Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

State v. Edwards

Supreme Court of Nebraska

November 16, 2018

State of Nebraska, appellee,
v.
Christopher A. Edwards, appellant.

         1. Postconviction: Constitutional Law: Appeal and Error. In appeals from postconviction proceedings, an appellate court reviews de novo a determination that the defendant failed to allege sufficient facts to demonstrate a violation of his or her constitutional rights or that the record and files affirmatively show that the defendant is entitled to no relief.

         2. Postconviction: Evidence. No evidentiary hearing is necessary when a postconviction motion and the files and records of the case show to the satisfaction of the court that the prisoner is entitled to no relief.

         3. Appeal and Error. An appellate court considers only those arguments that were both adequately assigned and argued in the appellant's brief.

         4. Postconviction: Pleadings: Time. The Nebraska Postconviction Act contains a 1-year time limit for filing a verified motion for postconviction relief, which runs from one of four triggering events or August 27, 2011, whichever is later.

         5. Postconviction: Limitations of Actions: Proof. To satisfy the tolling provision of Neb. Rev. Stat. § 29-3001(4)(c) (Reissue 2016), a prisoner must show there was (1) an impediment created by state action, (2) which amounted to a violation of the federal or state Constitution or a state law, and (3) as a result, the prisoner was prevented from filing a verified motion. If all these factors are satisfied, the 1-year limitation period will begin to run on the date the impediment was removed.

          Appeal from the District Court for Douglas County: J Russell Derr, Judge.

          Brian Munnelly and Gerald L. Soucie for appellant.

          Douglas J. Peterson, Attorney General, and Stacy M. Foust for appellee.

         [301 Neb. 580] Heavican, C.J., Miller-Lerman, Cassel, Stacy, Funke, and Papik, JJ.

          CASSEL, J.

         INTRODUCTION

         After jurisdiction again vested in the district court following an appeal from the denial of Christopher A. Edwards' first motion for postconviction relief, he filed a second motion seeking postconviction relief. Prompted by the State, the district court denied the second motion without an evidentiary hearing. Because we agree that Edwards' second motion is barred by the limitation period set forth in Neb. Rev. Stat. § 29-3001(4) (Reissue 2016), we affirm the decision of the district court.

         BACKGROUND

         Crimes, Trial, and Direct Appeal In June 2006, the State charged Edwards with second degree murder and use of a deadly weapon to commit a felony in connection with the disappearance of Jessica O'Grady. Spattered blood was found on Edwards' nightstand, headboard, clock radio, and ceiling above his bed. The underside of Edwards' mattress contained a large, damp bloodstain. Investigators discovered blood on a short sword in Edwards' closet, on the trunk gasket of Edwards' car, and on the underside of the car's trunk lid. DNA profiles from this blood were consistent with O'Grady's profile. A jury convicted Edwards of both charges. Steven J. Lefler and two other attorneys represented Edwards at trial. Through the same counsel, Edwards appealed. We affirmed Edwards' convictions on direct appeal.[1] Our mandate issued in July 2009.

         First Motion for Postconviction Relief In July 2010, through new counsel, Edwards filed a motion for postconviction relief. He claimed that the State violated [301 Neb. 581] his due process rights by presenting fabricated evidence. More specifically, Edwards alleged that David Kofoed, a supervisor of the Douglas County Crime Scene Investigation Division, planted blood evidence to be used against Edwards.

         Edwards also alleged claims of ineffective assistance of trial and appellate counsel. One of his claims was that Lefler should have known that Kofoed was suspected of planting evidence during the murder investigation and that Lefler failed to investigate this information or to effectively impeach Kofoed at trial. Edwards claimed that Lefler had a potential conflict of interest because of his friendship with Kofoed. And Edwards alleged that his appellate counsel was ineffective in failing to raise claims of trial counsel's ineffective assistance.

         In October 2010, the State moved to quash Edwards' subpoenas directed to the Douglas County sheriff's office and the University of Nebraska Medical Center. The motion stated, "There has been no indication that [Edwards] alleges that the State withheld information or evidence that would entitle him the opportunity to seek out discovery in this matter." The court granted the motion.

         In December 2010, Edwards moved for leave to file an amended motion for postconviction relief. The amended motion contained several additional exhibits, which were documents from the Douglas County Crime Scene Investigation Division pertaining to the criminal investigation of Edwards. Although it is not in our record, the parties agree that this motion was granted.

         On August 2, 2011, the district court overruled Edwards' first motion for postconviction relief without an evidentiary hearing. Edwards appealed.

         In September 2012, we determined that two of Edwards' claims required an evidentiary hearing.[2] First, we recounted Kofoed's unlawful conduct during two other murder investigations and concluded that an evidentiary hearing was needed [301 Neb. 582] on Edwards' claim that the State presented fabricated forensic evidence at trial.

         Second, we concluded that an evidentiary hearing was necessary on Edwards' claim that his trial counsel had a conflict of interest because of his relationship with Kofoed. We stated:

We cannot know from this record whether before Edwards' trial, Kofoed had asked Lefler to represent him if he was later charged with a crime. Given allegations of their friendship and Lefler's undisputed representation of Kofoed against fabrication charges in 2009, Kofoed's possible request of representation is a prospect that the court should have considered. In addition, we cannot know from this record whether before Edwards' trial, law enforcement officers conducted an internal investigation of Kofoed's conduct in which Lefler had already represented or advised Kofoed. Finally, because of their friendship, Lefler may have learned of the allegations against Kofoed even without agreeing to represent him.[3]

         We determined that an evidentiary hearing was necessary to discover whether Lefler knew of the allegations against Kofoed before Edwards' trial or whether a conflict of interest prevented him from cross-examining Kofoed about any pending investigation. We thus remanded the cause to the district court for an evidentiary hearing.

         Proceedings Following Remand on First Motion

         On May 3, 2013, after the remand but prior to the evidentiary hearing, Edwards filed a motion for leave to file a second amended motion for postconviction relief. The proposed amended motion set forth five claims: (1) Edwards' due process rights were violated because his convictions were based on fabricated evidence, (2) his due process rights were violated because the State failed to disclose material exculpatory [301 Neb. 583] evidence, (3) his attorney failed to provide conflict-free representation, (4) the step instruction on the lesser-included offense of manslaughter failed to distinguish between the intent to kill associated with second degree murder and the intent to kill resulting from a "sudden quarrel," and (5) cumulative error deprived him of his right to substantive due process under the 14th Amendment. In June, Edwards filed a supplemental showing regarding this motion.

         The district court overruled Edwards' motion for leave to file an amended motion and the supplemental showing to the extent that they sought to expand the scope of our mandate. The court stated that our mandate specifically set out the scope of the remand and that the court was limited to those issues.

         In March and April 2014, the district court conducted an evidentiary hearing on the two issues from the first motion for postconviction relief. The court heard evidence regarding whether the State knowingly used fabricated evidence and whether Lefler operated under a conflict of interest. With regard to the examination of Lefler, the court stated that the relevant timeframe was what Lefler knew from the time of voir dire to the conclusion of Edwards' trial. But the court also stated that it would "allow some leeway here to make a record." Ultimately, the court rejected Edwards' claims for postconviction relief.

         On appeal, Edwards assigned that the district court erred in refusing to grant leave to amend his original postconviction motion, failing to find that his counsel had an actual conflict of interest, and failing to find that the State knowingly used fabricated evidence.

         In a July 1, 2016, opinion, we rejected Edwards' claims.[4]We determined that Edwards' assignment of error concerning the denial of his motion to amend his ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.