A man accused of a 1975 murder will continue his life in prison without the possibility of parole.
The Nebraska Board of Pardons denied C. Michael Anderson’s request for a hearing Monday. The hearing would have allowed the board to consider commuting his life sentence to a definite number of years, which would have made him eligible for parole.
The board is made up of Gov. Pete Ricketts, Secretary of State John Gale and Attorney General Doug Peterson.
Anderson, now 64, was sentenced to death in August 1978 for the contract killing of Ronald Abboud, an Omaha real estate broker who Anderson worked for. Anderson was convicted of paying Peter Hochstein $1,500 for the killing. A month after their convictions, Anderson, Hochstein and a third inmate escaped from Douglas County Jail before being found.
In 2001, the Nebraska Supreme Court ordered that Anderson and Hochstein be resentenced to life in prison.
Attorney Mark Porto, a volunteer with The Innocence Project, was at Monday's hearing on Anderson’s behalf.
“He has been nothing short of a model inmate,” Porto told the board, explaining that Anderson works 40 hours a week, is a volunteer with the prison’s dog program and has never had problems with staff members.
Anderson is serving his sentence at the Nebraska State Penitentiary; Hochstein is Tecumseh State Correctional Institution.
Porto asked the board to grant Anderson a hearing based on “who he is as a person,” a man who now has two college degrees and would be a valuable member of society if released.
“I believe Mr. Anderson is innocent,” Porto said.
Both Anderson and Hochstein have maintained their innocence since their arrests. That's what's keeping Anderson locked up, Porto said.
During the meeting, Gale argued the board likes to see an element of remorse and in this case, Anderson hasn't shown any. At the end, the board denied Anderson’s request for a hearing.
Porto said Anderson isn't going to stop fighting to prove his innocence.
“This is a guy that’s maintained his innocence for 39 years. At this point it’d be somewhat disingenuous for him to just say that just to help his chances for commutation," he said. "I would hope that the Board of Pardons would want more than an artificial apology just for the purpose of obtaining commutation."
The Innocence Project asked the board for a hearing last year, and was denied then. Porto said the board can fix the damaged system in which innocent inmates remain locked up.
"They need to look beyond the blanket of convictions and look at each person as an individual," he said.
Anderson's conviction was based on the testimony of one witness, and Porto said police didn't consider other suspects.
"We're going to keep trying this," Porto said. "We keep submitting more letters and we just keep investing in the case."