Jorge Galindo

Jose Sandoval, Jorge Galindo and Erick Vela would be sentenced to death by the State of Nebraska for the murders of five people

According to court documents Jose Sandoval, Jorge Galindo and Erick Vela would enter a bank with the intention to rob it and before they were done five people would be shot and killed: Lisa Bryant, 29, Lola Elwood, 43, Samuel Sun, 50, all Norfolk, Jo Mausbach, 42, Humphrey, and Evonne Tuttle, 37

Jose Sandoval, Jorge Galindo and Erick Vela were arrested, convicted and sentenced to death

Jorge Galindo Photos

Jorge Galindo

Jorge Galindo Now

Committed Name
Legal Name
Gender:MALERace:HISPANICDate of Birth:05/18/1981

Jose Sandoval Photos

jose sandoval nebraska death row

Jose Sandoval Now

Committed Name
Legal Name
Gender:MALERace:HISPANICDate of Birth:05/08/1979

Erick Vela Photos

eric vela nebraska death row

Erick Vela Now

Committed Name
Legal Name
Gender:MALERace:HISPANICDate of Birth:10/10/1980

Jorge Galindo Case

Twenty years after five people were slain in a Norfolk bank in one of the deadliest bank killings in U.S. history, the three men who shot them remain on death row with open appeals and no execution date in sight.

In just 40 seconds on the morning of Sept. 26, 2002, Lola Elwood, Lisa Bryant, Jo Mausbach and Samuel Sun, employees at the US Bank branch in the northeast Nebraska town, and a customer at the counter, Evonne Tuttle, had been gunned down, the terrible crime captured on video and in the accounts of two employees who survived the nightmare.

Jose Sandoval walked to the front, quickly shooting Sun, Tuttle and Mausbach.

Erick Vela and Jorge Galindo went to offices on either side, Vela shooting Bryant and Galindo shooting Elwood, then firing at a customer who started to walk in.

The three left empty-handed as the five died.

Police later would describe the acrid smell of spent gunpowder and blood heavy in the air when they arrived.

Within hours, Sandoval, Galindo and Vela would be locked up for it after stopping at a McDonald’s in O’Neill, 75 miles away.

But nothing else in the cases has happened quickly.

The three ultimately landed on death row, Sandoval and Galindo after being found guilty at trial and Vela after pleading guilty.

Separate three-judge panels found their crimes warranted death sentences.

Then came automatic appeals, all rejected.

But in the years since, legal twists complicated matters. First, a U.S. Supreme Court decision over how it’s determined who gets life versus death. Then, Nebraska lawmakers’ repeal of the death penalty in 2015, which voters reinstated the next year.

Attorneys argued the sentences for everyone on the state’s death row had been commuted to life in prison. And they’ve raised dozens of other issues that they say should lead to a new trial or a life sentence rather than death for them.

In March 2019, the state filed a response in Sandoval’s case arguing the district judge should deny his motion for post-conviction relief without a hearing.

“The case files and records affirmatively show that the defendant is entitled to no relief,” Solicitor General James Smith wrote.

But court records indicate in the three and a half years since the filing, District Judge Geoffrey C. Hall of Fremont has yet to rule either way.

In Vela’s case, his attorney, Jerry Hug, told a federal court judge this May that he anticipated progression of the state court proceedings “with the understanding that the state court records of the petitioner’s capital case are voluminous and have necessarily involved considerable time to gather, review and organize. Additional time will be required for briefing, submission, and a state court decision.”

And Hug referenced a number of postconviction cases pending resolution in the Nebraska Supreme Court, including Galindo’s.

At oral arguments Sept. 1, Adam Sipple, Galindo’s attorney, tried to convince the justices that a district court judge was wrong to deny a hearing on a motion for post-conviction relief.

In a 138-page motion filed in 2019, he detailed a laundry list of issues, including the state’s last-minute disclosure it was going to present evidence of Galindo’s alleged involvement in the death of Travis Lundell, a 21-year-old who had gone missing a month before the bank robbery, in pursuit of a death sentence.

“When Mr. Galindo’s sentencing case is assessed and evaluated consistent with the law and consistent with the Constitution, his youth, his confession, his cooperation and his demonstrated remorse provide a strong case to spare him from execution,” Sipple said.

He said there were two huge issues that could have led to a life sentence if the sentencing panel had known. One, his trial counsel’s failure to introduce the evidence of remorse. And two, his failure to argue Galindo’s youth as a mitigating factor.

Sipple said defense counsel at sentencing left sworn deposition testimony in his file from, among others, a captain at the jail who told a defense investigator that Galindo expressed remorse to him and another jail deputy, and testimony from a teacher who said he was immature and easily influenced by others.

He also raised issues over a criminal investigation by the Nebraska State Patrol of the lead prosecutor, Madison County Attorney Joe Smith, “including his associations with drug-dealing suspects he called as jailhouse informants against Galindo.”

But Justice Jonathan Papik said, even if they found that trial counsel had been deficient and that the panel shouldn’t have considered Lundell as an aggravator, “Wouldn’t we then have to ask ‘Well, is there prejudice?'”

Is there a reasonable probability that the outcome would be different, he asked.

Sipple agreed, but said the allegations created legitimate issues warranting an evidentiary hearing, which would lead to findings.

On the other side, James Smith, the solicitor general, said even if the sentencing panel didn’t consider the Lundell evidence and did consider Galindo’s youth and remorse, it wasn’t sufficient to outweigh all the aggravating circumstances.

“In short, if you go in and murder five innocent people saying that ‘Gee, I shouldn’t get the death sentence because I really didn’t kill the sixth,’ that doesn’t really indicate a prejudicial error in the sentencing that would justify having a futile evidentiary hearing,” he argued.

The Supreme Court hasn’t yet ruled.

Norfolk Mayor Josh Moenning wasn’t living there on Sept. 25, 2002.

“But as a native of the area, I precisely recall the shock and bewilderment I experienced upon hearing the news,” he told the Journal Star on Friday.

Moenning called it an unthinkable horror that sent shockwaves throughout the community and entire state.

“Norfolk’s response, though, was telling,” he said. “Immediately the community embraced the victims’ families, supported their needs, and recognized the importance of honoring their loved ones’ legacies.

“Ultimately created in the place of these heinous crimes was a place of solace and peace — a natural landmark that to this day welcomes travelers on U.S. Highway 81 with a profound message: love and community always outlasts hate and violence.”

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