A Lincoln woman who fatally shot her abusive husband in self-defense cannot collect under Nebraska's Wrongful Conviction and Imprisonment Act, the state's highest court ruled in an opinion Friday.
Charlene Marie, then Charlene Oldenburg, was seeking $500,000.
Attorney Herb Friedman said she was wrongfully convicted and served nearly two years in prison for shooting her husband, Kurt Oldenburg, with a .22-caliber handgun when he drunkenly charged at her at the couple's rural Gordon farmhouse on July 30, 1998.
The bullet struck him in the neck, leaving him partially paralyzed.
A Sheridan County District Court jury later found Charlene Marie, now 67, not guilty of first-degree assault, but guilty of making terroristic threats and use of a weapon.
She appealed after she got four to 20 years in prison for it, and in 2001, the Nebraska Court of Appeals reduced her sentence to two years.
Marie was released three months later and subsequently was given a full pardon.
You have free articles remaining.
In 2009, the Legislature passed the Nebraska Claims for Wrongful Conviction and Imprisonment Act, finding that innocent people who have been wrongly convicted of crimes and imprisoned have been uniquely victimized and should have an avenue of redress.
In 2017, Marie filed a claim under the act seeking $500,000 from the state for damages that Friedman alleged resulted from "wrongful acts by county officials."
Sheridan County District Judge Travis O'Gorman ultimately concluded Marie was precluded under the act from trying to re-litigate what happened the night of the shooting because her pardon only eliminated her punishment.
He dismissed Marie's complaint, saying she couldn't prove that she was actually innocent, and she appealed.
In a decision Friday, the Nebraska Supreme Court found that pardons weren't excluded under the act.
"The point of the act, after all, is to allow someone to show their innocence after a time when a fact finder has previously established their guilt," Chief Justice Michael Heavican wrote.
But the court still found that the judge had rightly dismissed Marie's case because she wasn't alleging that someone else shot Oldenburg or that she otherwise was factually innocent. Rather, her attorney said she'd acted in self-defense and lacked intent required to be found legally innocent.