Senators advanced a bill Friday that approves a $450,000 claim against the state of Nebraska for a man who was wrongfully convicted of murder.Darrell Parker, 82, spent nearly 14 years on death row after being convicted of murdering his wife in their Lincoln home in 1956.
But in 1970, another man confessed to the murder on his deathbed and Parker was released from prison. He received a full pardon in 1991.
Parker successfully sued the state for the coercive tactics used against him during his interrogation to make him sign a false confession.
Last year a judge awarded Parker the money after Attorney General Jon Bruning acknowledged that he had been falsely convicted.
That settlement was part of this year’s claims bill advanced by the Legislature with a vote of 32-0, with 15 not voting.
The bill approves funds for claims against the state that have already been granted by courts or the attorney general.
Sen. Steve Lathrop of Omaha said Parker’s case demonstrates that the criminal justice system makes mistakes, and that the death penalty should be abolished.
“Our system is not perfect enough to impose death as a penalty,” he said.
The Legislature will take up a bill Monday, May 13, introduced by Sen. Ernie Chambers of Omaha, to abolish the death penalty in the state and replace it with life imprisonment.
Sex offender claim
Among the other claims included in this year’s claims bill is about $300,000 in attorney’s fees for a challenge to a Nebraska sex offender registration law that was found unconstitutional by a federal court last year.
The law made it illegal for convicted sex offenders to use social networking sites, instant messaging or chat rooms.
As part of the judge’s ruling, the state was required to pay the fees of the attorneys who challenged the law.
“This is a lesson in the cost of passing unconstitutional legislation,” Lathrop said.