OMAHA, Nebraska — The Nebraska Supreme Court on Friday reversed a lower court's ruling and ordered an evidentiary hearing for a man seeking to overturn his first-degree murder conviction and life sentence.
The high court said that a Douglas County District judge was wrong to dismiss Joshua Nolan's motion for post-conviction relief without holding a hearing on some of his arguments.
Nolan was sentenced in 2010 after being found guilty of first-degree murder. Prosecutors said Nolan helped Trevelle Taylor shoot 20-year-old Justin Gaines, who was found in a bullet-riddled car on Sept. 19, 2009.
Nolan's conviction and sentence were upheld in 2012 by the high court on his direct appeal. He then filed a motion last year for post-conviction relief, which is typically sought after all other appeals have been exhausted. Inmates often claim in such motions that their lawyer did such a poor job of defending them or that their constitutional rights were violated and should render their convictions void.
Nolan argued, among other things, that his trial lawyer was ineffective for failing to call an identification expert and a fingerprint expert to rebut prosecutors' case. He also said his trial lawyer was at fault for failing to call a witness to testify on his behalf, and that his appeal lawyer was deficient for not presenting that argument on direct appeal.
District Judge Marlon Polk should have held an evidentiary hearing on those claims, the state's high court said Friday.
A spokeswoman with the Nebraska Attorney General's Office said Friday that state prosecutors agreed that an evidentiary hearing was warranted on the claims Nolan made in his a post-conviction motion.
"We believe that each of those claims will be rejected after the evidentiary hearing is held," spokeswoman Suzanne Gage said.
An attorney for Nolan, Michael Wilson of Omaha, could not say Friday how long it might take to get the hearing, but added that, "Mr. Nolan is looking forward to his chance to prove why a new trial would be appropriate in this case."