Articles Tagged with Jersey City

jersey-city-criminal-sentencing-judge-1In New Jersey, a criminal defendant’s right to a jury trial is guaranteed by both the Sixth Amendment to the United States Constitution and the State Constitution. The principles of fairness and justice are encompassed in the roles assigned to the judge and the jury. The jury, otherwise known as the “finder of fact,” is tasked with determining what happened in a specific case and how those facts are relevant to the legal proceeding. The judge, otherwise known as the “trier of law”, is tasked with making legal rulings and ensuring that legal proceedings adhere to specific guidelines.

However, there are instances in which courtroom actors confuse the role they must play.

In State v. Melvin and State v. Padden-Battle , the Defendants were sentenced by the same judge who overlooked a jury’s acquittal and made decisions based on their own “fact-finding”.

Ineffective assistance of counsel is a claim that a criminal defendant may assert when their defense attorney’s inadequate representation constitutes a violation of their Sixth Amendment right to counsel.

However, not all cases concerning an attorney’s unsatisfactory performance entitle a defendant to relief. The 1984 landmark Supreme Court case of Strickland v. Washington outlined the two requirements for proving ineffective assistance of counsel: (1) counsel’s performance must be deficient under the circumstances, and (2) but for the counsel’s deficient performance, there is a reasonable probability that the outcome of the case would have been different.

Since inadequate representation creates unfair disadvantages to defendants, and often wrongful convictions, successful ineffective assistance of counsel claims may allow for an overturned conviction, vacated sentence or even a new trial.

No, a defendant’s right to have an attorney present during interrogation is guaranteed by both the Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and the landmark U.S. Supreme Court case Miranda v. Arizona.

Accordingly, any statements made during the interrogation of a defendant in custody may be admissible as evidence only if the defendant is fully aware of their rights and made their statements voluntarily.

On July 20th, 2021, the Appellate Division of the Superior Court of New Jersey decided in State v. Dorff, that the trial court erred in denying the Defendant’s motion to suppress her statements to law enforcement during one of two separate interrogations. The Court came to this conclusion based on the circumstances surrounding the Defendant’s statements to law enforcement and the violation of her right to counsel.

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.

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