A Nebraska county that owes $28.1 million to six people wrongfully convicted of murder reached a settlement with several insurance companies to help pay part of the judgment.
The Gage County board approved agreements with six insurers to secure $5.98 million to help pay the county’s debt off sooner. Officials already increased property taxes and approved a half-cent sales tax to pay the judgment off over several years.
The people known as the Beatrice Six spent more than 70 years in prison collectively for a 1985 rape and killing in Beatrice, Nebraska, about 40 miles (64 kilometers) south of Lincoln. DNA evidence exonerated them in 2008. The slaying of 68-year-old Helen Wilson has since been linked to a former Beatrice resident who died in 1992.
The Beatrice Six sued Gage County after their release, alleging the county ran a reckless investigation. A federal jury awarded them $28.1 million in 2016, plus interest and attorney fees that raise the total to more than $30 million. The county wasn’t properly insured when the six were convicted, and its appeals were all rejected.
“We started with an understanding that there may or may not be any coverage,” County Board Chairman Erich Tiemann said. “We reached this point, and I think we all are in agreement that this is the best possible outcome at this time.”
The county made the first payment to the former inmates last June, and officials now expect it to take about five years to pay off the judgment. One of the six was killed in a 2011 factory accident in Alabama, and several others are aging and have health problems.
Employers Mutual Casualty will pay the biggest share of the settlements, $3.9 million, and the Nebraska Intergovernmental Risk Management Association will pay $1.98 million, attorney Joel Bacon said. Four other insurers will pay the remaining $95,000.
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