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State v. Steele

Supreme Court of Nebraska

July 27, 2018

State of Nebraska, appellee,
v.
Markel D. Steele, appellant.

         1. Sentences: Appeal and Error. An appellate court will not disturb a sentence imposed within the statutory limits absent an abuse of discretion by the trial court.

         2. Judgments: Words and Phrases. An abuse of discretion occurs when a trial court's decision is based upon reasons that are untenable or unreasonable or if its action is clearly against justice or conscience, reason, and evidence.

         3. Sentences: Appeal and Error. Where a sentence imposed within the statutory limits is alleged on appeal to be excessive, the appellate court must determine whether a sentencing court abused its discretion in considering and applying the relevant factors as well as any applicable legal principles in determining the sentence to be imposed.

         4. Sentences. In determining a sentence to be imposed, relevant factors customarily considered and applied are the defendant's (1) age, (2) mentality, (3) education and experience, (4) social and cultural background, (5) past criminal record or record of law-abiding conduct, and (6) motivation for the offense, as well as (7) the nature of the offense and (8) the amount of violence involved in the commission of the crime.

         5. ___. The appropriateness of a sentence is necessarily a subjective judgment and includes the sentencing judge's observation of the defendant's demeanor and attitude and all the facts and circumstances surrounding the defendant's life.

          Appeal from the District Court for Lancaster County: John A. Colborn, Judge. Affirmed.

          Jeffrey Pickens and Kelly S. Breen, of Nebraska Commission on Public Advocacy, for appellant. [300 Neb. 618]

          Douglas J. Peterson, Attorney General, and Melissa R. Vincent for appellee.

          Heavican, C.J., Miller-Lerman, Cassel, Stacy, Funke, and Papik, JJ., and Dobrovolny, District Judge.

          PAPIK, JUDGE

         Markel D. Steele pled guilty to one count of second degree murder and one count of first degree assault for his involvement in an armed robbery and shooting that left one victim dead and another paralyzed. Steele, who was 17 years old at the time of the offenses, was sentenced to 60 years' to life imprisonment for second degree murder and to 40 to 50 years' imprisonment for first degree assault, with the sentences to run consecutively. Because we find no merit to the contentions Steele raises on appeal regarding his sentences, we affirm.

         BACKGROUND

         Factual Basis for Charges.

         The following details regarding the incident underlying Steele's convictions are summarized from the factual basis recited by the State at Steele's plea hearing.

         On April 18, 2016, at approximately 3 p.m., law enforcement responded to a report of gunshots at a residence near 19th and Euclid Streets in Lincoln, Nebraska. Dispatchers relayed to law enforcement that approximately eight gunshots were heard in the residence and that "two black males" were seen leaving the residence around the time of the shooting. One was reported as wearing black jeans and a gray hoodie with the letters "USA" on the back, and the other was wearing jeans and a black "puffy" coat.

         As officers first arrived in the area, they located a black male wearing black jeans and a gray hoodie with the letters "USA" walking westbound a block or two from the reported location of the shooting. This individual, later identified as Xheronte Lewis, was detained by police and admitted to being at the residence when shots were fired.

         [300 Neb. 619] Inside the residence, officers located two victims, identified as Christopher Coleman and Jerry Griffis, both of whom had sustained gunshot wounds. Officers also found a dog that was suffering from gunshot wounds. Three small children were also present in the residence.

         Coleman, who was found just inside the front doorway in the living room, was pronounced dead at the scene. Griffis, who was found in the kitchen, was transported to a nearby hospital where he received extensive treatment for a gunshot wound that passed through his spine. The dog was taken to an emergency veterinary clinic where it died from its wounds.

         An autopsy on Coleman later revealed that the cause of his death was a gunshot wound to the neck. Griffis was hospitalized for approximately Wi months as a result of his injuries. He was diagnosed with multiple gunshot wounds, a vertebra fracture, paraplegia, "right and left hemopneumothorax," ...


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