Inmates who wished to have a wedding through video conferencing in Nebraska Prison have just received a setback following Nebraska Supreme Court’s ruling.
The inmates, Paul Gillpatrick and Niccole Wetherell are both serving murder sentences in different facilities, and had managed to get their marriage request accepted in a lower court. This decision was however overturned by the supreme court on Friday, after it discovered some technical errors they made while filing their lawsuit.
The director of ACLU of Nebraska, Danielle Conrad has however promised that her organization will continue to aid the inmates in their quest to exercise their constitutional rights to marry.
Gillpatrick is currently serving a 55 to 90-year term at Lincoln State Penitentiary for second-degree murder and use of a firearm to commit a felony. He, along with his sister, was convicted for killing Robby Robinson, a former Omaha firefighter, in 2009. Gillpatrick cannot be recommended for a parole until 2039.
Wetherell was convicted along with three others for participating in the 1998 murder of Scott Catenacci at Bellevue’s Haworth Park. The group stabbed Catenacci 57 times. She is currently serving her jail time at the women’s prison in York. Unless the State Board of Pardons decides to consider her for a parole, she will spend the rest of her life in prison.
Gillpatrick, 45, and Wetherell, 37, had met before incarceration through a mutual friend. They have remained in a romantic relationship for a long time and continue to exchange letters.
The decision of corrections officials to deny their marriage request is due to a standing policy banning transportation of prisoners for weddings. They also denied a ceremony through video conferencing, noting that a minister or magistrate’s presence is required during vow exchange to put credence on the marriage.
In his judgement, Robert Otte of Lancaster County District said that having a wedding ceremony via video conferencing was not going to incur significant cost. The Judge also stated that prison officials were violating the prisoner’s constitutional rights.
Passing its judgement on Friday, Supreme Court Judge Jeffery Funke said the inmates should have sued the prison authorities in their official capacities and not in their individual capacities as the law dictates.