LINCOLN — The Nebraska Supreme Court on Friday partially rejected the appeal of an Omaha man who gunned down his parents and 18-year-old niece the day after Christmas in 2017.
John W. Dalton Jr. pleaded guilty the following year to three counts of first-degree murder and four gun-related counts in connection with the killing of his parents, John W. Dalton Sr. and Jean Dalton, and his niece, Leonna Dalton-Phillip.
He was sentenced to three life sentences plus 197 to 230 years in prison. He avoided the death penalty by agreeing to plead guilty.
In a motion for postconviction relief filed last year, Dalton claimed that his public defender had been ineffective for not filing a direct appeal of his conviction. He also claimed that his sentence was excessive.
In addition, he argued that he would not have accepted the plea agreement if his defense attorney had properly investigated the case, including deposing the lone eyewitness, his 6-year-old niece, and had gotten him a mental health evaluation.
In response, his public defender, Cindy Tate, testified that Dalton made multiple requests to pursue a plea agreement and that he never requested that she filed a direct appeal.
The state high court denied the part of Dalton’s motion regarding the direct appeal and the sentence. However, the court said the portion regarding his attorney’s alleged failure to investigate the case should be reconsidered. It said that claim should not have been considered until the issue of direct appeal had been resolved.
Dalton previously served more than 11 years in prison after fatally shooting his wife, Shannon Dalton, at their Ruggles Street home. The couple’s three children were at home during the 1998 shooting.
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