LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) – The Nebraska Supreme Court has again rejected a post-conviction appeal by death row inmate Jeffrey Hessler of Gering, convicted of kidnapping, raping, and killing a local teenage newspaper girl in 2003
Hessler argued in his latest appeal that Nebraska’s capital punishment procedure is unconstitutional because the final decision is made by a 3-judge panel instead of a jury as required by a U-S Supreme Court ruling.
Under the Nebraska system, a trial jury that finds a defendant guilty of 1st-degree murder then holds a sentencing phase to determine if the case meets the criteria set out in law for capital punishment.
If the jury decides it does and imposes the death penalty, a 3-judge panel holds another hearing and either upholds the jury finding or changes it to life in prison without parole.
Hessler’s claim was originally denied in Scotts Bluff County District Court without a hearing, ruling the statute of limitations barred that type of appeal. The Supreme Court on Friday agreed with the lower court.
15-year old Heather Guerrero was kidnapped about 2 blocks from her home as she finished her paper route, then taken to Lake Minatare where she was raped and shot to death.