Justia Civil Rights Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Nebraska Supreme Court
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The Supreme Court affirmed Defendant's convictions for possessing methamphetamine and marijuana, holding that Defendant was not entitled to relief on her allegations of error. On appeal, Defendant argued (1) the district court erred in overruling her motion to suppress, (2) the district court erred in overruling her motions seeking a competency evaluation, and (3) her trial counsel provided ineffective assistance. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the district court properly overruled Defendant's motion to suppress; (2) there was no abuse of discretion in overruling Defendant's motions for a competency evaluation; and (3) the record affirmatively refuted Defendant's claim that trial counsel performed deficiently. View "State v. Lang" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed Defendant's conviction of driving under the influence, holding that Defendant consented to a chemical test of his urine and, therefore, the results of the urine test were admissible. A law enforcement officer stopped Defendant for an expired registration. Based on his observations, the officer, a certified drug recognition evaluation expert, administered field sobriety tests. The officer concluded that Defendant was under the influence of marijuana arrested Defendant for driving under the influence and then took him to a detoxification center. Thereafter, a chemical test of Defendant's urine confirmed the presence of marijuana. On appeal, Defendant challenged the admission of the results of the urine test. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that Defendant voluntarily consented to the warrantless search of his urine, and therefore, the search fell within a recognized exception to the warrant requirement. View "State v. Degarmo" on Justia Law

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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

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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

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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

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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

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the district court convicting Defendant of multiple counts of sexual assault of a child and child abuse, holding that the district court did not err in admitting prior sexual assault evidence. Defendant was convicted of sexually assaulting and abusing his adopted daughter. On appeal, Defendant argued, among other things, that the district court erred in admitting evidence of a prior sexual assault allegedly committed by Defendant against another adopted daughter because Defendant was acquitted in that case. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the district court did not err in allowing the State to present the evidence of prior sexual assault where at least some of those assaults were alleged to have been committed by Defendant in other jurisdictions; and (2) Defendant was not entitled to relief on his remaining allegations of error. View "State v. Lierman" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed in part and vacated in part Defendant's convictions and sentences for burglary, conspiracy to commit burglary, and theft involving a truck, a trailer, and several tools from a garage, holding that Defendant's convictions and sentences pursuant to counts III and IV of the State's amended information, which each asserted a separate offense of theft by unlawful taking ($5,000 or more) violated the constitutional prohibition against double jeopardy. Specifically, the Court held (1) two of Defendant's three convictions and sentences for theft by unlawful taking ($5,000 or more) based on the theft of tools from the garage must be vacated because allowing three convictions for the same offense is a clear violation of both the Nebraska and United States Constitutions; (2) the trial court did not err by excluding defense witnesses who were not disclosed by counsel until five days before trial; (3) Defendant's assertion relating to his attorney's generalized failure to communicate with Defendant while preparing for trial were unavailing; and (4) there was either no merit to Defendant's remaining claims of ineffective assistance of counsel or the record was insufficient for the Court to address the claims. View "State v. Sierra" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed Defendant's conviction for third-offense driving under the influence, holding that the district court did not err in denying Defendant's motion to suppress or in denying Defendant's motion for a new trial. After a law enforcement officer stopped Defendant a breath test showed that Defendant had an elevated blood alcohol level. On appeal, Defendant challenged, among other things, the denial of her motion to suppress the evidence. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) under the totality of the circumstances, the officer's seizure of Defendant was supported by a particularized and objective basis for suspecting the particular person stopped of criminal activity; and (2) the district court did not abuse its discretion in denying Defendant's motion for a new trial based on newly discovered evidence. View "State v. Krannawitter" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the court of appeals affirming the district court's motion for postconviction relief without a hearing, holding that because Appellant did not even attempt to demonstrate that he was prejudiced as a result of appellate counsel's deficient performance, Appellant was not entitled to postconviction relief. After Appellant's convictions were affirmed on appeal Appellant filed a petition for postconviction relief. As the basis for his petition, Appellant argued that his appellate counsel was ineffective and that he was not required to demonstrate that he was prejudiced by his counsel's deficient performance. The district court denied postconviction relief. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that Defendant was required to demonstrate prejudice under Strickland and failed to do so. View "State v. Assad" on Justia Law