- Associated Press - Friday, August 4, 2017

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) - The Nebraska Supreme Court upheld the first-degree murder conviction Friday of a man who bludgeoned a woman to death, even though it found that a judge erred in the way he handled some of the trial evidence.

Anthony Burries, 45, is serving life in prison for the 2014 death of 38-year-old Tina Hoult. In his appeal, Burries argued - among other things - that his trial judge wrongly admitted into evidence a threatening letter he sent to a girlfriend set to testify for the prosecution in his trial.

In the letter, Burries warned the woman that he would be getting out shortly and not to “lie” at his trial. He threatened retribution to anyone who interfered with his ability to rear his children.

The state’s high court agreed with prosecutors that the letter was intended to threaten the witness and could be allowed as evidence. However, the judge failed to instruct the jury to consider only whether the letter showed Burries‘ consciousness of guilt, the high court said.

“But we conclude that because the state’s other evidence of Burries‘ guilt was overwhelming, the court’s error was harmless beyond a reasonable doubt,” Justice Jeffrey Funke wrote.

Hoult and Burries had dated on and off for about a dozen years before her death, authorities said, and Burries spent a year in prison for assaulting Hoult in 2012. Witnesses at his trial recounted Hoult repeatedly being beaten by Burries and that Hoult feared for her life in the weeks before she died.

An autopsy determined that Hoult died from sharp-force trauma to the front and back of her head.

Burries‘ attorney, Michael Wilson of Omaha, said Burries maintains his innocence and plans further appeals.

Douglas County Attorney Don Kleine said his office is pleased with the ruling and is ready to take on any further appeals by Burries.

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