Justia Nebraska Supreme Court Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Criminal Law

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When he was seventeen years old, Defendant pled guilty to first degree murder. Defendant was sentenced to a mandatory term of life imprisonment. Pursuant to Miller v. Alabama, Defendant’s sentence was vacated. After a hearing, Defendant was resentenced to ninety years to life imprisonment. Defendant appealed, alleging, inter alia, that his sentence violated the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments and the principles set forth in Miller and Graham v. Florida. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) Defendant’s sentence did not violate Miller; (2) Defendant’s sentence was not disproportionate; and (3) the district court adequately considered Defendant’s age and age-related characteristics and used adequate procedural safeguards when sentencing Defendant. View "State v. Nollen" on Justia Law

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After a jury trial, Defendant was convicted of first degree murder, use of a firearm to commit a felony, and possession of a firearm by a prohibited person. The trial court sentenced Defendant to life sentence for first degree murder. The Supreme Court affirmed Defendant’s three convictions and his life sentence for first degree murder but vacated Defendant’s sentence for the use conviction and for the possession conviction, holding (1) the trial court did not commit reversible error when it refused Defendant’s proposed jury instructions; (2) there was sufficient evidence to support Defendant’s conviction for first degree murder; but (3) the district court erred when it ordered Defendant’s sentence for the use conviction to be served concurrently with his sentence for the possession conviction. View "State v. McCurry" on Justia Law
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Defendant was convicted of first degree murder, attempted first degree murder, and two counts of use of a deadly weapon to commit a felony. Defendant was sentenced to life imprisonment on the murder conviction. After the denial of Defendant’s first motion for postconviction relief, Defendant filed a second motion for postconviction relief, alleging numerous claims. The district court denied the motion. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the district court did not err in determining that (1) Defendant's claims that certain jury instructions given at trial were reversible error were procedurally barred; (2) Defendant's claim that appellate counsel had a conflict of interest was procedurally barred; and (3) Defendant was not entitled to an evidentiary hearing on his claim of evidence tampering and outrageous governmental conduct. View "State v. Jackson" on Justia Law
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After a jury trial, Defendant was convicted of first degree murder, use of a deadly weapon to commit a felony, and tampering with a witness. The Supreme Court affirmed on appeal. Defendant subsequently filed a fourth amended motion for postconviction relief, alleging, in part, that trial counsel provided constitutionally ineffective assistance. The district court denied postconviction relief on all grounds. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the district court did not err by not finding trial counsel was constitutionally ineffective; and (2) the district court did not err in not finding Defendant’s constitutional rights were violated because he was allegedly unable to understand one of the court interpreters during trial. View "State v. Alarcon-Chavez" on Justia Law

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Defendant pled guilty to kidnapping, a crime he committed when he was sixteen years old. Defendant was initially sentenced to life imprisonment. After the U.S. Supreme Court decided Graham v. Florida and Miller v. Alabama, Defendant filed an application for a writ of habeas corpus. The district court determined that Defendant was entitled to relief under Graham and vacated his life sentence. Thereafter, Defendant was resentenced to ninety years to life imprisonment. Defendant appealed that sentence. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the sentence was not excessive, nor did it violate the 8th and 14th Amendments to the U.S. Constitution or the principles set forth in Graham. View "State v. Smith" on Justia Law

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Defendant was convicted and sentenced for refusing to submit to a chemical test, refusing to submit to a preliminary breath test, and driving without a license. On appeal, Defendant challenged the district court’s determination that Neb. Rev. Stat. 60-6,197, the chemical test implied consent statute, was valid, facially and as applied, and constitutional. The Supreme Court affirmed in part and in part vacated and remanded, holding (1) section 60-6,197 is unconstitutional as applied to Defendant for his conviction for refusing to submit to a chemical blood test; and (2) there was no merit to Defendant’s remaining assignments of error. View "State v. McCumber" on Justia Law

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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

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After a jury trial, Appellant was convicted of two counts of first degree murder and other crimes. Appellant was sentenced to death on each murder conviction. The Supreme Court affirmed on appeal. Appellant later filed a petition for postconviction relief, alleging that his trial counsel provided ineffective assistance and that the State had withheld evidence and engaged in prosecutorial misconduct. The district court denied postconviction relief. The Supreme Court affirmed the district court’s denial of Appellant’s motion for postconviction relief, holding that Appellant failed to show that his trial counsel was ineffective or that the State engaged in prosecutorial misconduct. View "State v. Torres" on Justia Law
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After a jury trial, Defendant was found guilty of first degree murder and use of a weapon to commit a felony. Defendant was sentenced to life imprisonment plus ten to twenty years’ imprisonment. The Supreme Court affirmed the convictions and sentences. Defendant later filed a motion seeking postconviction relief, alleging that his trial counsel was ineffective in several ways. The district court denied the motion without an evidentiary hearing. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the district court did not err in finding that Defendant’s allegations of error were without merit and in thus denying postconviction relief. View "State v. Watson" on Justia Law
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After a jury trial, Defendant was convicted of possession of a controlled substance (methamphetamine) and of driving under suspension. Defendant was sentenced to a mandatory minimum of ten years’ imprisonment to a maximum of fifteen years’ imprisonment on the possession of a controlled substance conviction and ninety days’ imprisonment for driving under suspension. Defendant appealed, asserting six assignments of error. The Supreme Court vacated Defendant’s conviction for driving under suspension, holding that there was insufficient evidence to sustain the conviction because there was insufficient evidence to show when Defendant’s driver’s license was suspended. The Court affirmed the judgment of the district court in all other respects, holding that all of Defendant’s other assignments of error were either without merit or constituted harmless error. View "State v. Rocha" on Justia Law
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