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State v. Abdulkadir

Supreme Court of Nebraska

May 13, 2016

STATE OF NEBRASKA, APPELLEE,
v.
MOHAMED ABDULKADIR, APPELLANT

          Appeal from the District Court for Lancaster County: STEVEN D. BURNS, Judge.

         Stuart J. Dornan, of Dornan, Lustgarten & Troia, P.C., L.L.O., for appellant.

         Douglas J. Peterson, Attorney General, and Kimberly A. Klein for appellee.

         HEAVICAN, C.J., WRIGHT, CONNOLLY, MILLER-LERMAN, CASSEL, STACY, and KELCH, JJ.

          OPINION

          [293 Neb. 561] Heavican, C.J.

         INTRODUCTION

         Mohamed Abdulkadir appeals from the district court's order denying his postconviction motion to vacate and set aside his convictions without an evidentiary hearing. Abdulkadir alleged that his convictions for the second degree murder of Michael Grandon and for use of a deadly weapon to commit a felony should be vacated because his trial counsel failed to call two witnesses Abdulkadir claimed would have testified in his favor. We affirm.

         BACKGROUND

         This is the second time Abdulkadir has appealed to this court. In 2013, we affirmed his convictions on direct appeal.[1] Abdulkadir then filed a postconviction motion to vacate and set aside his convictions in the district court because his trial counsel (who also served as counsel on direct appeal) did not call two potential witnesses: Eltio Plater and a corrections officer named " Vidal."

         [293 Neb. 562] In June 2011, Abdulkadir was an inmate at the Nebraska State Penitentiary. During the afternoon of June 30, Abdulkadir reported to a caseworker, Cody Eastman, that some items from his cell were missing. Eastman told Abdulkadir to fill out a report to assist in the investigation. Instead, Abdulkadir began asking fellow inmates if they knew anything about the theft. Abdulkadir approached Grandon in the prison gymnasium to discuss the stolen items, but Grandon apparently denied any involvement.

         According to Abdulkadir's testimony and corroborating testimony by another inmate, Danny Robinson, later that afternoon, Grandon punched Abdulkadir without warning and a struggle ensued. Abdulkadir and Robinson testified that Grandon then took an object, later discovered to be a knife, into his hand and that Abdulkadir wrestled the knife from Grandon. Witnesses saw Abdulkadir stab Grandon multiple times. After the altercation, Grandon died from his injuries.

         Henry McFarland was an officer on duty in Abdulkadir's housing unit on the day Grandon died. McFarland testified at trial that while working in the control center, four inmates, including Plater and Robinson, stood shoulder-to-shoulder, blocking his view of the unit. McFarland told the inmates to move and then heard the struggle between Grandon and Abdulkadir from the direction the inmates had been obstructing. He witnessed Grandon falling to the floor. Abdulkadir then stood over Grandon, making stabbing motions while Grandon rolled around in a fetal position.

         Three of the four inmates who had allegedly blocked McFarland's view testified at trial that they were merely cutting each other's hair. They claimed not to be intentionally obstructing the control center window. Plater was not called to testify.

         McFarland called for help, and Eastman was the first to respond. When Eastman entered the area, he witnessed Grandon already on the floor in a fetal position and Abdulkadir standing over Grandon, stabbing him twice. Eastman then [293 Neb. 563] entered the area and told Abdulkadir to drop the knife; Abdulkadir complied.

         McFarland testified that he saw Abdulkadir stab Grandon between 10 to 15 times while Grandon was on the floor. McFarland also said that he heard Abdulkadir yelling, " 'You think you can steal from me?'" [2] Another officer who was also in the unit at the time testified at trial that Abdulkadir stabbed Grandon only three or four times after Grandon fell. Abdulkadir testified that during the struggle, he became hysterical and apparently could not remember what happened after he began stabbing Grandon. None of Abdulkadir's trial witnesses claimed to have seen the entire incident.

         Grandon suffered a total of 25 stab wounds. He was still alive briefly after Abdulkadir was escorted away. But Grandon's heart stopped beating before he arrived at the hospital.

         After the stabbing, Abdulkadir was taken to a segregation unit. There, an officer overheard Abdulkadir responding to inmates' questions about why he was in segregation. According to that officer's testimony, Abdulkadir told them that " 'somebody was stealing his shit and he couldn't let that happen and that he'd do it again.'" [3]

         A jury convicted Abdulkadir, and the district court sentenced him to a term of life-to-life imprisonment for second degree murder and 15 to 25 years' imprisonment for use of a deadly weapon. We affirmed the convictions on direct appeal. Abdulkadir then filed the motion for postconviction relief at ...


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