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The Nebraska Supreme Court on Friday rejected a death-row inmate’s claim that his lawyer failed to properly represent the convicted kidnapper, rapist and murderer at his sentencing.

Jeffrey Hessler had argued that his trial-court lawyer should have demanded a competency hearing when Hessler moved to represent himself at his sentencing. The state Supreme Court rejected that argument, saying allowing someone to serve as their own attorney did not constitute ineffective counsel and Hessler failed to show he couldn’t adequately represent himself at sentencing.

Hessler was convicted of first-degree murder, kidnapping, first-degree sexual assault of a child and use of a firearm to commit a felony in December 2004. He was sentenced to die for the 2003 kidnapping, rape and shooting death of 15-year-old Heather Guerrero. She was delivering newspapers on her morning route just blocks from her home when Hessler grabbed her and forced her into his car.

A jury found that Hessler took her to an abandoned house at nearby Lake Minatare, raped her and then shot her in the head on Feb. 11, 2003. Guerrero’s body was found the next day at the house, about 12 miles from where she disappeared.

Hessler claimed in his appeal that his trial lawyer was ineffective and failed to tell the court that he suffered from mental health problems, including hallucinations.

Scotts Bluff County District Judge Randall Lippstreu dismissed that claim earlier this year, saying Hessler and his attorneys seemed to have had philosophical differences between the time of Hessler’s conviction and sentencing hearing. But, the judge said, that did not constitute ineffective counsel.


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