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State v. Matthews

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Thursday, September 12, 2013

A-12-1052, State v. Matthews (Appellant)

 Hall County, District Court Judge William T. Wright

Attorney for Appellant:  Gerard A. Piccolo (Hall County Public Defender)

Attorney for Appellee:  Jon Bruning, Melissa R. Vincent (Attorney General’s Office)

Criminal Action:  Appellant was convicted by a jury of attempted murder, two counts of terroristic threats, and three counts of use of a weapon to commit a felony.

Action Taken by Trial Court:  During trial, the district court did not allow a witness to testify about his aggression and violence. The court did not include a “self-defense” element to the jury instructions on the charge of terroristic threats.

Assignments of Error on Appeal:  On appeal, the appellant contends that the district court erred in not allowing a witness to testify as to his aggressiveness and violence and in not including a “self-defense” element to the jury instructions on the charge of terroristic threats.

Extended Case Summary (for Educational Purposes): 

A-12-1052, State of Nebraska (Appellee) v. William W. Matthews (Appellant)

Hall County District Court, Judge William T. Wright

Attorneys: Gerard A. Piccolo (Public Defender) --- Melissa R. Vincent (Attorney General’s Office)

Type of Case: criminal - attempted murder; terroristic threats; use of a weapon

Proceedings below: A jury found the Appellant guilty of one count of criminal attempt of first degree murder, three counts of use of a deadly weapon to commit a felony, and two counts of terroristic threats. The trial court sentenced the Appellant to sentences of imprisonment on each count with 562 days credit for time served.

Assignments of error: Appellant argues the trial court erred by (1) not allowing one of the three victims involved in the case testify as to his own character for aggressiveness and violence; and (2) by not including a self-defense element in the terroristic threats jury instruction.

Standard of Review: In proceedings where the Nebraska Evidence Rules apply, the admissibility of evidence is controlled by the Nebraska Evidence Rules; judicial discretion is involved only when the rules make such discretion a factor in determining admissibility. State v. Scott, 284 Neb. 703, 824 N.W.2d 668 (2012); State v. Virgil, 283 Neb. 129, 810 N.W.2d 687 (2012). Where the Nebraska Evidence Rules commit the evidentiary question at issue to the discretion of the trial court, the admissibility of evidence is reviewed for an abuse of discretion. State v. Scott, supra; State v. Virgil, supra. A judicial abuse of discretion exists only when the reasons or rulings of a trial judge are clearly untenable, unfairly depriving a litigant of a substantial right and denying a just result in matters submitted for disposition. State v. Burton, 282 Neb. 135, 802 N.W.2d 127 (2011).

Whether jury instructions given by a trial court are correct is a question of law. State v. Robinson, 278 Neb. 212, 769 N.W.2d 366 (2009). When dispositive issues on appeal present questions of law, an appellate court has an obligation to reach an independent conclusion irrespective of the decision of the court below. State. v. Fischer, 272 Neb. 963, 726 N.W.2d 176 (2007).

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