Man convicted in 2011 Sidney homicide loses NE Supreme Court appeal

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LINCOLN, Neb. (KNEP) - A Sidney man convicted in the 2011 homicide of April Smith has lost an appeal to the Nebraska Supreme Court.

Craig A. Johnson had claimed Cheyenne County District Court Judge Derek Weimer improperly rejected an appeal of his conviction on charges of first degree murder, use of a weapon to commit a felony and being a felon in possession of a deadly weapon. Johnson was sentenced to prison terms of life, 40 to 50 years and 10 to 20 years, with all terms being served consecutively.

Following his conviction, Johnson appealed for post-conviction relief, making several claims of ineffective counsel, including that the defense attorney failed to allow him to testify at trial. The District Court rejected Johnson's appeals without a hearing on the evidence, finding the defendant had failed to allege sufficient facts supporting rights violations, and the court record showed Johnson was not entitled to relief. Johnson had also claimed his right to a speedy trial had been denied, but the District Court said the claim was barred since Johnson did not raise the issue during a direct appeal.

In reviewing the case, the high court upheld the lower court ruling, saying the record did not support Johnson's claims of errors on the claims of ineffective counsel or that his right to a speedy trial had been denied.