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LINCOLN — The Nebraska Supreme Court has ordered a new trial for a man convicted of killing another man during a brawl in Norfolk, Neb.
The court ruled Friday that jurors were given incorrect instructions about second-degree murder and manslaughter when deciding the case against De'Aris Trice.
The jury wound up convicting Trice, now 23, of second-degree murder for stabbing Timothy Warren in 2010.
He was sentenced to 40 years to life in prison.
According to the court ruling, Trice and Warren were among several people who gathered at a house after a local bar closed at 1 a.m. Dec. 26.
At some point, Warren got into an argument with another man and threw a punch at him. Several others joined in. Witnesses differed on Trice's role in the brawl, but some said they saw him stab Warren.
Trice's brother testified that he and Trice were trying to stop the fight. He testified that Trice had told him he stabbed Warren “to protect you and me.”
The high court said the jury instructions given at trial were correct according to the court rule at the time.
But the Supreme Court changed that rule in a 2011 decision. The decision applied to all pending cases, including those, such as Trice's, that were under appeal.
Under the previous rule, juries were told they could consider a manslaughter conviction if the state failed to prove the defendant had killed intentionally but without premeditation.
Under the new rule, juries can also consider manslaughter if a killing was intentional but provoked by a sudden quarrel, defined as one that would cause a reasonable person to lose normal self-control.
In Friday's ruling, the court said there was evidence, though “slight,” that Trice acted upon a sudden quarrel.
The Nebraska Supreme Court decision