Nebraska county with few people, assets faces huge judgment

BEATRICE, Neb. (AP) — A small Nebraska county that botched a 1985 murder case is scrambling to pay off a $28.1 million judgment owed to six residents who were wrongly convicted.

Officials in Gage County say they may have to resort to bankruptcy to try to escape the debt, but it’s not clear how that would work. Nebraska’s constitution caps how much revenue can be raised from property taxes, and the county doesn’t have many assets to sell. Median annual income is only $35,000 in the county, much of which is cropland.

The county’s problems stem from the rape and killing of 68-year-old woman. Six people spent decades in prison before DNA evidence exonerated them. Gage County could become one of only a handful of public entities in U.S. history to seek bankruptcy protection.


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