Justia Constitutional Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Nebraska Supreme Court
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The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the district court denying Defendant's motion for postconviction relief, holding that that district court did not err in denying Defendant's postconviction claims without an evidentiary hearing and did not err in denying Defendant's request to appoint postconviction counsel. Defendant was convicted of three counts of murder and theft of deception and was sentenced to life imprisonment for the murder convictions. The district court denied Defendant's claims for postconviction relief without holding an evidentiary hearing and without appointing counsel, holding that all of Defendant's claims were either insufficiently pled, affirmatively refuted by the record, or procedurally barred. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the district court did not abuse its discretion. View "State v. Oliveira-Coutinho" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed Defendant's conviction of knowing and intentional child abuse resulting in death and prison sentence of fifty-five to seventy-five years in prison, holding that there was no merit to any of Defendant's assignments of error. Specifically, the Supreme Court held that the trial court did not err in (1) overruling Defendant's motion to suppress; (2) overruling Defendant's plea in abatement; (3) overruling Defendant's motion to quash and rejecting her constitutional challenges; (4) finding Defendant guilty of intentional child abuse resulting in death; and (5) imposing Defendant's sentence. View "State v. Montoya" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed Defendant's conviction and probationary sentence for possession of a controlled substance, holding that the district court did not err when it failed to grant Defendant's motion to suppress evidence found during a search of her vehicle and person, as well as statements Defendant made to law enforcement. On appeal, Defendant argued that the traffic stop concluded and a voluntary police-citizen encounter began before she consented to a search of her vehicle. The Supreme Court disagreed, holding (1) this court has jurisdiction pursuant to Neb. Rev. Stat. 25-1912(2); and (2) the traffic stop terminated when the officer told Defendant she was free to leave and that what followed was a separate encounter not subject to the Fourth Amendment. Therefore, the Supreme Court did not err by overruling Defendant's motion to suppress, motion to reconsider and vacate, and renewed motion to suppress. View "State v. Hartzell" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed Defendant's convictions for first degree murder, use of a deadly weapon to commit a felony, and possession of a deadly weapon by a prohibited person, holding that there was no merit to Defendant's assignments of error. Specifically, the Court held (1) the district court did not err in overruling Defendant's motion to suppress the search of his cell phone; (2) the district court did not err in admitting eight photographic exhibits over Defendant's objections and in concluding that multiple photographs of the same wounds on the victim were not unfairly prejudicial; and (3) eight of Defendant's eighteen claims of ineffective assistance of counsel were either without merit or not alleged with sufficient particularity, and the Court was unable to resolve Defendant's remaining claims of ineffective assistance. View "State v. Stelly" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the ruling of the district court overruling Defendant's motion for discharge on statutory and constitutional speedy trial grounds, holding that the district court did not err in finding that Defendant was not entitled to discharge. The State filed an information against Defendant charging him with theft by receiving stolen property and other offenses. After the trial was continued several times Defendant filed a motion for discharge on statutory and constitutional speedy trial grounds. The district court overruled the motion. The Supreme Court affirmed after applying the four factor-test set forth in Barker v. Wingo, 407 U.S. 514 (1972), holding that neither Defendant's statutory nor constitutional right to a speedy trial was violated. View "State v. Lovvorn" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the district court affirming Defendant's conviction of driving under the influence with a blood alcohol concentration of .15 or higher, first offense, holding that, assuming a warrant for Defendant's blood draw was invalid, the good faith exception applied and exclusion of the blood evidence was not required. After a bench trial before the county court, Defendant appealed his conviction to the district court. Defendant argued that the county court erred in overruling his motion to suppress his blood test on the grounds that the affidavit supporting the warrant for the blood draw was insufficient to support a probable cause finding. The district court affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) even assuming that the warrant was insufficient to support a finding of probable cause, the good faith exception set forth in United States v. Leon, 468 U.S. 897 (1984), applied; and (2) therefore, the district court did not err in affirming Defendant's conviction. View "State v. Kruse" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the district court finding in favor of Defendants and dismissing Plaintiff's 42 U.S.C. 1983 action, holding that, under the doctrine set forth in Heck v. Humphrey, 512 U.S. 477 (1994), Plaintiff's claims were not cognizable under section 1983. Plaintiff moved out of the Johnson Lake area after harassment protection orders were issued against him. Although Plaintiff was given a "ban notice" he repeatedly trespassed, Plaintiff received two convictions for trespass. In the instant complaint, Plaintiff allegedly that he was unconstitutionally excluded from the Johnson Lake area in that he could not travel or reside there or engage in recreation and his occupation. The district court found in favor of Defendants on all claims. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that Plaintiff's convictions for trespassing were fundamentally inconsistent with the various civil claims alleged in his complaint, and therefore, Plaintiff's section 1983 claims were not cognizable under the Heck doctrine. View "Maloley v. Central Nebraska Public Power & Irrigation District" on Justia Law

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In these consolidated appeals, the Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the district court finding Defendant guilty of four counts each of murder in the first degree, use of a deadly weapon to commit a felony, and possession of a deadly weapon by a prohibited person and sentencing Defendant to death, holding that the district court did not err in accepting Defendant's pleas of no contest. During the criminal proceedings, the trial court granted Defendant's motion to represent himself and accepted Defendant's waiver of his right to a jury trial. Defendant entered a plea of no contest to every count. After a sentencing hearing, Defendant was sentenced to death for each of the four murder counts. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) Defendant was competent to enter his pleas of no contest, and the pleas were valid; (2) the court did not commit reversible error when it allowed Defendant to proceed pro se; (3) the trial court did not err in determining that Defendant was competent; (4) the trial court did not err by denying Defendant's motion to preclude the death penalty as a violation of the Ex Post Facto Clauses of the state and federal constitutions; and (5) Defendant's challenges to the constitutionality of the death penalty procedure were unavailing. View "State v. Jenkins" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the district court convicting Defendant of manufacturing a controlled substance within 1,000 feet of a school and possession of a controlled substance, holding that the lower court did not err in denying Defendant's motion to suppress evidence obtained during and after his interaction with law enforcement. Defendant argued that suppression was warranted because he was unlawfully seized, his statements were obtained in violation of Miranda, and his consent to the search was coerced. The district court concluded that the initial seizure of Defendant was appropriate, Defendant's other statements were not made during a custodial interrogation, and Defendant's consent to the search of his residence was voluntary and not coerced. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that Defendant's Fourth Amendment and Fifth Amendment rights were not violated in this case. View "State v. Schriner" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed Defendant's convictions and sentences, holding that there was no merit to the assignments of error that the Court could reach on direct appeal. On appeal, Defendant argued that the district court abused its discretion by imposing excessive sentences and that his counsel provided ineffective assistance in four separate instances. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the district court did not abuse its discretion when imposing the sentences because the court considered relevant factors and did not consider improper factors; and (2) three of Defendant's claims of ineffective assistance of counsel lacked merit, and the record was insufficient to address the fourth claim on direct appeal. View "State v. Blaha" on Justia Law