Court Upholds New Sentencing Law

Published: Mar. 28, 2003 at 1:50 PM CST
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The Nebraska Supreme Court on Friday upheld the state's new death-penalty sentencing law.

Former Attorney General Don Stenberg had asked the high court to order death-row inmate Arthur Lee Gales Jr. to be re-sentenced under the law, which was passed by the Legislature in November.

The high court said that Gales, convicted of two counts of murder, must be re-sentenced and can still face the death penalty.

Legal experts had debated whether Nebraska's new death-sentencing law is retroactive.

The high court said that the change in the sentencing law made in a special legislative session in November was procedural and not substantive.

The court said, however, that Gales could not be sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole, as set out in the new law.

The court said he must be subject to same minimum sentence, life in prison with the possibility of parole, that was in place when he committed the crime.

Stenberg's office filed the request just four days after the new law was passed and some three weeks after the high court heard an appeal from Gales.

Gales was convicted of raping and strangling 13-year-old Latara Chandler and drowning her 7-year-old brother, Tramar, in their Omaha home in 2000. Gales also was convicted in the severe beating of their mother, 36-year-old Judy Chandler, who had befriended Gales after moving to Omaha from Minneapolis.

Gales is one of seven men on the state's death row.