MADISON, NE — Two men lined up on Nebraska’s death row believe they don’t deserve the death penalty.
Jose Sandoval, the ringleader in a 2002 failed robbery in Norfolk that left five dead, filed a motion for post conviction relief Monday evening. One of his partners in crime, Erick Vela filed the same motion.
Their attorneys argue in court documents that they were effectively resentenced to life in prison as opposed to death when the Nebraska Legislature passed LB 268 in 2015, which repealed the death penalty. Their attorneys say resentencing them to death now, without a trial, is a violation of their constitutional rights against cruel and unusual punishment.
Madison County Attorney Joe Smith says, “The theory they have is that at the time they committed the crimes there was a death penalty statute, and the time they were sentenced there was a death penalty statue. The legislature, perhaps attempted to repeal the death penalty and was unsuccessful and the voters had a election. As I read into the theory it’s that thats analogous to the defendants being sentenced to death, being sentenced to life and resentenced to death without a hearing.”
Sandoval was sentenced in 2002 for the murders of five people at the U.S. Bank branch in Norfolk. His other two accomplices, including Vela are on death row.
His convictions were upheld by the Nebraska Supreme Court and again in 2011 when the U.S. Supreme Court rejected his petition for review.
Smith says they usually file a response within 60 days of post conviction but in this case it will be filed a whole lot faster.