Articles Posted in Criminal Law

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At issue was whether the county court erred in overruling Defendant’s motion to suppress. The county court overruled Defendant’s motion after finding that the community caretaking exception to the Fourth Amendment applied. The district court and court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the court of appeals, albeit on different grounds, holding (1) because the initial police-citizen encounter did not amount to a seizure, it was not necessary to invoke the community caretaking exception; but (2) the circumstances clearly established reasonable suspicion that a crime was being committed, and therefore, the detention that followed the stop of Defendant’s vehicle was constitutionally permitted. View "State v. Rivera" on Justia Law

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Defendant pled no contest to first degree murder and was sentenced to life imprisonment. Defendant was sixteen years old at the time of the murder. Defendant’s life sentence was later vacated pursuant to Miller v. Alabama, 567 U.S. 460 (2012), and Defendant was granted a resentencing. The district court resentenced Defendant to imprisonment for eighty years to life after a hearing. The Supreme Court affirmed Defendant’s resentencing, holding (1) the sentencing court did not impose a de facto life sentence in violation of the Eighth Amendment and Neb. Const. art. I, 9 and 15; (2) the district court did not err when it did not make specific findings of fact regarding age-related characteristics; and (3) Defendant’s sentence of eighty years’ to life imprisonment with parole eligibility at age fifty-six was not unconstitutionally disproportionate. View "State v. Jones" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed Defendant’s convictions of terroristic threats, use of a weapon to commit a felony, and negligent child abuse but vacated his sentences and remanded the cause for resentencing, finding plain error in the sentencing. On appeal, Defendant arguing that his trial counsel provided ineffective assistance in various respects and that the evidence was insufficient to support his conviction of negligent child abuse. The court of appeals rejected Defendant’s claims and affirmed his convictions and sentences. The Supreme Court affirmed in part and in part vacated and remanded for resentencing, holding (1) the court of appeals did not err in rejecting Defendant’s claims of ineffective assistance of trial counsel and in affirming Defendant’s convictions on all counts; but (2) the district court imposed unauthorized sentences. View "State v. Mendez-Osorio" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the district court’s decision granting Defendant’s motion for DNA testing, holding that it was “plainly evident from the record” that the DNA testing Defendant sought in his motion was not within the purview of the DNA Testing Act (Act). After the district court granted Defendant’s request for DNA testing, Defendant received pharmaceogenetic testing. Based on the results, Defendant asserted that the dosage of the Zoloft medication he was taking at the time of the murder for which he was convicted was too high for his body to properly metabolize, causing him to be violent and homicidal. Defendant argued that he was entitled to relief under the Act because new scientific evidence could contribute to and establish defenses at trial of an inability to formulate intent, intoxication, or insanity. The district court denied Defendant’s motion for new trial or new sentencing hearing based on the pharmacogenetic testing results. The Supreme Court reversed and remanded with directions to dismiss Defendant’s motion for DNA testing, holding that the district court committed plain error in granting Defendant’s motion for DNA testing. View "State v. Robbins" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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This case presented the Supreme Court’s first opportunity to address postrelease supervision as enacted by 2015 Neb. Laws, L.B. 605. Defendant was convicted of third degree sexual assault of a child and requested to register under the Sex Offender Registration Act (SORA). Defendant later pleaded no contest to failing to register as required to SORA and was sentenced to twelve months’ imprisonment and twelve months’ supervised release. Defendant appealed, arguing that his sentence was excessive and that certain conditions of postrelease supervision were unconstitutional. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) Defendant’s sentence was not an abuse of discretion; and (2) Defendant waived any objection to the conditions imposed. View "State v. Phillips" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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Defendant was arrested in Wyoming, waived extradition, was returned to Nebraska, and was charged with one count of theft by unlawful taking. Defendant filed in the trial court a motion for absolute discharge for violation of his constitutional rights, alleging that his extradition was procedurally improper and that his arrest warrant was defective. The trial court denied the motion. Thereafter, Defendant was found guilty. After Defendant was sentenced, the appeal from the denial of his motion for absolute discharge was voluntarily dismissed. The court of appeals affirmed Defendant’s convictions and sentences on direct appeal. Defendant then filed an application in the district court for a writ of habeas corpus alleging that his conviction and sentence were void because the trial court lacked jurisdiction to continue with his trial while his appeal from the denial of the motion for absolute discharge was pending. The court dismissed Defendant’s application. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that because the trial court’s denial of Defendant’s motion for absolute discharge was not a final order, the trial court was not divested of jurisdiction when Defendant filed this interlocutory appeal. View "Dugan v. State" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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Appellant was charged with four crimes in connection with certain financial dealings. A jury heard his case, and after deliberating for three days, the jury reported that it was deadlocked. The district court sustained Appellant’s motion for a mistrial. Later, Appellant discovered that the jury had voted unanimously during deliberations to acquit him on three of the four charges but erroneously thought it had to reach a unanimous verdict on all charges. Appellant filed a motion for a judgment of acquittal and then a plea in bar. The district court overruled the motion and the plea in bar. The Supreme Court affirmed the district court’s order overruling Appellant’s plea in bar, holding that the Double Jeopardy Clause of the United States Constitution does not bar Appellant’s retrial after his first trial ended in a mistrial, which was granted at Appellant’s request. View "State v. Combs" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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Appellant was charged with four crimes in connection with certain financial dealings. A jury heard his case, and after deliberating for three days, the jury reported that it was deadlocked. The district court sustained Appellant’s motion for a mistrial. Later, Appellant discovered that the jury had voted unanimously during deliberations to acquit him on three of the four charges but erroneously thought it had to reach a unanimous verdict on all charges. Appellant filed a motion for a judgment of acquittal and then a plea in bar. The district court overruled the motion and the plea in bar. The Supreme Court affirmed the district court’s order overruling Appellant’s plea in bar, holding that the Double Jeopardy Clause of the United States Constitution does not bar Appellant’s retrial after his first trial ended in a mistrial, which was granted at Appellant’s request. View "State v. Combs" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the trial court finding Appellant guilty of premeditated first degree murder and sentencing him to life imprisonment. The court held (1) the trial court erred in admitting evidence of Appellant’s letter to a witness warning the witness not to “lie” at Appellant’s trial because the court did not comply with the procedural requirements for admitting such evidence under Neb. R. Evid. 404(2); (2) however, because the State’s other evidence of Appellant’s guilt was overwhelming, the court’s error was harmless beyond a reasonable doubt; and (3) Defendant’s remaining assignments of error were without merit. View "State v. Burries" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the trial court finding Appellant guilty of premeditated first degree murder and sentencing him to life imprisonment. The court held (1) the trial court erred in admitting evidence of Appellant’s letter to a witness warning the witness not to “lie” at Appellant’s trial because the court did not comply with the procedural requirements for admitting such evidence under Neb. R. Evid. 404(2); (2) however, because the State’s other evidence of Appellant’s guilt was overwhelming, the court’s error was harmless beyond a reasonable doubt; and (3) Defendant’s remaining assignments of error were without merit. View "State v. Burries" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law