• Read the Nebraska Supreme Court decision
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LINCOLN — A Bellevue man convicted of stabbing his roommate to death in 2010 will get a new trial because the judge gave incomplete instructions to the jury.
The Nebraska Supreme Court on Friday upheld a lower court ruling that reversed the conviction of Darrell E. White for the slaying of Todd Berg, 44, who died of a single stab wound to the heart. The killing occurred at an apartment the former military colleagues shared in Bellevue.
White, 47, is serving a sentence of 60 to 90 years in prison for second-degree murder and use of a weapon to commit a felony. Under his current sentence, he will not be eligible for parole for 27 years.
White told investigators he and Berg had been drinking in September 2010 when an argument and fight ensued. He said Berg came at him with a butterfly knife, which White took away and used on Berg.
The prosecution argued at trial that White stabbed his roommate as Berg slept in a recliner.
At trial, White's attorney requested a jury instruction that said White did not have a duty to retreat from the apartment if the jury found his roommate had initiated the attack. In essence, he argued that he acted in self-defense and the jury should be instructed that such a finding was permissible.
Sarpy County District Judge Max Kelch ruled against including the instruction, determining that White could only assert “the privilege of nonretreat” if the attacker had first broken into the residence.
The Nebraska Court of Appeals reversed the conviction last summer, finding that the self-defense instruction should have been given to the jury. The appeals court also ordered a new trial.
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