Articles Posted in Constitutional Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the order of the district court vacating Defendant’s conviction for driving under the influence (DUI) and granting him a new trial on the grounds that his warrantless blood draw was unlawful and inadmissible in light of Birchfield v. North Dakota, __ U.S. _ (2016). After Defendant’s issues on appeal to the district court had been briefed, the United States Supreme Court released its opinion in Birchfield. Based on Birchfield, the district court reversed the conviction and remanded the matter for a new trial. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) the district court erred by vacating Defendant’s DUI conviction without considering whether his blood draw was voluntary or whether the good faith exception to the exclusionary rule applied; and (2) the good faith exception applied to the pre-Birchfield warrantless blood draw in this case, and therefore, the district court erred in reversing Defendant’s conviction and vacating his sentence. View "State v. Hatfield" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed Defendant’s sentence of seventy years to life imprisonment imposed for a murder he committed at the age of fourteen. Defendant pled guilty to second degree murder. In 1988, the district court imposed a sentence of life imprisonment for the murder conviction. In 2013, Defendant filed a motion for postconviction relief pursuant to the decision in Miller v. Alabama, 567 U.S. 460 (2012). The district court vacated Defendant’s sentence. At the time of resentencing, Defendant was forty-four years old. The district court sentenced Defendant to seventy years’ to life imprisonment for first degree murder. Defendant’s primary complaint on appeal was that his sentence was excessive. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the sentence was not excessive, did not amount to a de facto life sentence, and was not disproportionate to the offense. Defendant’s remaining claims of error were similarly unavailing. View "State v. Thieszen" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed Defendant’s sentence of seventy years to life imprisonment imposed for a murder he committed at the age of fourteen. Defendant pled guilty to second degree murder. In 1988, the district court imposed a sentence of life imprisonment for the murder conviction. In 2013, Defendant filed a motion for postconviction relief pursuant to the decision in Miller v. Alabama, 567 U.S. 460 (2012). The district court vacated Defendant’s sentence. At the time of resentencing, Defendant was forty-four years old. The district court sentenced Defendant to seventy years’ to life imprisonment for first degree murder. Defendant’s primary complaint on appeal was that his sentence was excessive. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the sentence was not excessive, did not amount to a de facto life sentence, and was not disproportionate to the offense. Defendant’s remaining claims of error were similarly unavailing. View "State v. Thieszen" on Justia Law

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The stop of Defendant’s vehicle for the purpose of gathering information about the presence of stolen firearms and other criminal activity at the residence Defendant drove from, for which a search warrant was being sought, did not violate Defendant’s right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures under the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution and article 1, section 7 of the Nebraska Constitution. The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the district court convicting Defendant of felony possession of a controlled substance, holding (1) the application of the balancing test set forth in Brown v. Texas, 443 U.S. 47 (1979), which recognizes that warrantless seizures without reasonable suspicion may be reasonable under certain circumstances, was appropriate under the facts of this case; and (2) the stop was reasonable under Brown. View "State v. Sievers" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed Defendant’s convictions for first degree murder, use of a firearm to commit a felony, and possession of a firearm by a prohibited person, thus rejecting Defendant’s assignments of error. Specifically, the Court held that the district court did not err in (1) admitting the video of Defendant’s interview with law enforcement officials because, where there was no police coercion and Defendant did not unequivocally invoke the right to remain silent, Defendant’s confession was voluntary; (2) not redacting various statements made in an interview pursuant to Neb. R. Evid. 401 to 403; and (3) overruling Defendant’s motion for mistrial based on statements made by the prosecution in closing arguments because, while the prosecuting attorney made several inappropriate statements, Defendant’s right to a fair trial was not prejudiced. View "State v. Hernandez" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the decision of the court of appeals remanding this cause with directions to vacate Defendant’s conviction for possession of a deadly weapon by a prohibited person and to dismiss the charge against him, holding that the district court did not err in denying Defendant’s motion to suppress. The court of appeals concluded that there was not probable cause to arrest Defendant and that the inventory search of his vehicle must be suppressed. The Supreme Court disagreed, holding that the court of appeals erred in vacating Defendant’s conviction because there was probable cause to support Defendant’s arrest, and therefore, the inventory search of his vehicle was authorized and the weapon found in that search was admissible. View "State v. Botts" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the district court denying Appellant’s motion for postconviction relief following an evidentiary hearing. Appellant was convicted of second degree murder under a theory of aiding and abetting, among other crimes. The Supreme Court affirmed the convictions and sentences on direct appeal. Appellant then filed a timely motion for postconviction relief alleging that his trial counsel was ineffective in several respects. The district court denied the motion. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the district court did not err in failing to find that Appellant’s trial counsel and appellate counsel were ineffective; (2) the trial court did not err in failing to make rulings on certain claims raised in Appellant’s postconviction motion; and (3) Appellant’s argument that postconviction counsel provided effective assistance at the evidentiary hearing was without merit. View "State v. McGuire" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed Defendant’s jury convictions and sentences for first degree murder, use of a deadly weapon to commit a felony, possession of a deadly weapon by a prohibited person, and possession of a controlled substance. The Court held that the trial court did not err in (1) denying Defendant’s motion to sever count IV from the amended information, (2) finding that Defendant’s conviction of first degree murder was supported by competent evidence; and (3) denying Defendant’s motion for new trial based on prosecutorial misconduct. Further, trial counsel did not provide ineffective assistance. View "State v. Cotton" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the district court denying Appellant postconviction relief after an evidentiary hearing mandated by the Court’s decision in the first appeal. Appellant pled guilty to first degree murder. Appellant later sought postconviction relief, claiming that DNA evidence had been planted. The district court denied relief, concluding that Appellant’s claim was procedurally barred. The Supreme Court remanded, determining that Appellant’s claim was not procedurally barred and that Appellant alleged facts which, if proved, could constitute an infringement of his constitutional rights. Appellant then filed an amended motion for postconviction relief alleging, among other claims, that his constitutional rights were violated by the planting of DNA evidence. After an evidentiary hearing, the district court denied Appellant’s amended motion for postconviction relief for failure to meet his burden of proof. The Supreme Court (1) vacated and set aside the district court’s order granting leave to file an amended motion for postconviction relief and the portion of its order concerning those claims which were outside the scope of the Court’s mandate; and (2) affirmed in all other respects the district court’s order denying postconviction relief, holding that Appellant’s remaining claim was without merit. View "State v. Henk" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the district court convicting Defendant of first degree murder, manslaughter, two counts of use of a deadly weapon to commit a felony, and possession of a deadly weapon by a prohibited person, holding that Defendant’s allegations of error were without merit. On appeal, Defendant argued that evidence obtained pursuant to an alleged invalid warrant should have been excluded at his jury trial and that his counsel provided ineffective assistance. The Supreme Court disagreed, holding (1) Defendant’s first assignment of error was without merit; and (2) there was no merit to any of Defendant’s ineffective assistance of counsel claims. View "State v. Nolt" on Justia Law