Justia Nebraska Supreme Court Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Constitutional Law
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The Nebraska Supreme Court heard an appeal from Angelina M. Clark who was convicted for terroristic threats and third-degree sexual assault. Clark argued that her trial before an all-male jury violated her constitutional rights to a fair trial and an impartial jury. She also contended that the evidence was insufficient to support her conviction for terroristic threats and that her trial counsel was ineffective.The court held that Clark waived any objection to the all-male jury by failing to challenge the jurors for disqualification during the trial. It also determined that there was sufficient evidence to support Clark's conviction for terroristic threats. The court found that Clark's claim of ineffective counsel was without merit as the statements her counsel failed to object to were not hearsay, and any objection to them on hearsay grounds would have been meritless. Finally, the court rejected Clark’s claim that her trial counsel was ineffective for failing to file a motion in limine to exclude certain testimony, as she failed to show she suffered prejudice as a result of this alleged failure.The court affirmed the decision of the lower court, holding that Clark's claims were without merit. View "State v. Clark" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed Defendant's convictions for possession of a firearm by a prohibited person and unlawful discharge of a firearm, holding that there was no reversible error or abuse of discretion in the proceedings below.Specifically, the Supreme Court held (1) the evidence was sufficient to support Defendant's conviction for possession of a firearm by a prohibited person; (2) the evidence was sufficient to support Defendant's conviction for unlawful discharge of a firearm; (3) the district court did not abuse its discretion in overruling Defendant's motion for new trial; (4) Defendant's claims of ineffective assistance of counsel were not sufficiently pled; and (5) the cumulative error doctrine did not apply in this case. View "State v. Dap" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the district court ordering reinstatement of D.H.'s firearm rights, holding that there was no error on the part of the district court.After D.H. attempted suicide in 1995 a mental health board obtained a mental health commitment. As a result of D.H.'s commitment, federal and state statutes restricted his rights to purchase and possess firearms. In 2011, the Legislature enacted Neb. Rev. State. 71-963, which created a procedure whereby those subject to firearm restrictions resulting from a mental health-related commitment or adjudication could petition to have those restrictions removed. D.H. filed a motion to remove his firearm restrictions under section 71-963. The Mental Health Board of the 10th Judicial District of Nebraska denied the petition. The district court initially affirmed the denial but, upon reconsideration, granted the petition. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the district court did not commit an error of law or abuse its discretion in sustaining D.H.'s motion to reconsider, alter, or amend. View "In re Interest of D.H." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the district court dismissing Plaintiff's complaint against the Nebraska Department of Correctional Services (DCS) and three of its officials regarding computation of Plaintiff's tentative mandatory release date (TRD), holding that there was no error.Plaintiff, an inmate, filed an action for declaratory judgment alleging that DCS was responsible for actions infringing on her constitutional rights under the Eighth Amendment and the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment by concluding that her TRD was consistent with Nebraska statutes and case law. The district court dismissed the case for failing to state a claim upon which relief could be granted. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) Plaintiff did not state a claim upon which relief could be granted under 42 U.S.C. 1983; and (2) the trial court lacked jurisdiction under Neb. Rev. Stat. 84-911 for Plaintiff's claims against DCS. View "Williams v. Frakes" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the district court overruling Defendant's motion to suppress and convicting her of possession of methamphetamine and drug paraphernalia following a stipulated bench trial, holding that the district court did not err when it overruled Defendant's motion to suppress.In denying Defendant's suppression motion, the trial court concluded that Defendant consented to a search of her vehicle, in which certain illegal items were found, and that a subsequent search of Defendant's person occurred incident to a valid arrest. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) probable cause existed to arrest Defendant, and the subsequent search of her person occurred incident to a valid arrest; and (2) Defendant was not entitled to relief on her remaining allegations of error. View "State v. Hammond" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the district court denying Appellant's plea in bar alleging that a trial on the pending charges for violations of the Uniform Controlled Substances Act would subject him to Double Jeopardy, holding that forfeiture under Neb. Rev. Stat. 28-431, as amended in 2016, is civil in nature, and therefore, the district court did not err in denying the plea in bar.In his plea in bar, Appellant argued that he was already criminally punished for the same crime in a separate forfeiture action brought pursuant to section 28-431. In denying the plea in bar, the district court concluded that Appellant had failed to demonstrate he was punished by the forfeiture. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the sanction imposed by forfeiture under section 28-431 is civil and not criminal for purposes of a double jeopardy analysis. View "State v. Dolinar" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the district court that overruled Defendant's motion for postconviction relief without an evidentiary hearing, holding that Defendant's challenges to his convictions and the five death sentences he received for murders he committed during a bank robbery were unavailing.After a jury trial, Defendant was found guilty of five counts of first degree murder, among other offenses, and sentenced to death for each of the five murders. Defendant later filed a motion for postconviction relief, alleging prosecutorial misconduct claims, ineffective assistance of counsel claims, and additional claims. The district court denied relief without holding an evidentiary hearing. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the district court did not err by (1) denying an evidentiary hearing on Defendant's prosecutorial misconduct and ineffective assistance of counsel claims; and (2) denying relief for other alleged violations of Defendant's constitutional rights. View "State v. Galindo" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed as modified Defendant's convictions for two counts of first degree murder and two counts of use of a firearm to commit a felony, holding that the record was insufficient to address certain claims, and there was otherwise no merit to his arguments on direct appeal.Specifically, the Supreme Court held (1) there was no plain error in the admission of evidence regarding a prior shooting; (2) there was no plain error in the prosecution's remarks; (3) the record was insufficient to address several of Defendant's numerous claims of ineffective assistance of trial counsel, and there was no merit to Defendant's remaining ineffective assistance of counsel claims; and (4) the sentencing order must be modified to reflect a sentence of life imprisonment for each of Defendant's convictions for first degree murder. View "State v. Mabior" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed Defendant's conviction of second degree murder, unlawful discharge of a firearm, and two counts of use of a weapon to commit a felony, holding that there was no error in the trial judge's evidentiary rulings.On appeal, Defendant argued that the district court erred in admitting evidence of his character, specifically that he conducted drug deals after the murder, he was the victim of a robbery, and he owned firearms. Defendant also challenged cellular telephone information obtained from a "tower dump." The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) there was no error in the admission of the challenged evidence; and (2) even if the cell phone tower dump was not a search and subject to Fourth Amendment protections, the order under 18 U.S.C. 86-2,106 allowing the dump was executed in good faith. View "State v. Elias" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the court of appeals reversing the decision of the district court denying Appellant's motion for postconviction relief, holding that the court of appeals erred by granting relief on a claim that Appellant did not present to the district court.Appellant filed a motion for postconviction relief asserting that his failure timely to appeal his convictions was due to the ineffective assistance of his counsel. The district court denied the motion. The court of appeals reversed, concluding that the district court did not err in finding that Appellant did not direct counsel to file an appeal but that counsel provided ineffective assistance by failing to consult with Appellant as to whether he wished to appeal. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) Appellant did not allege in his postconviction motion that trial counsel failed to consult with him about whether he wanted an appeal; and (2) therefore, the court of appeals erred by reversing the district court's decision on that basis. View "State v. Ammons" on Justia Law