Justia Nebraska Supreme Court Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Criminal Law

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Defendant appealed his conviction for first degree sexual assault of a child, rendered after a jury trial, and his conviction of thirty-five to fifty years’ imprisonment with credit for 129 days served. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) although Defendant was represented at trial by an individual who failed to meet the substantive requirements to be a licensed attorney at trial, there was no per se violation of Defendant’s constitutional right to trial because the lead attorney for Defendant’s trial was a qualified, licensed attorney; (2) Defendant’s counsel were not constitutionally ineffective; (3) there was sufficient evidence to sustain a guilty verdict; and (4) there was no abuse of discretion in the sentence imposed. View "State v. Loding" on Justia Law

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Appellant appealed the district court’s order that overruled his motion for postconviction relief without conducting an evidentiary hearing. Appellant pled no contest to one count of first degree false imprisonment and one count of use of a deadly weapon to commit a felony. In his postconviction motion, Appellant claimed that his trial counsel provided ineffective assistance in several respects. After reviewing all of Appellant’s claims of ineffective assistance of counsel, the Supreme Court held that the district court did not err when it overruled Appellant’s motion for postconviction relief without conducting an evidentiary hearing. View "State v. Barrera-Garrido" on Justia Law

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After a jury trial, Appellant was found guilty of exploitation of a vulnerable adult and theft by unlawful taking. Defendant was sentenced to imprisonment of sixty months for the exploitation of a vulnerable adult conviction and to five to ten years imprisonment for the theft conviction. The sentences were ordered to run consecutively to each other and consecutively to Appellant’s sentences resulting from a separate criminal case. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) there was sufficient evidence to support the convictions; and (2) the sentences imposed were not excessive, and the district court did not err in failing to sentence Appellant to probation. View "State v. Dehning" on Justia Law
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After a jury trial, Appellant was convicted of first-degree murder. The conviction arose from the fatal shooting of Gary Holmes inside a convenience store. The district court sentenced Appellant to life imprisonment. On appeal, Appellant’s sole assignment of error was that there was insufficient evidence to support the verdict. Specifically, Appellant challenged the sufficiency of the evidence to identify him as the shooter. The Supreme Court affirmed Appellant’s conviction and sentence, holding that the evidence, if believed by a trier of fact, was sufficient to establish Appellant’s identity as the shooter beyond a reasonable doubt. View "State v. Jones" on Justia Law
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Defendant was charged with driving under the influence. Prior to trial, the State filed a motion for an order in limine seeking to prohibit Defendant from offering evidence regarding a “choice of evils” defense. Defendant offered a proposed jury instruction stating that the jury must find her not guilty if it found she had acted to avoid a greater harm. The county court sustained the State’s motion in limine and refused Defendant’s proposed instruction. The State ultimately moved for a mistrial due to “the accumulated effect of statements and questions” by defense counsel that the court determined were in violation of its ruling on the motion in limine and which could affect the impartiality of the jurors. The county court sustained the State’s motion and declared a mistrial. The court then denied Defendant’s plea in bar in which Defendant asked that the case be dismissed with prejudice because a retrial would violate constitutional protections against double jeopardy. The district court affirmed the county court’s rulings. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the district court did not err in determining (1) that the county court did not abuse its discretion when it found a manifest necessity to declare a mistrial, and (2) that double jeopardy did not bar a retrial. View "State v. Todd" on Justia Law
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Defendant was convicted of first degree murder and use of a deadly weapon to commit a felony. This appeal concerned Defendant’s third amended motion for postconviction relief, in which Defendant alleged that his convictions were procured through prosecutorial misconduct, that the prosecutor improperly misrepresented the nature of Defendant’s plea agreement, and that his trial counsel provided ineffective assistance. The postconviction court overruled the motion. The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed and remanded in part, holding (1) the State’s duty to disclose favorable evidence did not apply to information it received after Defendant was convicted and sentenced; (2) the court applied wrong standards in determining that the State did not violate its duty to disclose information about a certain witness; (3) the court erred in failing to accurately set forth which motion for postconviction relief it intended to address; and (4) Defendant’s claim of ineffective assistance of counsel was procedurally barred. View "State v. Harris" on Justia Law
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After a jury trial, Defendant was convicted of first degree sexual assault, first degree false imprisonment, strangulation, and third degree domestic assault. The Court of Appeals affirmed. Defendant later filed a motion for return of seized property. At the hearing, the State argued that Defendant had a pending postconviction motion and a pending federal prosecution for child pornography and that many of the items that Defendant pled in his motion were subject to that case. The district court denied the motion to return property. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the district court did not abuse its discretion in denying Defendant’s motion to return seized property; (2) the district judge did not abuse its discretion in failing to parse through the property and determine what portion of the seized evidence would be necessary for the pending proceedings and return the portion that would not be necessary; and (3) Defendant’s arguments that the district court judge was biased were without merit. View "State v. Buttercase" on Justia Law
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In two separate cases, Defendant was convicted of two counts of possession of a controlled substance and one count of driving under the influence. In case No. S-16-419, the district court sentenced Defendant to a period of incarceration for twenty months to five years for possession of a controlled substance. In case No. S-16-425, the district court sentenced Defendant to two years’ imprisonment with twelve months of postrelease supervision for possession of a controlled substance and to six months’ incarceration for driving under the influence. Defendant appealed, arguing that the district court imposed excessive sentences in both cases. The Supreme Court (1) affirmed the judgment in case No. S-16-419; (2) affirmed Defendant’s sentence for driving under the influence in case No. S-16-425; and (3) vacated Defendant’s sentence for possession of a controlled substance in case No. S-16-425 in light of the Court’s application of the doctrine enunciated in State v. Randolph to L.B. 1094. View "State v. Chacon" on Justia Law
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Defendant was sentenced to not less than two years nor more than two years in prison for possession of a controlled substance - a class IV felony - and to fifteen to twenty years in prison for possession of a stolen firearm - a Class IIA felony. The sentences were ordered to run consecutively. Defendant appealed his sentences. While his appeal was pending, a legislative bill was enacted that amended Neb. Rev. Stat. 29-2204.02 to provide that an indeterminate sentence shall be imposed for Class IV felonies imposed consecutively or concurrently with a sentence for a Class IIA felony “in accordance with the process set forth in section 29-2204.” The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that Defendant’s sentence for his Class IV felony was not plainly erroneous and that the district court did not abuse its discretion in imposing Defendant’s sentences. View "State v. Artis" on Justia Law
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After a jury trial, Defendant was convicted of first degree murder and use of a firearm to commit a felony. The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding that the district court did not err by (1) failing to grant Defendant’s motion to suppress Defendant’s statements made to law enforcement because the statements were not obtained in violation of Miranda v. Arizona; (2) denying Defendant’s Batson challenge claiming that the prosecution impermissibly struck prospective jurors on the basis of race; and (3) denying Defendant’s motion for mistrial that alleged that the court improperly allowed testimony in violation of Brady v. Maryland. View "State v. Clifton" on Justia Law