Burlington County, NJ Law Blog

Thursday, January 28, 2016

N.J. Jury Upholds 'Cold Case' Murder Conviction

Is there a statute of limitations in New Jersey for homicide?

Across the civil and criminal laws, there are a number of statutes of limitation that limit the amount of time a plaintiff or complainant has to initiate a legal proceeding. In the civil context, a plaintiff has just two years from the date of a personal injury to make a claim in negligence. Under criminal laws, the state is limited to five years for crimes like burglary, assault, or arson. However, when it comes to the most severe crimes – including murder, manslaughter, and most sex crimes – there is no applicable statute of limitations, and so-called “cold cases” may be prosecuted and resolved any number of years after the occurrence of the incident.

Appeals Court Upholds Conviction

In late December, 2015, the New Jersey Court of Appeals considered an appeal from a criminal defendant facing 50 years in prison following his conviction for stabbing a 22-year-old female to death. The incident occurred nearly 15 years ago, but the defendant was not brought to trial until October, 2013 – primarily due to advances in DNA analysis technology not yet available at the time of the murder.

On appeal, the defendant questioned several aspects of his trial, including the trial court’s decision to deny defense counsel the opportunity to interview a juror who had allegedly expressed “second thoughts” about the conviction. According to the defendant’s counsel, the juror contacted the court five days after the verdict was rendered, detailing her hesitation in sentencing the defendant to 50 years in prison.

Court Overrules Juror Misconduct Argument

Despite the defendant’s strenuous objections to the denial, the appellate court upheld the conviction – citing the heightened threshold for post-conviction interviews of jurors. According to the court’s opinion, “only if there is a strong showing of juror misconduct should interrogation of a juror be allowed…Denial of a defense interview request in [this] case is not a cause for reversal of the conviction… [the court] found no suggestion of outside influence, racial prejudice, media exposure or other irregular influences….” – any of which could have resulted in a dismissal of a criminal conviction in New Jersey.

If you have been charged with committing, or are under investigation, you should promptly contact an experienced criminal attorney to discuss your case and review your options.  

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