Violent Crimes

Monday, May 23, 2016

Little Leniency for Woman Who Burned Her Newborn

What role does mental illness play in criminal sentencing?

Women go through a lot during and after pregnancy. One can experience all types of positive and negative feelings during this time. But, the urge to hurt a child is usually linked to some type of mental illness. If a woman has this urge and succeeds in injuring or killing her child, she will likely face criminal charges. What role will her mental illness in her criminal case? We might find answers in a recent case coming out of the State of New Jersey.

Read more . . .

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Man Dies in Howell Police Custody -- Family Sues

Was there justification for police actions used to subdue an intoxicated man that resulted in his death?

Sisters of a 38-year-old man, who died while being subdued by police at a musical festival last summer, have filed a 20-page wrongful death complaint in the case. They allege that the security officers and staff members of the festival used "excessive and unreasonable physical force" to restrain Timothy J. Harden, who, they claim, was experiencing a medical episode involving his consumption of alcohol and cocaine. They further allege that, once the police arrived, the officers used deadly force against Harden, effectively choking him to death.

The attorney representing the family maintains that, while they do not condone use of excessive alcohol or illegal drugs, Harden did not deserve the mistreatment he received at the hands of staff, security officers, or police. At the time of the incident, Harden was volunteering at the festival and ended up suffering fractured cartilage in his neck, as well as multiple contusions and abrasions.

The lawsuit, initiated on behalf of the Harden family members, names many defendants: the employees of the Howell Township Police Department, the sponsoring Priedaine New Jersey Latvian Society, Griffins Society LLC and Souper Groove LLP, and the individual organizers of the music festival.

Howell Police Chief Andrew Kudrick, Jr. has stated that he will personally review the specific elements of the case and determine whether any follow-up is necessary. Nonetheless, he asserts that, based on his "initial review" of the incident and his presence at the scene, that he is so far confident that the officers acted "properly and professionally," in accordance with all policies and procedures.

Despite Evidence, Questions Remain

Event organizers said that they originally called police to the scene because of Harden's disorderly, violent, and paranoid behavior. It was subsequently determined that Harden, who was fighting with the security guards, had both an elevated blood-alcohol level (.11 percent) and cocaine in his system.

While the owner of Griffin Security LLC reported that one guard was punched under his left eye while trying to restrain Harden, Harden's family is stilled awaiting more medical information on the precise cause of his death, stating that they have not yet received a police report.

After he was subdued, Harden was taken to New Jersey Shore University Medical Center in Neptune where he was pronounced dead. The lawsuit claims negligence, use of excessive force, and civil rights violations. The plaintiffs are seeking unspecified compensatory, punitive and other damages for surviving family members.

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Court Rehears 1997 Murder Case & Upholds Conviction

Is it common for a court to retry or “rehear” a murder case after a conviction and sentenced are imposed?

When it comes to a first degree murder conviction, courts like to get it right the first time. While New Jersey no longer imposes a capital (death) sentence, those convicted of first degree murder are almost always sentenced to life in prison – and some face no opportunity for parole or release. Accordingly, there may be an opportunity in extremely limited circumstances for an offender to seek a new trial or “rehearing” of the case – particularly in light of the unprecedented advances in forensic science over the past two decades.

In general, a new trial will only be an option if a defendant can advance exonerating evidence or is able to successfully appeal the fairness and/or impartiality of the original proceeding. In some older cases, defendants are able to rely on new DNA testing to conclusively prove they were not the culprit. In other cases, defendants can point to jury tampering, ineffective counsel, or unduly prejudicial prosecutorial misconduct to secure a retrial.

In one recent case out of Fairfield, New Jersey, a criminal defendant ultimately received a life sentence after several years of appeals, new trials, and dismissals concerning the death of a former girlfriend. The case began in 1997 when the defendant was dating the victim, who was subsequently found dead in the boys’ locker room at the couple’s high school. In 1999, the defendant received a 30-year prison sentence after the jury found he had killed the victim in a “fit of rage” – which is commonly referred to as a “heat of passion” killing and carries a lesser sentence than a first degree, premeditated murder conviction.

