In a split decision, the Nebraska Supreme Court has vacated the convictions and sentence of a western Nebraska man accused of sexually assaulting a 7-year-old girl and beating her three brothers.
Last year, 36-year-old Eric Rocha of Scottsbluff, was sentenced to 40 years to life for first-degree sexual assault of a child and three to five years on each of four counts of child abuse.
On Friday, a majority of the state's high court agreed with Rocha that his trial attorney was ineffective for, among other things, not seeking to have separate trials on the sex abuse and child abuse charges.
But Supreme Court Judges Kenneth Stephan and William Cassel said such arguments should be addressed in post-conviction relief action, not a direct appeal.
Rocha can still be retried.