'Beatrice 6' compensation case wraps, judgement next Thursday

Trial is first under 2009 Wrongful Convictions Act
2012-09-14T11:49:00Z 'Beatrice 6' compensation case wraps, judgement next ThursdayBy Chris Dunker/Daily Sun news editor Beatrice Daily Sun
September 14, 2012 11:49 am  • 

Attorneys for two of the "Beatrice 6" and the state of Nebraska argued about the language of a law that could potentially award Ada JoAnn Taylor and James Dean $500,000 each Friday morning.

The Wrongful Convictions Act, signed into Nebraska state law in 2009, could compensate both Taylor and Dean from their wrongful conviction in the rape and murder of Helen Wilson in 1985.

Both Taylor and Dean were pardoned from the crime in 2008 after DNA evidence showed Bruce Allen Smith committed the crime.

The question presented in front of Judge Daniel E. Bryan Jr. in Gage County District Court was whether the fourth part of the law, saying persons who give false statements that lead to the conviction of others, allows for Taylor and Dean to receive compensation.

Earlier this week, former Gage County Attorney Richard Smith said testimony from Taylor and Dean helped convict Joseph White.

During closing statements, Bob Bartle, an attorney representing both Dean and Taylor and other members of the "Beatrice 6," said the case represented a "failure of law enforcement to compare suspect's testimony to the evidence of the crime."

That failure, Bartle said, led to interrogators threatening and coercing Taylor and Dean into confessing to the crime and implicating White.

Herb Friedman, who represents Dean, called the case "Kafkaesque," saying the system failed people like Dean and Taylor.

"We dealt into a world nobody can possibly imagine," he said. Friedman told Bryan the system is set up to protect the vulnerable members of society and that the system failed Taylor and Dean.

"These police officers didn't do their work," Friedman said.

Friedman also said the state is in an unique position because it was responsible for pardoning Taylor and Dean but denying them compensation.

Assistant Attorney General Stephanie Caldwell said the statute is clear in its language and was included by the legislature as a "catch-all" for anyone who makes false statements to convict another.

She said that both Taylor and Dean willingly and knowingly entered pleas with their attorneys present.

The final witness brought to the stand early Friday morning, psychiatrist Dr. Eli Chesen, told the court Dean suffered from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder from his arrest when then Gage County Deputy Burt Searcey allegedly put a boot on his face.

Chesen said Dean still suffers from PTSD to this day through flashbacks, nightmares and anxiety attacks. He added that Dean has recurring dreams like the one that led to his confession.

However, Chesen said those dreams were coerced by his talks with Dr. Wayne Price in 1989. Price was a psychologist as well as deputy county sheriff.

"It was an abysmal example of boundary invasions and conflict of interest in treatment," Chesen said, adding he believes Dean was "brainwashed" into giving a false statement.

For Taylor, Chesen said investigators were able to take advantage of her personality disorders into making her believe she murdered Helen Wilson.

Because of her borderline personality disorder as well as her schizotypal personality disorder, Chesen said Taylor developed Stockholm Syndrome and sided with her captors, desiring to aid them in their case.

"This is a situation where the person is trying to come up with something, they are trying to be helpful, trying to please their interrogators," Chesen said.

Both Dean and Taylor scored perfectly on a memory test during Chesen's evaluation, leading him to believe they were manipulated into believing they were in Wilson's apartment on Feb. 5, 1985.

"To this day, (Taylor) still wonders about it," he said. "She is not totally confident, I think as we sit here today, that she is not involved."

On cross-examination, Assistant Attorney General Stephanie Caldwell attacked Chesen's familiarity with the case. She pointed out repeatedly that Chesen only became involved with the case in 2012 and did not review the case files.

Chesen said he was given a case synopsis by Taylor and Dean's attorneys and used that as well as his evaluations to form his opinions.

Caldwell also questioned Chesen's claim that both Taylor and Dean developed Stockholm Syndrome during their incarceration as most Stockholm Syndrome cases were the result of kidnappings.

Chesen said he believed "the only difference between a kidnapping and an arrest is a warrant."

Bryan said he was pleased with the way the case was presented for both Taylor and Dean and the state. He will issue his judgment next Thursday in Gage County District Court.

Reach Chris Dunker at cdunker@beatricedailysun.com or follow him on Twitter @ChrisDunkerDS.

Copyright 2015 Beatrice Daily Sun. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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