Articles Posted in Nebraska Supreme Court

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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

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In this criminal case, the district court did not err in denying Defendant’s plea in bar to charges of sexual assault of a child. During his criminal trial, Defendant moved for a mistrial based upon the court’s decision to grant the State’s motion to amend the information and a jury instruction after the jury had begun deliberations. The court sustained the motion and declared a mistrial. Thereafter, Defendant filed a plea in bar asserting that a new trial would subject him to double jeopardy because the State created the need for a mistrial. The district court denied the plea in bar. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that double jeopardy did not bar a new trial because Defendant failed to show that the State provoked him into moving for a mistrial and that double jeopardy did not prevent a new trial. View "State v. Bedolla" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the district court convicting Defendant of first degree murder and two counts of possession of a deadly weapon by a prohibited person and sentencing him to life imprisonment on the murder conviction and fifteen to twenty years’ imprisonment on the possession convictions. The court held that the district court did not err in (1) overruling Defendant’s motion to suppress the evidence obtained during the search of a vehicle; (2) overruling Defendant’s motion in limine seeking to exclude certain testimony; (3) denying Defendant’s motion to strike a statement made by the State in rebuttal closing argument; (4) failing to find that Defendant was denied effective assistance of counsel; and (5) overruling Defendant’s motion to dismiss and motion for directed verdict. View "State v. Hill" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the district court denying Defendant’s amended and supplemental motions for postconviction relief. Defendant was convicted of second degree murder and use of a firearm to commit a felony. Defendant filed amended and supplemental motions for postconviction relief, claiming that the jury instructions given in his case denied him due process and that he received ineffective assistance of trial and appellate counsel. The district court denied the motions after an evidentiary hearing. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the holdings in State v. Smith, 806 N.W.2d 383 (Neb. 2011), did not apply to Defendant retroactively on collateral review; (2) Defendant’s convictions did not offend his due process rights; and (3) Defendant’s claims of ineffectiveness of trial and appellate counsel were without merit. View "State v. Glass" on Justia Law

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While dating April, Johnson made threats concerning April’s relationship with her former husband Edward. The night before April’s death, Johnson was upset that Edward had repaired April’s van. April’s neighbors reported hearing loud arguing in the early morning hours of December 11, 2011. On December 12, April did not report to work. Officers found April’s body. A pathologist opined that her death was a homicide caused by a stab wound to her abdomen and suffocation, On December 15, Johnson was arrested in Michigan driving April’s van, which contained Johnson’s blood-stained T-shirt and shoes. The DNA matched April’s profile. Johnson was convicted of first-degree murder, use of a deadly weapon to commit a felony, and possession of a deadly weapon by a prohibited person. On appeal, Johnson unsuccessfully claimed that the court erred by admitting cumulative, gruesome autopsy photographs; brought a Batson challenge; and challenged testimony and exhibits about Johnson’s DNA profile. Johnson’s motion for post-conviction relief alleged ineffective assistance of counsel for failing to move for discharge on the basis of speedy trial, failing to object to the prosecutor’s voir dire comments, failing to properly examine various witnesses, failing to argue after moving for a directed verdict, failing to object to the state’s closing argument, failing to sever one count, and failing to allow Johnson to testify. The Nebraska Supreme Court affirmed the denial of the motion without holding an evidentiary hearing. Johnson failed to allege sufficient facts to demonstrate violation of his constitutional rights. View "State v. Johnson" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part the judgment of the district court dismissing Appellants’ complaint without leave to amend. The complaint stemmed from Nebraska Department of Natural Resources’s (DNR) issuance of closing notices to holders of surface water permits, which barred Appellants from using the surface waters of the Republican River and its tributaries to irrigate their crops. Appellants alleged claims for relief under 42 U.S.C. 1983 and that they had been subject to an inverse condemnation. Appellants also alleged that their due process rights had been violated and sought restitution. The district court dismissed the amended complaint pursuant to Neb. Rev. Stat. 6-1112(b)(6) without leave to amend. The Supreme Court held (1) Appellants failed to state a claim for inverse condemnation; but (2) the district court erred in failing to find that it lacked subject matter jurisdiction over Appellants’ claims for relief under 42 U.S.C. 1983, due process, and restitution. The court remanded with directions to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction those claims barred by sovereign immunity. View "Cappel v. State" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the district court’s denial, without an evidentiary hearing, of Appellant’s motion for postconviction relief. In his motion, Appellant alleged that counsel was ineffective in several respects. After he was denied relief, Appellant appealed, arguing that his trial counsel was ineffective in various ways and that the district court erred in denying his motion for postconviction relief without a hearing. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the district court did not err when it determined that Appellant’s motion for postconviction relief did not allege facts that constituted a denial of his constitutional rights and accordingly denied the motion. View "State v. Custer" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court denied the district court’s order denying Defendant’s second plea in bar asserting a double jeopardy violation. After a jury trial, Defendant was convicted of attempted first degree sexual assault. The Supreme Court reversed the conviction and remanded for a new trial. On remand, the State filed an amended information again charging Defendant with attempted first degree sexual assault, alleging, for the first time, that the victim was mentally or physically incapable of consenting. The district court denied Defendant’s plea in bar. The Supreme Court reversed and remanded, concluding that capacity to consent could not be relitigated as to the attempted first degree sexual assault charge. On remand, the State filed a second amended information alleging only that Defendant attempted to subject the victim to penile penetration without her consent. After Defendant filed a motion in limine seeking to prohibit testimony concerning capacity to consent and the court overruled the motion, Defendant filed a second plea in bar. The district court denied the motion. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the second amended information did not place Defendant at risk of double jeopardy, and therefore, the district court was correct in denying his plea in bar. View "State v. Lavalleur" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the trial court convicting Defendant of two counts of murder and two counts of attempted murder. The court held (1) the search warrant that authorized police to search for and seize any and all firearms in Defendant’s residence was constitutional because it was sufficiently particular to enable police to know what times they were authorized to search for and seize; and (2) the trial court did not abuse its discretion by admitting a recording of a telephone conversation that Defendant made to his ex-girlfriend from jail because the risk of unfair prejudice did not substantially outweigh the probative value of those statements. View "State v. Baker" on Justia Law