverse and vacate, and remand to the district court for a new determination of Dean's damages.

I. BACKGROUND

1. Facts

The facts of this case are undisputed. Wilson was brutally raped and murdered in her Beatrice apartment in February 1985. Bruce Allen Smith, a drifter who was in Beatrice when the crime was committed, was an early suspect. However, after a comparison of Smith's blood with blood found on Wilson's clothing appeared to preclude him, the State's focus shifted elsewhere.

Dean and Taylor were swept into the investigation in the spring of 1989, after the case had gone cold. They, along with four others, gained notoriety as the " Beatrice Six." Dean [288 Neb. 533] was arrested on April 15, 1989, the day of his 25th birthday. In March 1989, authorities came to Taylor's North Carolina home at night and took her to jail in a nightgown. She was subsequently transported to Gage County a few days later.

Dean and Taylor were questioned about the murder and ultimately confessed to their involvement. Both also eventually testified at the murder trial of White, who was convicted of first degree murder for Wilson's death.

However, neither Dean nor Taylor immediately confessed. For 22 days after his arrest, Dean maintained his innocence. His confidence was shaken only after he submitted to a polygraph test and was told that the results " 'did not look good.' " In addition, while in county jail, Dean received four or five visits from Dr. Wayne Price. Dr. Price was a licensed clinical psychologist who served in the dual capacity as the clinical director of the Blue Valley Mental Health Center and, unknown to Dean, a police psychologist employed by the Gage County Sheriff's Department. Dr. Price told Dean that he had " 'unconscious' " knowledge of the crime and that his repressed memories would return to him in his dreams. Dean thought this theory explained his polygraph results and began purposefully using Price's techniques to recover memories.

Subsisting on 2 to 3 hours of sleep a night, Dean began to dream of Wilson's murder, believing that Price had removed " some kind of 'subconscious block.'" Prior to and during the period that Dean was purportedly recovering memories, he was shown videotape, photographs, and diagrams of ...


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