Thursday, May 20, 2010

Meet the Exonerated: Nebraska's Death Row

Jeremy Sheets spent four years on Nebraska's death row for the 1992 murder of North High School student Kenyatta Bushwhen.

Adam Barnett, his alleged accomplice, confessed to the crime and at the same time, implicated Sheets. In exchange for his taped confession, he avoided a charge of first-degree murder, had an additional weapons charge dropped, and received a commitment for his safety while incarcerated. Barnett's statement was the key evidence used against Sheets at trial.

In September, 2000, the Nebraska high court unanimously ruled that the tape recording made by Barnett, who committed suicide prior to the trial, was "highly suspect" and "inherently unreliable", and inadmissible without the opportunity for Sheets to cross-examine. The Supreme Court overturned his conviction and prosecutors were forced to drop charges against Sheets. Prosecutors did try to appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court, but the justices refused to hear the case so the state Supreme Court ruling stands. Without that evidence, prosecutors said that they could not convict Sheets.

Sheets sued for emotional pain and suffering, punitive and other damages. The suit did not specify a dollar amount.

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