LINCOLN (AP) — The Nebraska Board of Pardons will hold two hearings on requests for commutation of life sentences from 27 inmates convicted as juveniles.
The requests come in the wake of a U.S. Supreme Court ruling in June that threw out mandatory life without parole sentences for juveniles.
That ruling has left the State Pardons Board, Nebraska Legislature and state courts to address how to handle juveniles convicted of serious crimes.
The Pardons Board felt it was more expedient for it to address the 27 cases rather than have them reopened in court, with the possibility of further appeals, said Nebraska Secretary of State John Gale. The three members of the Pardons Board are Gale, Gov. Dave Heineman and Attorney General Jon Bruning.
“Obviously it imposes a high burden on us to ensure that we do it right and meet the test of the U.S. Supreme Court,” Gale said. “But we felt that it was worth the effort and the time that we'll obviously have to invest in the process.”
Of the 27 inmates seeking commutation, 26 are in prison for first-degree murder. One involves a 1983 Washington County kidnapping conviction.
The hearings will be held on Dec. 3 and Dec. 5. The board will review each case before the hearings. At the hearings, the board will listen to testimony from state and local prosecutors in the cases, advocates for the inmates and representatives of the victims' families.
A decision will be made after the testimony, Gale said.
State Sen. Brad Ashford, chairman of the Legislature's Judiciary Committee, said lawmakers intend to introduce a bill to set a maximum sentence for juvenile offenders.
Ashford said he was not informed of the board's intention to hear the cases, but he said he doesn't object to the hearings.
Copyright 2012 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.