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20 Years in prison – and he wasn’t guilty…

Attorney General Ford Announces Certificate of Innocence for Frank Lapena Following Wrongful Incarceration

Carson City, NV – Today, Nevada Attorney General Aaron D. Ford is pleased to announce that the Nevada Board of Examiners approved the award of compensation for Frank Lapena, following the Eighth Judicial District Court’s grant of a Certificate of Innocence and court approval for a total award of $1,980,900.00 from the State of Nevada as compensation for the 20 years Lapena spent in prison after his wrongful conviction. Eighth Judicial District Court Judge Gloria Sturman entered stipulated orders on June 30, 2021, which AG Ford fully supported.

“Today, Mr. Lapena’s innocence was fully acknowledged by the State, and he is free to enter into a new chapter in his life,” said AG Ford. “No amount of money can ever replace our freedom, but with this decision, Mr. Lapena will receive some redress for the years he has lost. As attorney general, it is my job to pursue justice, and I would like to thank the members of my office who worked vigorously on this case.

In 1974, Lapena was arrested for the murder and robbery of Hilda Krause, wife of casino magnate Marvin Krause. Lapena and his former girlfriend were named as the masterminds by the actual murderer, Gerald Weakland. Weakland then changed his testimony at Lapena’s first trial and testified that Lapena was innocent but changed his testimony again at Lapena’s second trial. Lapena was nevertheless convicted in 1977 by the State of Nevada of First-Degree Murder and Robbery with Use of Weapon in Commission of a Crime.

In 1982, the Nevada Supreme Court overturned Lapena’s first conviction, but Lapena was re-tried and re-convicted in 1989. Subsequently, in 1997, the Eighth Judicial District Court vacated Lapena’s conviction pursuant to a post-conviction petition for writ of habeas corpus; however, the Nevada Supreme Court overturned the decision in 1998.

 

In 2003, Lapena sought and received a sentence commutation from the State of Nevada Board of Pardons Commissioners. In 2017, following extensive evidentiary hearings, the Eighth Judicial District Court determined DNA testing and evidentiary testimony confirmed that Weakland lied about Hilda Krause’s murder. Finally, in 2019, Lapena sought and received a full, unconditional pardon from the State of Nevada Board of Pardons Commissioners based on his actual innocence.

In 2019, the Nevada Legislature adopted Assembly Bill 267, later amended by AB 104 (2021) – codified in NRS 41.900 et seq. – to compensate persons who have been wrongfully incarcerated if they can 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. Additional costs, including reasonable attorney fees, educational expenses, counseling services and certain other reimbursements are also permitted. Lapena is the fifth person in Nevada to receive a Certificate of Innocence under this new statute.

This matter was handled by the Attorney General’s Post-Conviction Unit by Chief Deputy Attorney General Heather Procter, Deputy Attorney General Jaimie Stilz, and Deputy Attorney General Sheryl Serreze.

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