Articles Posted in Hudson County

Jury instructions are directions from a judge to the jury that provide guidance in their deliberations to reach a verdict. These instructions are meant to help jurors understand the applicable laws and how they should assess the facts of the case.

Sadly, there are instances where such instructions are flawed and can unjustly influence a jury’s decision-making process.

In State v. Oguta, the Defendant sought to appeal his conviction on a fourth-degree unlawful possession of a weapon charge because the trial court judge did not grant his request for a self-defense jury instruction.

The process of criminal pretrial discovery, which involves an exchange of information between parties, is guided by specific rules and limitations. Protective orders, for example, may limit what information is provided to the opposing party or to whom such information may be provided.

Although restricting information may seem like a detriment to the party seeking certain discovery, such restrictions are sometimes justified by public policy considerations such as fairness and privacy.

On June 4th, 2021, the Appellate Division of the Superior Court of New Jersey decided in State v. Ramirez, that the trial court abused its discretion in denying the State’s motion for a protective order to exclude a victim’s home address from discovery made available to the Defendant and his counsel. The Court came to this conclusion based on (1) the nature of the alleged sexual assault, and (2) the relevant matters of public policy.

Voir dire, which means “to speak the truth” in French, also refers to the examination of prospective jurors to determine whether or not they are suitable for jury service. During this jury selection process, a judge may ask standard questions to excuse anyone deemed incapable of serving on a jury. Attorneys involved in the case may also question the jurors to identify any potential biases. If any such biases are suspected, the attorneys may request to remove the biased jurors or exercise a peremptory challenge to exclude those jurors from the trial.

However, some questions asked during this process are likely to create rather than reveal partiality within prospective jurors.

In State v. Leo T. Little, Jr. , the Defendant sought to challenge his convictions for aggravated assault and weapons offenses on the ground that voir dire questioning by the trial court of prospective jurors during jury selection deprived him of a fair trial.

Yes, as held in State v. Sims, if the Court determines that the waiver was not signed knowingly, intelligently and voluntarily then that waiver is considered ineffective and the defendant’s Fifth Amendment Rights can still be violated.

The right against self-incrimination is guaranteed by the Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution, and by New Jersey statutes. The historic 1966 U.S. Supreme Court case Miranda v. Arizona, requires law enforcement to inform individuals in police custody of these rights prior to questioning.

Generally, by signing a waiver of these rights, an individual who is in police custody acknowledges that they are not being pressured or coerced to provide information to law enforcement personnel.   However, there are exceptions to this general proposition.

Yes, if the court conducts a thorough analysis of the factors listed in United States v. Burton and those factors favor denial of Defendant’s request.

In March of this year the New Jersey Supreme Court dealt with this very issue in the context of a murder trial.  In State v. Luis Maisonet, the Defendant’s request for a new attorney was summarily denied by the trial court.  The record presented a dearth of facts regarding the Burton factors.  Nonetheless, the New Jersey Supreme Court found that it could glean sufficient information from the record to analyze the Burton factors in a fashion that militated against the Defendant.

Before conducting its analysis the Court explained that the major considerations any trial court should contemplate are those of the Defendant’s constitutional right to obtain counsel of his choice, the court’s right to control its own calendar and the public’s interest in the orderly administration of justice.

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