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She had flown in from Michigan to speak on behalf of Steese.Kathy Nasrey, the sister of Gerard Soules, long believed Steese was guilty.After Steese testified, a petite, 67-year-old with short auburn curls stepped up to the podium, her hand shaking with three pages of yellow legal pad paper covered in capital letters and underlined phrases.Her name, she told the commissioners, was Kathy Nasrey and she was Soules’ sister.He went through stints of homelessness before finding a job as a cross-country trucker with one of only two companies that accept drivers with a felony.Rasmussen told the board it was difficult for Steese to explain what had happened and to persuade people that he was really innocent.

After signing the Alford plea, Steese left prison in 2013 and struggled to put his life back together with a murder conviction on his record.

“Day one I told everybody I was innocent,” Steese, now 54, told the pardons board during the hearing in state Supreme Court in Carson City.

“No one would listen to me.” Steese, a young, poorly educated drifter, was arrested in 1992 for the grisly murder of Gerard Soules, a Las Vegas performer with a costumed poodle act at the Circus Circus casino.

Prosecutors across the country are increasingly using the Alford plea and similar deals to quietly dispose of likely innocence cases.

At the pardon hearing Wednesday, Steese’s lawyer, Lisa Rasmussen, described how law enforcement’s pursuit of Steese was riddled with misconduct at every step: From the beginning at his trial when his constitutional rights were “violated in a huge way” to the end when he was “coerced” into the plea.

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