Following that successful appeal, the defendant was ordered a new trial, in which he was found guilty of aggravated manslaughter and released on time served. Nonetheless, the defendant unsuccessfully appealed the second conviction, as the New Jersey Appellate Division rejected all 20 of his arguments on appeal.

Friday, August 28, 2015

Man Convicted & Sentenced to Life Imprisonment in New Jersey ‘Craigslist Killer’ Case

How is first degree murder differentiated from other types of homicides?

When it comes to a murder charge, mental intent is one of the hallmark elements for the prosecution to prove. Of course, there are varying levels of mental intent when it comes to committing a crime, ranging from accidental to deliberate – the latter of which is required in a first degree murder conviction.

Often, a prosecutor will charge a suspect with several degrees of homicide in order to ensure the jury is able to reach a decision on at least one of the indictments. If the mental intent element is shaky, or may be difficult to prove at trial, the state may include a lesser offense. In New Jersey, the following charges are available in any scenario involving the death of another person:

  • First degree murder: purposely or knowingly causing the death of another person, or causing serious bodily injury of another person that results in death.
  • Manslaughter as a result of reasonable provocation: homicide that occurs in the “heat of passion” without any cooling off period.
  • Aggravated manslaughter: action involving an extreme indifference to the value of human life
  • Reckless manslaughter: action involving a “conscious disregard of a substantial and unjustifiable risk that death would result [or] conduct grossly below the standard that a reasonable person would have followed under similar circumstances.”

In one recent case, a New Jersey man was killed after answering an advertisement on Craig’s List for an all-terrain vehicle. According to evidence presented at trial, the defendant lured the victim to his home for the purpose of committing an armed robbery, which he was alleged to have committed against other Craig’s List users. When the deal quickly went awry, the victim lost his life.

In his defense, the defendant asserted that the prosecution had arrested the wrong perpetrator, and a different individual was actually responsible for the crime. Nonetheless, the judge sentenced the defendant to the maximum possible sentence: life in prison.

If you are facing a homicide, assault, or similar indictment for a violent crime, please contact our experienced criminal defense attorneys at Sitzler & Sitzler serving clients all around southern New Jersey. We can be reached at 609.267.1101.

Monday, July 6, 2015

New Jersey Jury Convicts Man Following Harrowing Shooting on PATH Train

What is ‘aggravated assault’ under New Jersey law? 

In June, 2015, a jury sitting in Hudson County Superior Court convicted a 36-year old man of two counts of aggravated assault – as well as several other lesser offenses – following a frightening incident onboard a PATH train idling in the Jersey City New Port station on August 25, 2013.
Read more . . .

Friday, May 29, 2015

Violence Erupts at Mother’s Day Event in Newark

What charges will the suspect probably face?

Every Mother’s Day, a group of motorcycle enthusiasts get together to celebrate the warm weather and the beginning of the riding season at an event called “The Blessing of the Bikes.” This year, as the event was drawing to a close, gunshots rang out injuring three people and killing 15 year old Al-Shakeen Woodson.  

It is not clear whether the Newark Knights Motorcycle Club, who organized the event, had obtained the proper permits to hold the celebration.  It is also unclear who the intended target of the shooting was, although it is unlikely that it was 15-year-old Woodson as “He never got in trouble,” his father said, “He just came over here to watch the bikes.”

While the mayor’s office blamed the size of the event, others indicated that reason is not a factor when discussing senseless violence.  The police, who were present at the event, are currently seeking at least two gunmen.  The Essex County Prosecutor’s Office Chief of Detectives spoke on the matter, “The investigation is active.  We are combing the streets.  We are out there at the scene right now looking for evidence and looking for witnesses to come forward.”  This is the 29th homicide so far this year in Newark.

This is a high profile case and the police are under significant pressure to find a suspect and get a conviction as our criminal justice system places the burden of proof of guilt on the prosecution.  Only an experienced defense attorney can make sure that you receive a fair trial if you stand accused of a violent crime.  If you or a loved one is facing criminal charges, call the experienced criminal defense lawyers at Sitzler and Sitzler at (609) 267-1101 today.  

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