Malik Stelly

The Nebraska Supreme Court has rejected an appeal by Malik Stelly, shown in court in 2017, who was convicted of first-degree murder in the death of D’Angelo Branch.

LINCOLN — An Omaha man convicted of shooting and killing a man on a northeast Omaha sidewalk reportedly for “target practice” lost his appeal to the Nebraska Supreme Court on Friday.

The court rejected arguments by Malik Stelly that he had an ineffective defense attorney and that a defect in a search warrant should have nullified a search of a cellphone that led police to question Stelly about the slaying of D’Angelo Branch.

Branch, 28, was born with water on the brain and had the intellect of a 13-year-old. He was shot at least 11 times in the early morning hours of Jan. 11, 2017, and was found dead on a sidewalk near 36th Street and Laurel Avenue.

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A tipster told police that the two men didn’t know each other and that Branch was shot for “target practice.”

A cellphone found near Branch’s body led police to Stelly, who contested the search of the cellphone because an initial search warrant had conflicting information about the make of the phone. The mistake was later corrected, and the Supreme Court ruled that the “inadvertent defect” should not invalidate the search.

Police also found blood on the bill of a hat in Stelly’s apartment that was a virtual match to Branch’s and linked a PT Cruiser driven by Stelly to the crime scene.

Stelly, now 35, was sentenced to life in prison for first-degree murder, as well as 30 to 40 years in prison for use of a firearm to commit a felony and possession of a firearm by a prohibited person.

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Reporter - Regional/state issues

Paul covers state government and affiliated issues. He specializes in tax and transportation issues, following the governor and the state prison system. Follow him on Twitter @PaulHammelOWH. Phone: 402-473-9584.

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