January 27, 2007

Nebraska Supreme Court Upholds Two Murder Convictions

By Leslie Reed, Omaha World-Herald, Neb.

Jan. 26--LINCOLN -- The first-degree murder convictions of two Omaha men in a drug ring-related shooting were upheld today by the Nebraska Supreme Court.

Jesse Gutierrez, 36, and Adam Sommer, 26, were sentenced to life in prison plus 200 years for the murders of Maria Ojeda, 33, and Danny Lopez, 36, and the attempted murder of Marcos Lucero, Gutierrez's uncle, in March 2004.

Gutierrez recruited Sommer and another man, Christopher Haukaas, to gun down Lucero after Lucero attempted to collect about $50,000 in drug debt from Gutierrez.

Lucero, who lived in Arizona, obtained marijuana in Mexico and transported it for sale in Omaha by Gutierrez, Sommer and others.

Sommer and Haukaas hopped out of some heavy shrubs near 21st and Dorcas Streets and sprayed bullets into an SUV carrying Lucero and the other victims.

In a 6-0 opinion written by Judge John Gerrard, the Supreme Court rejected several arguments, including that a Hispanic woman was improperly excluded from the jury because of her ethnicity and that defense attorneys were not properly informed of terms of the prosecution's plea agreement with Haukaas, who served as a jailhouse informer.

The prosecutors' reason for keeping the woman off the jury -- because she lived close to the crime scene -- was acceptable, Gerrard said.

Although prosecutors did not properly notify defense attorneys about the terms of the Haukaas' plea agreement, the defense was not harmed because defense lawyers had been told the agreement was in the works and they learned of its terms when they interviewed Haukaas before trial, the court said.


Copyright (c) 2007, Omaha World-Herald, Neb.

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