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Steese deemed innocent, granted $1.35M for wrongful conviction

Nevada Attorney General Aaron Ford announced that the Eighth Judicial District Court granted Frederick Steese a Certificate of Innocence and court approval for an award of $1.35 million from the state of Nevada as compensation for the 18 years Steese spent in prison following his wrongful conviction.

Eighth Judicial District Court Judge Jasmine Lilly-Spells entered stipulated orders on March 1, which AG Ford fully supported.

“As attorney general, my job is justice, and I’m thrilled that Mr. Steese has been declared an innocent man,” Ford said. “While no amount of money can ever replace our freedom, Mr. Steese will be compensated for the years he has lost. I want to thank the attorneys in my office who have worked tirelessly on this case. Your work means so much in the eyes of Nevadans.”

In 1992, Steese was arrested for the murder of his friend, Las Vegas performer Gerard Soules. Nearly three years later, despite extensive alibi evidence placing him in a different state at the time of the murder, Steese was convicted by the state of Nevada of murder with use of a deadly weapon, robbery with use of a deadly weapon, burglary and grand larceny auto.

In 2012, following extensive evidentiary hearings, the Eighth Judicial District Court granted Steese’s post-conviction petition for writ of habeas corpus, finding that Steese was actually innocent. The state agreed to permit Steese to enter a nolo contendere plea to reduced charges of second-degree murder. Steese was released on a time-served sentence on Feb. 28, 2013. In 2017, Steese received a full, unconditional pardon from Nevada Board of Pardons commissioners based on his actual innocence.

In 2019, the Nevada Legislature adopted Assembly Bill 267 to compensate persons who have been wrongfully incarcerated if they can prove, by a preponderance of the evidence, that they did not commit the crime for which they were convicted, were not an accomplice and did not otherwise cause their own conviction. Additional costs, including reasonable attorney fees, educational expenses, counseling services and certain other reimbursements are also permitted. Steese is the fourth person in Nevada to receive a Certificate of Innocence under this new statute.

This matter was handled by the attorney general’s Post-Conviction Unit by Chief Deputy Attorney General Heather Procter, Deputy Attorney General Jaimie Stilz and Deputy Attorney General Sheryl Serreze.

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