CARSON CITY—Frederick Steese, who served 18 years in prison following his wrongful conviction, this week was granted a Certificate of Innocence by Nevada’s Eighth Judicial District Court. In addition, the court has approved an award of $1.35 million to Steese as compensation for the time he spent in prison.
“As attorney general, my job is justice, and I’m thrilled that Mr. Steese has been declared an innocent man,” said Attorney General Aaron Ford. “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 2019, Nevada Legislators adopted Assembly Bill 267, now codified as NRS 41.900, which provides compensation to people who have been wrongfully incarcerated. To benefit under the law, individuals must 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,” according to a statement by the Attorney General.
This is the second such award in Nevada in as many months, and Steese is the fourth person to receive the Certificate of Innocence and financial award since the law went into effect. More are likely to come.
Ford’s office shared the details of Steese’s case:
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 February 28, 2013. In 2017, Steese received a full, unconditional pardon from the State of Nevada Board of Pardons Commissioners based on his actual innocence.
Source: Nevada Attorney General