Rape Victim Requests Board of Pardons Notice of Hearing as Required

LINCOLN. State law and the Nebraska Constitution appear to clearly require victims of a crime to be notified that their perpetrator will be brought before the State Board of Pardons.

But that didn’t happen in September, when John Arias, a man convicted of first-degree sexual assault on his ex-wife, won a pardon from a three-member board.

“What are my rights?” asked Jody Snogren, who said the nightmares of the brutal attack in 1993 returned after the meeting.

On Friday, a state senator joined Snaugren to propose strengthening state laws to ensure that crime victims have a chance to be heard at such hearings.

“The Real Problem”

“It’s an awareness problem, and it’s a real problem,” State Senator Teresa Ibach of Sumner said on the Legislative Assembly’s Judiciary Committee.

Ibach’s proposal, Legislative Bill 220, would require the Board of Pardons, which includes the governor, attorney general, and secretary of state, to notify victims of serious crimes by certified mail if a person convicted of that crime has a board of pardons hearing coming up. or received a pardon.

Ibach pointed out that in 1996, Nebraska voters approved a crime victims’ rights constitutional amendment that requires victims to be “informed, present, and make an oral or written statement” in criminal proceedings, including at the Board of Pardons.

According to the senator, a law was passed in 2004 that requires the Board of Pardons to adopt rules for providing such a notice if the victim requests it at the time of a conviction.

But that didn’t happen when Snogren’s assailant appeared before the Board of Pardons in September, and Ibach said she couldn’t determine whether the board passed rules and regulations to notify victims as required.

On Friday, Snogren said she did not know as early as 1993 of the need to request notice of such hearings.

She said she couldn’t imagine her ex-husband being granted a Board of Pardons hearing, much less able to get a pardon.

Access to the information

But there was another snag.

A spokesperson for the Board of Pardons said Friday that the Board, because it was transferred to the Nebraska Criminal Division in 2019 and left the state Parole Board, does not have access to crime victim information that it could use to filing a notice. .

The spokeswoman said that the issue of how to solve this problem is currently being considered.

Ibach said existing laws may need to be strengthened to ensure that information is passed to the Board of Pardons and that victims are notified.

The Judiciary Committee has taken no action in LB 220 since Friday’s public hearing, but at least two committee members, Omaha Sen. Wendy DeBoer and Lincoln Sen. Suzanne Geist, expressed shock that victims are not being notified of such hearings.

Pardon granted to Arias by 2-1 votes. Then the governor. Pete Ricketts and then Attorney General Doug Peterson, who voted in favor of the pardon, said Arias has been a model citizen since his release and has been involved in advising other military veterans who have committed crimes. Secretary of State Bob Ewen opposed the pardon for Arias.

The pardon caused controversy because some members of the American Legion wore their official Legion caps to the Board of Pardons hearings in September to show support for Arias, who had joined the Legion while in prison. This led to complaints that the veterans’ organization appeared to be taking an official stance on pardons and sexual assault.

Such caps are considered part of the Legion’s uniform and should only be worn at Legion events.

Last month, the executive committee of the Nebraska American Legion voted to require those who wore caps at the meeting to publish an apology in the Legion newspaper.

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