Justia Criminal Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Nebraska Supreme Court
by
The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the district court affirming Defendant's conviction and sentence for driving under the influence, holding that there was no error in the challenged rulings by the trial court. Specifically, the Supreme Court held that the district court did not err by (1) affirming the county court's order denying Defendant's motion to suppress fruits of the stop; (2) affirming the county court's order that denied Defendant's motion to suppress the fruits of his arrest; (3) affirming the county court's order that denied Defendant's motion to suppress the results of the test of his breath alcohol content; (4) finding sufficient evidence to support the conviction; and (5) finding that Defendant's sentence was not excessive. View "State v. Montoya" on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Court affirmed Defendant's sentence of death for first degree murder, holding that there was no error in the sentence imposed by the sentencing panel. Specifically, the Supreme Court held that the sentencing panel did not err in (1) allowing the State to introduce evidence on the existence of mitigating circumstances; (2) acknowledging and weighing mitigating evidence from the presentence investigation report; (3) not requesting that documentation from the Department of Correctional Services regarding Defendant's time in custody for mitigation purposes be included in the presentence investigation report; (4) sentencing Defendant to death, where the Legislature has enacted safeguards to ensure fairness and accuracy in the resulting sentence; and (5) finding Defendant should be sentenced to death after balancing the aggravating evidence and mitigating evidence. View "State v. Schroeder" on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Court affirmed in part as modified and vacated in part the order of the district court imposing consecutive five-month terms of imprisonment following Defendant's revocation from post-release supervision in two cases, holding that Defendant's second five-month term of imprisonment must be vacated and that Defendant was entitled to jail time credit. On appeal, Defendant argued that the district court erred in imposing consecutive sentences and failing to award credit for time served after revocation, prior to sentencing. The Supreme Court vacated the five-month term of imprisonment imposed upon revocation in one case, directing that Defendant not commerce serving the post-release supervision term in that case until he had completed serving his post-release supervision term in his other case. The Court affirmed the five-month term of imprisonment imposed in the other case, as modified by crediting Defendant with sixty-four days of time served. View "State v. Galvan" on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the district court denying Defendant's motion for postconviction relief without an evidentiary hearing, holding that Defendant's postconviction claims were time barred. In his motion for postconviction relief, Defendant alleged that his death sentence was invalid because Nebraska's capital sentencing statutes violate his rights under the Sixth, Eighth, and Fourteenth Amendments to the federal Constitution. Defendant's motion relied on the United States Supreme Court's decision in Hurst v. Florida, __ U.S. __ (2016). Citing State v. Lotter,, 917 N.W.2d 850 (2018), in which the Supreme Court held Hurst was not a proper triggering event for the one-year limitations period of the Nebraska Postconviction Act, the district court denied the motion, concluding that it was time barred. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the district court correctly held that Defendant's postconviction claims were time barred; and (2) because there was not merit to Defendant's postconviction claims, the district court did not err in denying the postconviction motion without an evidentiary hearing. View "State v. Hessler" on Justia Law

by
In Defendant's appeal from his conviction and sentence the Supreme Court remanded the cause with direction for a new enhancement and sentencing hearing, holding that the district court erred when it enhanced Defendant's sentence for motor vehicle homicide absent evidence of a prior conviction. Defendant pled guilty to enhanced motor vehicle homicide. The court accepted Defendant's guilty plea subject to enhancement. At the sentencing hearing, no evidence was adduced on the matter of enhancement, nor was the matter addressed. The court, however, treated the offense as enhanced when sentencing Defendant. Defendant appealed, asserting that the district court erred in failing to receive evidence of a prior conviction, as is statutorily required to subject him to enhancement penalties. The Supreme Court agreed, holding (1) the trial court did not receive evidence necessary to subject Defendant to the enhanced penalties under Neb. Rev. Stat. 28-306(3)(c), and therefore, his sentence was illegal; and (2) the proper remedy is to remand the cause with directions