New ruling overturns Lincoln murder convictions, sentences in Brandon case
LINCOLN, Neb. (KOLN) - Two men convicted in the 2018 murder of a Lincoln woman had part of those convictions overturned this week.
It’s all because of a recent ruling, in a similar case in the Supreme Court, that changes the circumstances surrounding their crimes.
In July 2018, Tawhyne Patterson Sr. and Damon Williams Jr. broke into a Lincoln home in an attempt to steal marijuana from one of the people who lived there. During the attempted robbery they had zip-tied and duct-taped several people in the home when Patterson shot and killed 36-year-old Jessica Brandon.
During their trials, prosecutors used the precedent set under the ‘Hobbs Act’, which by definition makes it illegal for anyone to impede or affect interstate commerce “in any way or degree” by committing robbery or extortion. The precedent, as it was at the time of the proceedings, made their attempted robbery a “crime of violence” which resulted in their cases being heard in federal court.
In the end, both men were sentenced to life in prison plus 20 years for other charges stemming from the robbery.
Last year, the U.S. Supreme Court had a similar case out of Virginia, in that ruling the court found that robbery does not qualify as a “crime of violence.” That ruling is something taken into account in both men’s cases and the subsequent actions taken by a judge in the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals.
This week that judge overturned both men’s murder charges and vacated the corresponding life sentences.
The court did keep additional charges, related to firearms but recommended that they be re-sentenced, which could be up to 20 years in prison.
The case now moves back to the district court for those re-sentencing proceedings.
A timeline for what happens next remains unclear.
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