LINCOLN — The Nebraska Supreme Court on Friday upheld the second-degree murder conviction of a Lincoln man who had claimed he was helping his boyfriend commit suicide.
Dallas Huston, 31, was sentenced to 50 years to life in prison after a Lancaster County District Court jury found him guilty in the Sept. 16, 2009, death.
An autopsy found Ryan Johnson, 22, had died of asphyxiation. He also had sleeping pills in his system.
In conversations with friends while under police video surveillance, Huston said he suffered from multiple personalities and that one of his personalities, “Vincent,” had agreed to help Johnson commit suicide.
In its unanimous opinion written by Judge William Cassel, the high court said Huston first mentioned his multiple personalities to police in a Sept. 29, 2009, interview. At trial, he described them as “a social experiment” and said he controlled them completely.
“As such, we refer to these personalities solely to provide context for Huston’s statements,” Cassel wrote.
In the videotaped conversation with friends, Huston said he had wrapped plastic wrap around Johnson’s face, even though Johnson yelled “get it off.” After Johnson broke through the wrap, Huston said he held a pillow over Johnson’s face. Under subsequent police questioning, Huston admitted that he had physically aided in Johnson’s death.
He also expressed concern about whether he might be a serial killer and discussed his sexual attraction to another man. An investigator told Huston he believed Huston had committed murder, not assisted suicide, with police officers making similar statements during testimony.
Huston’s attorney for his appeal argued that the jury should not have been allowed to hear Huston’s serial killer statements or his sexual attraction statements because they were overly prejudicial and not relevant to his guilt or innocence. He also argued that the police opinions about whether the incident was murder were prejudicial.
In a unanimous opinion written by Judge William Cassel, the high court rejected those arguments, saying Huston’s trial attorney had not properly objected to the statements before the jury heard them. The high court also rejected an argument that the trial lawyer’s failure to object was a mistake serious enough to warrant a new trial. Cassel wrote that the failure to object could have been a strategy to minimize the statements’ significance.
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