for another enhancement and sentencing hearing. View "State v. Valdez" on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Court affirmed Defendant conviction of second degree assault and use of a deadly weapon to commit a felony and sentence of fifteen to twenty-five years' imprisonment, holding that the district court (1) did not err in not giving Defendant's requested limiting instruction regarding burden shifting; (2) did not err in finding that Defendant could not testify on direct examination as to the basis of his prior felony convictions; (3) did not err in declining to instruct the jury on the lesser-included offense of third degree assault; (4) finding that the evidence was sufficient to sustain Defendant's convictions; and (5) did not abuse its discretion in sentencing Defendant. View "State v. Stabler" on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Court dismissed Defendant's appeal of the denial of his plea in bar, holding that because Defendant's plea in bar did not present a colorable double jeopardy claim this Court lacked appellate jurisdiction. Defendant was charged with one count of first degree sexual assault and one count of third degree sexual assault of a child. The alleged victim of both crimes was T.K. Defendant filed a plea in bar asserting that he entered guilty pleas to certain criminal charges as part of an agreement in which the State agreed not to bring any charges alleging that he sexually assaulted T.K. Defendant argued that by filing criminal charges it had previously agreed not to bring the State violated his double jeopardy protections. The district court overruled the plea in bar. The Supreme Court dismissed Defendant's appeal for lack of jurisdiction, holding that Defendant did not present a colorable double jeopardy claim, and therefore, the order overruling his plea in bar was not a final, appealable order. View "State v. Kelley" on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Court vacated Defendant's sentence for witness tampering but otherwise affirmed Defendant's convictions and the sentence imposed for Defendant's sexual assault conviction, holding that Defendant's sentence for witness tampering should have been an indeterminate rather than a determinate sentence. Specifically, the Supreme Court held (1) the Court will not consider Defendant's assignment of error alleging ineffective assistance of counsel because Defendant failed to comply with this Court's pronouncement regarding the specificity required for assignments of error alleging ineffective assistance of counsel; (2) when a defendant challenges a sentence imposed by the district court as excessive and the State believes the sentence to be erroneous but has not complied with Neb. Rev. Stat. 29-2315.01 or 29-2321, the State may not assert such error via a cross-appeal; (3) the district court did not err in denying Defendant's motion to suppress, failing to grant his motion for mistrial based on prosecutorial misconduct, and failing to grant a directed verdict; (4) the sentence for the sexual assault conviction was not sentence; and (5) the trial court plainly erred by imposing a determinate sentence for witness tampering. View "State v. Guzman" on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Court affirmed Defendant's convictions of three counts of first degree murder, three counts of use of a deadly weapon to commit a felony, and one count of possession of a deadly weapon by a prohibited person, holding that the district court did not err in its evidentiary rulings. On appeal, Defendant argued that the district court erred when it admitted crime scene and autopsy photographs over his objection and violated the Confrontation Clause of both the state and federal constitutions when it allowed the State to present its case at trial without the testimony of Anthony Davis, a separately tried alleged coconspirator. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the trial court's admission of the photographs of the crime scene and autopsy was not unfairly prejudicial; and (2) the district court did not have an independent duty to call Davis to testify. View "State v. Britt" on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the district court affirming Defendant's criminal misdemeanor convictions for violating Neb. Rev. Stat. 39-301 by repeatedly erecting an electric fence approximately three feet from the edge of a county gravel roadway and within the county's right-of-way extending into a ditch, holding that the evidence was sufficient to support Defendant's convictions. On appeal, Defendant argued that there was insufficient evidence presented to prove that he was the individual who placed the electric fence in the ditch and that the placement of the fence did not violate section 39-301. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the area of the ditch at issue in this case, which was within the county's right-of-way, was part of a "public road" for purposes of section 39-301; and (2) there was sufficient evidence to conclude that Defendant was responsible for erecting the fences. View "State v. Thelen" on Justia Law