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About The daily Nebraskan. ([Lincoln, Neb.) 1901-current | View Entire Issue (Feb. 2, 1999)
Death sentence questioned
Bjorklund’s attorneys file motion for new jury trial
By Josh Funk
Senior staff writer
Roger Bjorklund should be given
a new trial because the jury was influ
enced by a prayer with the judge,
defense attorneys said Monday.
Attorneys also said Bjorklund’s
death sentence was too harsh for the
1992 murder of University of
Nebraska-Lincoln student Candace
On Sept. 22,1992, Harms, 18, was
abducted near her boyfriend’s house.
She was sexually assaulted, strangled
The Nebraska Supreme Court
heard arguments on a motion for a
new trial and Bjorklund’s direct
Bjorklund’s attorneys said that a
prayer conducted by Lancaster
County District Court Judge Donald
Endacott corrupted the process.
“This goes beyond impartiality,”
Deputy Lancaster County Public
Defender Scott Helvie said. “Because
this shows the jury could turn to God
for guidance in their decision.”
Helvie said that when Endacott
came into the jury room before the
trial and asked them to join hands and
pray, he made it possible for jurors to
use their own views of God to influ
ence their verdict.
But Chief Deputy Lancaster
County Attorney John Colburn said
the judge’s prayer was a harmless
“Every one of the jurors testified
that the prayer did not affect their
impartiality in any way,” Colburn said.
The prayer issue was examined by
Lancaster County District Court
Judge Paul Merritt Jr. on the original
motion for a new trial. Merritt found
that the prayer, while inappropriate,
1 did not influence the verdict.
Defense attorneys also said that
death was not an appropriate sentence
for Bjorklund because his accom
plice, Scott Barney, was sentenced to
life in prison and a mitigating factor
was applied incorrectly.
Barney cooperated with prosecu
tors, and he led police to Harms’ body.
“We had two individuals eligible
for death, and it was imposed differ
ently,” defense attorney Alan Stoler
Assistant Attorney General Kirk
Brown said the court can only com
pare Bjorklund’s case to other death
cases because of how the aggravating
and mitigating factors are weighed.
“The court can’t compare cases
with no aggravation to cases that do
have it,” Brown said. “Therefore this
cannot be compared to Barney’s sen
In their motion for a new trial,
defense attorneys raised issues that
prosecutors said should be addressed
in the direct appeal, which was also
before the court Monday.
In his argument, Brown tried to
shift the focus back to Bjorklund’s
crimes and the reason he was sen
tenced to death.
“We’ve been talking a lot about
what happened to Roger Bjorklund,”
Brown said. “But it was Roger
Bjorklund who first sexually assault
ed Candi, who strangled Candi, and it
was Roger Bjorklund who shot Candi
several times in the head.
“This was every woman, every
parent and every person’s nightmare
come to life.”
Guard tuition bill passes 1st test
By Jessica Fargen
Senior staff writer
A bill that would pay for 100 per
cent of tuition for National Guard col
lege students passed the first round of
debate Monday, but several legislators
warned that a tight budget may in the
end kill the bill.
The National Guard currently pays
for 50 percent of its recruits’ tuition,
down from 75 percent tuition reim
bursement in 1992. The Guard is now
about 1,000 members short of its max
imum strength, resulting in less federal
money and the closure of three
Many potential Guard recruits may
be opting for 100 percent tuition reim
bursement offered at businesses, said
Nickerson Sen. Ray Janssen, who
Other Nebraskans are recruited by
National Guard branches in Kansas,
Oklahoma and North Dakota that offer
100 percent reimbursement programs.
Iowa and Colorado also have laws
pending that would boost tuition reim
bursement. Almost 200 Guard mem
bers attend the University of Nebraska
Despite the need to draw more
Nebraskans to the Guard, Lincoln Sen.
