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State v. Taylor

803 N.W.2d 746 (2011)

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State v. Taylor

Nebraska Supreme Court

803 N.W.2d 746 (2011)

Facts

Justin Gaines was shot to death by two men while he sat in his car. Trevelle Taylor (defendant) was charged with first-degree murder and use of a deadly weapon to commit a felony for Gaines’s killing. Substantial physical evidence and eyewitness testimony linked Taylor to the crime. One witness who had agreed to testify was Joshua Kercheval, the driver of the car that had allegedly brought Taylor and his accomplice to the vicinity of the crime. Before Kercheval could testify, however, Taylor called Kercheval and warned him in a threatening manner not to testify. This call was recorded and given as evidence in Taylor’s trial. The trial judge instructed the jury that a defendant’s attempt to prevent a witness from testifying may serve as a basis for an inference that the defendant was guilty as charged and that such evidence could be considered by the jury in determining whether the prosecution had proved each element of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt. The instruction failed to state that the jury was not required to draw such an inference, however. Taylor was convicted on both counts. He appealed, alleging that the jury instruction regarding the threatening phone call to Kercheval was in error because it created an improper presumption of guilt.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (McCormack, J.)

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