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Journal Star to feature in two different cable TV series Monday night

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From acclaimed filmmaker Nanfu Wang, the HBO Original six-part documentary series #MindOverMurder chronicles the bizarre and psychologically complex story of six individuals who were convicted for the 1985 murder of a beloved 68- year-old grandmother, Helen Wilson, in Beatrice, Nebraska. Despite five of the individuals originally confessing to the crime, the “Beatrice Six” as they became known, were exonerated by DNA evidence in 2009, a turn of events that divided the rural town and incensed the family of Helen Wilson. As the filmmakers track the case from the murder, through investigation, trial, exoneration and two civil suits, shifting perspectives cloud the truth; a stranger-than-fiction tale emerges that raises salient questions about the reliability of confessions and memory in criminal cases.

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Journal Star readers will want to keep an eye out for the Capital City's newspaper on two different cable television series Monday night.

The newspaper will be used as a prop in the AMC hit series "Better Call Saul," and also featured in the HBO documentary "Mind Over Murder," which wraps up Monday night.

As the sixth and final season of "Better Call Saul" was being filmed last summer, a member of the production team reached out to the Journal Star about using the paper as a prop for the show.

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The "Breaking Bad" universe has already detailed a few connections to the Cornhusker state.

Saul Goodman, the sleazy lawyer who helped Walter White in his transformation from mild-mannered science teacher in Albuquerque to meth kingpin in the original series, ended the original series working at a Cinnabon in an Omaha mall.

"Better Call Saul," which began airing in 2015 on AMC, has briefly shown Saul's life in hiding in Nebraska following the events of "Breaking Bad."

Meanwhile, the origin story for Kim Wexler (played by the Emmy-nominated Rhea Seehorn), one of the prequel series' main characters, begins in Red Cloud in Webster County.

A fifth-season episode showed Wexler being picked up in a 45-county vehicle at a fictionalized version of "Red Cloud Junior High School" in a flashback scene.

Monday's episode, which will air at 8 p.m., features a main character reading through the October 13, 2010, sports pages of the Journal Star.

The issue previewed the upcoming game between the fifth-ranked and 5-0 Huskers, led by quarterback Taylor Martinez, and the Texas Longhorns (3-2).

It's unclear how much of the paper will be visible in the show. A member of the production said some of the photos on the original page were changed to stock photos.

Some other Journal Star papers were also used as background props.

Also airing Monday night is "Mind Over Murder," an HBO-produced documentary series examining the wrongful conviction and exoneration of six people in a 1985 Beatrice rape and murder of Helen Wilson. The series will conclude Monday night. The episode will air at 9 p.m.

The six-part series from Nanfu Wang has shown the Journal Star's masthead and bylines of former and current reporters throughout its run, highlighting the paper's coverage of the case for more than three decades.

"Mind Over Murder" has also featured reporting from the Beatrice Daily Sun, also a Lee Enterprises-owned newspaper, as well as several local television stations.

The cold case investigation into 68-year-old Helen Wilson's murder in her downtown Beatrice apartment eventually led to the arrest and conviction of six people -- Joseph White, Thomas Winslow, Ada JoAnn Taylor, James Dean, Debra Shelden and Kathy Gonzalez.

Together, the so-called Beatrice 6 spent a combined 75 years in prison before DNA evidence showed another man -- Bruce Allen Smith, an original suspect in the case who died in an Oklahoma prison in 1992 -- committed the crime.

The six were released and cleared of wrongdoing, and in 2016, a federal jury ruled Gage County officials violated their civil rights and awarded them $28.1 million.

The county continues to make payments to the six.

"Mind Over Murder" has told the story of the mishandled case through interviews with some of the six, their attorneys, as well as law enforcement officers who investigated the murder and members of the Wilson family.

The documentary also features actors and actresses from the Beatrice Community Players, who in 2021 put on a stage production reenacting key moments from the investigation for a Beatrice audience.

Reach the writer at 402-473-7120 or cdunker@journalstar.com.

On Twitter @ChrisDunkerLJS

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Higher education/statehouse reporter

A native of Beatrice, Chris Dunker has reported on higher education, state government and other issues since joining the Journal Star in 2014.

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