Justia Civil Rights Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Nebraska Supreme Court
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The Supreme Court affirmed Defendant's convictions of first degree murder and use of a firearm to commit a felony, holding that the trial court did not commit reversible error or abuse its discretion.Specifically, the Supreme Court held that the district court (1) applied the correct standard and did not abuse its discretion in denying Defendant's motions for appointment of successor trial counsel and by denying counsel's motion to withdraw; (2) did not abuse its discretion by denying Defendant's request to obtain his own physical copies of discovery material; (3) did not abuse its discretion in discharging an African-American juror; (4) did not err by allowing the State to present a portion of its case in chief in Defendant's absence; and (5) Defendant was not entitled to relief on his remaining assignments of error. View "State v. Figures" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the county court determining that it lacked authority to permit adoption by a same-sex married couple, holding that the plain language of Neb. Rev. Stat. 43-101 permits a same-sex married couple to adopt a minor child.Kelly and Maria filed a petition to adopt Yasmin. The county court denied the request, determining that it did not have the authority to permit adoption by a "wife and wife." The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the county court erred in determining that it lacked jurisdiction to permit a same-sex married couple to adopt a child. View "In re Adoption of Yasmin S." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the district court denying Defendant's pro se motion for postconviction relief without holding an evidentiary hearing, holding that Defendant's claims were all either procedurally barred, based upon mere conclusions of fact and law, or refuted by the trial record.Defendant was convicted of first degree murder and other offenses. In his pro se motion for postconviction relief, Defendant argued (1) law enforcement extracted information from his cell phone before the crime occurred and unlawfully searched the phone before obtaining a warrant, (2) the State committed a Brady violation, (3) there were various acts of prosecutorial misconduct committed during trial, and (4) both trial counsel and appellate counsel were ineffective. The Supreme Court affirmed the district court's denial of postconviction relief, holding that there was no merit to Defendant's assignments of error. View "State v. Stelly" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the district court denying Defendant's motion for postconviction relief, holding that the district court did not err in dismissing the motion for postconviction relief.Defendant was convicted of one count of theft by unlawful taking, one count of attempted theft by unlawful taking, and one count of abuse of a vulnerable adult. In his postconviction motion, Defendant alleged that his counsel was ineffective for failing to file a direct appeal when he was directed to do so. The district court denied the motion following a hearing. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the district court correctly found that Defendant was not deficient in failing to file a direct appeal. View "State v. Combs" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the district court denying Defendant's motion for postconviction relief after an evidentiary hearing, holding that the district court did not err in finding that trial counsel was effective.In his motion for postconviction relief, Defendant argued that trial counsel provided ineffective assistance by failing to file a direct appeal at Defendant's direction. The district court denied the motion after holding an evidentiary hearing. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the district court did not clearly err in finding that Defendant did not direct trial counsel to file a direct appeal, and therefore, trial counsel was not deficient in allegedly not filing the appeal. View "State v. Russell" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the district court convicting Defendant of possession of a controlled substance and two counts of carrying a concealed weapon, holding that there was no merit to Defendant's claims on appeal.On appeal, Defendant contended that the district court erred in overruling his motion to suppress, that he received ineffective assistance of counsel, and that the evidence was insufficient to convict him of carrying a concealed weapon. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) because there was no Fourth Amendment violation the court properly overruled Defendant's motion to suppress; (2) there was sufficient evidence to support the verdict; and (3) trial counsel did not perform deficiently. View "State v. Lowman" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed Defendant's convictions and sentences for five counts of robbery, five counts of use of a weapon to commit a felony, one count of second-degree assault, and one count of attempted escape, holding that Defendant was not entitled to relief on his assignments of error.Specifically, the Supreme Court held (1) the district court did not err when it overruled Defendant's motion to suppress statements he made while in custody; (2) the district court did not err in overruling Defendant's motion to suppress evidence of witness identifications from photographic lineups; (3) there was sufficient evidence to support the district court's finding that Defendant failed to prove the insanity defense; and (4) Defendant's sentences were not excessive. View "State v. Johnson" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed Defendant's conviction of possession of a firearm by a prohibited person, possession of a controlled substance, and possession of marijuana, holding that the district court did not err in denying Defendant's motion to suppress.In his suppression motion, Defendant sought to suppress evidence found in his vehicle during a felony traffic stop. The stop was initiated based on law enforcement's belief that Defendant's vehicle matched the description in a police bulletin of a vehicle used in a shooting committed three days prior. In his motion to suppress, Defendant argued that the police bulletin was insufficient to justify the traffic stop. The Supreme Court affirmed the district court's denial of the suppression motion, holding (1) the felony traffic stop was a tier-two police-citizen encounter; and (2) the law enforcement officers had reasonable suspicion to conduct an investigatory stop of Defendant's vehicle based on the police bulletin alone. View "State v. Thomas" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the decision of the court of appeals affirming Defendant's conviction of two counts of possession of a controlled substance, holding that the district court erred in denying Defendant's motion to suppress evidence found during a warrantless search of Defendant's vehicle.On appeal, Defendant argued that the State failed to meet its burden of proving that the search fell within the inventory search exception to the warrant requirement. The court of appeals disagreed, concluding that the police did not use the inventory search as pretext for a general rummaging in order to discover incriminating evidence. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that it was not possible on the record to determine whether the search was conducted in conformity with Omaha Police Department's standardized procedures governing inventory searches; and (2) therefore, the State failed to meet its burden to show that the search fell within the inventory search exception. View "State v. Briggs" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed Defendant's conviction of first degree murder, use of a deadly weapon to commit a felony, and possession of a deadly weapon by a prohibited person, holding that the district court did not err in admitting cell phone records for Defendant's phone and statements Defendant made to law enforcement.Prior to trial, Defendant filed motions to suppress his cell phone records and statements he made to law enforcement, arguing that the warrant authorizing the search of Defendant's cell phone records was obtained without probable cause and that his Miranda rights were violated when he invoked his right to remain silent and officers continued to question him. The district court denied the motion to suppress. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the district court did not err in admitting cell site location information evidence at trial; and (2) Defendant waived any right to assert error in the denial of his motion to suppress his statements made to law enforcement. View "State v. Cox" on Justia Law