Chris Beutler cautioned senators of the
bill’s large appropriation - more than
$1 million over two years for 100 per
Legislators have $2 million from
the state’s budget to appropriate -
LB243 requires about half of that, said
Beutler. That would leave about $ 1 mil
lion for 48 other appropriation bills -
A-Bills - that receive funds from the $2
“Governors figure out how they
want to spend all the money, and
there’s a pittance left to A-Bills,” he
said. “It’s a good cause, but there’s
going to be a lot more A-Bills that are
going to represent a lot of good causes,
and you’re going to want to vote for
“We don’t want half the money we
want to spend to be spent on this,”
Beutler’s amendment to increase
reimbursement to 70 percent was voted
down by senators. Debate lasted nearly
two hours before senators advanced the
Lincoln Sen. David Landis
opposed the bill saying the increase
should be temporary - possibly limited
to several years. If toe Guard increases
members in toe next few years, it would
It is really hard to take a credit out of anyone s
hands. This is a $1 million entitlement.”
still receive full tuition, but may not
need it as an incentive anymore, he
“I hope you know what you are
doing when you pass this bill with no
strings attached,” he said.
And once the Guard members
receive full tuition reimbursement,
they will not want to give it up, he said.
“It is really hard to take a credit out
of anyone’s hands,” he said. “This is a
$ 1 million entitlement.”
Janssen said the number of students
who could use the 100 percent tuition
reimbursement would be limited to
1,200. After that, payments would be
pro-rated, he said.
Plattsmouth Sen. Roger Wehrbein,
chairman of the Appropriations
Committee, said the Legislature should
advance the bill but expect to chip away
at it when the budget is presented in
“Another $900,000 hit is going to
be very difficult late May,” he said.
But that money goes through a
revolving door in Nebraska - the
money paid out directly benefits
Nebraskans who join the Guard or
receive their services, Janssen said.
“Any of the money directed toward
this will come back to us,” Janssen
said. “It never leaves the state. It’s
Lincoln Sen. DiAnna Schimek
rose in strong support of the bill, prais
ing the bravery and self-sacrifice of
“We ask these folks to put their
lives on the line time and time again,”
she said. “I think this is a relatively
small investment for what we get in
Lincoln Sen. LaVon Crosby also
said some senators were neglecting to
remember the importance of the Guard
during natural disasters such as
Lincoln and Omaha’s paralyzing snow
storm last October during which the
Guard helped out.
“We forget why we had them until
something happens, until there is a dis
aster,” Crosby said.
A legislative aide for Janssen said
the senator would probably compro
mise and amend the bill to put an
appropriation limit or a temporary
clause in the bill as suggested during
A tight appropriations budget, not a
lack of commitment to the Guard, will
be the deciding factor in the passage of
this bill, Wehrbein told senators.
“I think we do have a strength prob
lem with the National Guard,”
Wehrbein said. “That’s my philosophy,
and I think we have to do something
“You are going to have some diffi
cult decisions come May.”
could benefit from bill
■ LB366, if passed, will
allow psychology interns
to charge for their services.
By Shane Anthony
A bill that would create a provi
sional license to practice psychology
In a 7-0 vote, the Health and
Human Services Committee moved
LB366 to general file. If passed, pro
ponents said, it would allow post
doctoral intern psychologists to
charge for their services under then
own licenses. That ability would
help define such internships, one
Laurel Van Ham, a Lincoln psy
chologist who received her license in
1994, said post-doctoral interns
weren’t sure of their status.
“They’re not a psychologist.
They’re not a student. They’re sort of
in a never-never land,” she said.
Omaha Sen. Deb Suttle, who
introduced the bill, said most med
ical professions offer provisional
licenses while doctors are learning.
In her testimony before the com
mittee Thursday, Stephanie Snell
agreed. She is completing her intern
ship for a doctoral degree in school
psychology in Lincoln. After receiv
ing her degree, she said, she must
complete a one-year internship.
Most health-care providers will
pay people with masters degrees in
social work for their services, she
said, but they won't pay people with
doctoral degrees in psychology
while they are completing require
ments toward a license.
“If you compared the field of
psychology to other fields such as
medicine and social work, profes
sionals from these fields are at a
level of ability to be reimbursed far
sooner than we are in the field of
psychology,” she said.
In other news, the committee
advanced several bills, including:
■ LB211, a bill that would pro
hibit smoking in the Capitol.
■ LB 17, with amendments
based on LB56 and LB71. The bill
would provide access to medical
records for patients and former
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