Justia Nebraska Supreme Court Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Constitutional Law

By
After a jury trial, Defendant was convicted of first-degree murder, first-degree assault, robbery, attempted robbery, and four counts of use of a deadly weapon to commit a felony. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the trial court did not err in denying Defendant’s Batson challenge regarding a prospective juror who had been removed by the State using a peremptory strike; (2) any error in sustaining the State’s objection to evidence Defendant wanted to offer to impeach one of the State’s witnesses was harmless; (3) the trial court did not abuse its discretion in denying Defendant’s motion for new trial on grounds of prosecutorial misconduct and newly discovered evidence; and (4) there was sufficient evidence to support Defendant’s convictions. View "State v. Lester" on Justia Law

By
After a bench trial on stipulated facts, Defendant was found guilty of refusal of a chemical test in violation of Neb. Rev. Stat. 60-6,197. Defendant appealed, arguing, primarily, that the trial court erred in denying his motion to suppress because the traffic stop was conducted without reasonable suspicion and that section 6-6,197.09 and related statutes are unconstitutional because they are void for vagueness. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the trial court did not err in denying Defendant’s motion to suppress; (2) section 60-6,197.09 is not unconstitutionally vague; and (3) Defendant was not denied due process when he was denied probation. View "State v. Arizola" on Justia Law

By
In 1987, Defendant murdered his twelve-year-old sister. Defendant was fourteen years old at the time of the murder. Defendant was convicted of first degree murder and sentenced to life imprisonment. In 2013, Defendant filed a motion for postconviction relief, arguing that his sentence was cruel and unusual punishment in light of the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Miller v. Alabama. The district court vacated Defendant’s life sentence, finding that the sentence was within the parameters of the holding in Miller, that the rule in Miller applies retroactively, and that Defendant was therefore entitled to postconviction relief. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that because the relevant sentencing scheme mandated life imprisonment without the possibility for parole, the district court was bound by Miller. Remanded for resentencing. View "State v. Thieszen" on Justia Law

By
Randy and Helen Strode owned real property in the City of Ashland, Saunders County. Since the time of the purchase, the Strodes operated a business for the manufacture of agricultural fencing and the storage of salvage on the property. In 2003, the district court held that Randy’s use of the property to store salvage was in violation of the zoning ordinance but found that the manufacture of agricultural fencing was permitted. In 2013, the Strodes filed suit against the City and the County for inverse condemnation based on the zoning ordinance and the load limit regulation of a bridge used by the Strodes for transporting commercial goods. The district court concluded (1) Randy’s zoning takings claim was barred by claim preclusion because the matter was litigated in the 2003 case, (2) determined that Helen’s regulatory taking lain was barred by the statute of limitations because she was aware of the effect of the zoning ordinance after 2003; (3) found that the regulation of the bridge structure was not a regulatory taking, and (4) the City and County were entitled to summary judgment. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the district court did not err in finding in favor of the City and the County. View "Strode v. City of Ashland" on Justia Law

By
After a jury trial, Defendant was convicted of driving under the influence and refusing to submit to a chemical test. Both convictions were second offenses. Defendant appealed, challenging the county court’s refusal to grant his motion to quash the charge of refusal to submit to a chemical yes and his motion to suppress evidence obtained as a result of his arrest. Specifically, Defendant argued that criminalizing refusal was a violation of the constitutional rights to be free of unreasonable searches and seizures and that there was not probable cause to support his arrest. The district court affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the county court did not err when it overruled Defendant’s motion to quash and his motion to suppress; and (2) the evidence was sufficient to support Defendant’s convictions. View "State v. Pester" on Justia Law

By
After a jury-waived trial, Defendant was convicted of first degree sexual assault committed while he was a juvenile. The district court sentenced Defendant to one year’s imprisonment, ordered him to register under Sex Offender Registration Act for life, and found that Defendant was subject to lifetime community supervision. Defendant appealed, arguing that the lifetime requirements were cruel and unusual punishments because he was a juvenile while the crime was committed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the trial court did not err in (1) sentencing Defendant to lifetime sex offender registration and lifetime community supervision when he committed the aggravated offense as a juvenile; and (2) sentencing Defendant to lifetime community supervision. View "State v. Boche" on Justia Law

By
After a jury trial, Defendant was convicted of driving under the influence (DUI), fourth offense, with refusal to submit to a chemical test, and for driving during revocation. The court of appeals affirmed. Defendant petitioned for further review, arguing that the district court erred in overruling his motion for mistrial because the State violated due process and the state and federal constitutions by improperly commenting during closing arguments on Defendant’s pretrial silence. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that, although the prosecutor’s closing remarks about Defendant’s postarrest, pre-Miranda silence were questionable, they did not prejudice his right to a fair trial. View "State v. Mitchell" on Justia Law

By
After a jury trial, Defendant was convicted of refusal to submit to a chemical test. Defendant was sentenced to six months’ probation. The district court and court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the district court did not err in affirming the judgment and conviction, as (1) Defendant’s arrest for driving under the influence of drugs was supported by probable cause; (2) the county court did not err by directing a verdict on the charge of refusing a chemical test; and (3) the county court did not err by refusing to give Defendant’s proposed jury instructions defining “chemical test” and “drug.” View "State v. Rothenberger" on Justia Law

By
Defendant pled guilty to possession of a deadly weapon by a prohibited person and, after a jury trial, was found guilty of second degree murder and of using a deadly weapon to commit a felony. The Supreme Court affirmed Defendant’s convictions and sentences on direct appeal. Thereafter, Defendant filed a motion for postconviction relief, raising several claims ineffective assistance of counsel. The district court held an evidentiary hearing on some of the claims Defendant raised and then denied postconviction relief. Defendant appealed, alleging four assignments of error regarding his claims of ineffective assistance. Defendant assigned that it was plain error for the trial court to accept his guilty plea. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the district court did not err in denying Defendant’s motion. View "State v. Harris" on Justia Law

By
After a jury trial, Raymond Frank Gonzales, Jr. (Defendant) was convicted of first degree murder and use of a firearm to commit a felony in connection with the death of Bonnie Baker. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the prosecutor’s statements during closing arguments did not constitute misconduct, and, in any event, the statements at issue in this appeal were not unfairly prejudicial; (2) the trial court did not err in instructing the jury on the definition of sudden quarrel or first degree murder; and (3) the evidence was sufficient to support the verdict. View "State v. Gonzales" on Justia Law