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Monday, September 19, 2011

Speedy trial applies to municipal court







Submitted: September 12, 2011 - Decided:

Before Judges C.L. Miniman and LeWinn.

On appeal from Superior Court of New Jersey,

Law Division, Middlesex County, Municipal

Appeal No. 70-2008.





DOCKET NO. A-1060-10T3

Bruce J. Kaplan, Middlesex County Prosecutor,

attorney for respondent (Brian D. Gillet,

Assistant Prosecutor, of counsel; Jason

Seidman, on the brief).


Defendant Mia B. Austin appeals her judgment of conviction

for fourth-degree obstruction of the administration of law,

contrary to N.J.S.A. 2C:29-1a; fourth-degree resisting arrest,

contrary to N.J.S.A. 2C:29-2a; speeding, contrary to N.J.S.A.

39:4-98; and expired registration, contrary to N.J.S.A. 39:3-4.

She was not sentenced to incarceration or probation but was

September 16, 2011

2 A-1060-10T3

fined $500 for obstruction, $500 for resisting, $86 for

speeding, and $26 for expired registration. Court costs and

penalties were also imposed.

On April 26, 2005, Piscataway Police Officer Michael Joy

was conducting a speed-enforcement radar detail on Haines Avenue

when he determined that defendant was driving at forty-two miles

per hour in a twenty-five-mile-per-hour zone. Joy flagged her

to stop and approached her vehicle. She presented him with an

expired registration card when he asked for her documentation.

Defendant admitted that she knew she had to renew the


Joy explained that the car would have to be towed and asked

for the keys. Defendant would not surrender them, despite

repeated requests. Joy requested backup and, when another

officer arrived, instructed defendant to get out of the car and

leave the keys on the dashboard. However, when she got out of

the car, she took the keys with her and refused to surrender

them. When she was placed under arrest for obstructing the

towing and impoundment of her car, she then resisted

handcuffing. She was ultimately subdued, and the officers pried

the keys out of her hand. She was then charged with the above


3 A-1060-10T3

Defendant pled not guilty at the first court appearance on

May 10, 2005. Subsequently, there were nine court appearances

over the next eight months, none of which was adjourned at the

request of defendant. However, defendant's counsel failed to

appear on February 23, 2006, and counsel was ordered to appear

on February 28, which was then carried to March 1. On March 7,

2006, defendant objected to the multiple adjournments, the

length of the delay, and the adverse impact all of the daytime

appearances were having on her children and her employment. The

matter was not rescheduled until May 11 on a try-or-dismiss

basis, but the court again adjourned the matter four more times

before beginning the trial on October 24, 2006. However, the

judge did not have sufficient time to complete the testimony of

Joy and adjourned the matter to January 23, 2007. When that

appearance was adjourned, defendant's counsel demanded, verbally

and in writing, that the municipal court provide him with "a

detailed listing of any and all scheduled [court] appearances."

The municipal court never complied with this request.

The trial resumed on March 6, 2007––almost two years after

the offenses in question. Although the testimony of Joy was

completed that day, the judge again adjourned the trial as he

did not have sufficient time available to hear the next witness.

This was the eighteenth court appearance. The matter was

4 A-1060-10T3

rescheduled to an agreed date of May 1, 2007, but that date was

adjourned by the court to June 26, then to August 28, and then

to September 25, 2007. The latter date, too, was adjourned, and

defendant filed a motion to have the Piscataway municipal judge

recused from the case because defendant had sued the Township.

Yet no immediate ruling was made on that motion. The matter was

relisted on October 23, November 27, and December 4 with no

further testimony ever being taken. It was again adjourned to

January 22, 2008.

On the latter date, the municipal judge had apparently not

been reappointed to the bench, and the new judge declared a

mistrial and transferred the matter to the Metuchen municipal

court for disposition. The first appearance in Metuchen on

April 4, 2008, was adjourned; it was now three years after the

offenses in question. Two more scheduled appearances were

adjourned before trial began on July 11, 2008. By that time,

defendant had moved to dismiss for violation of her right to a

speedy trial. The motion was denied, and the trial began that

day. It resumed and was concluded on September 5 with defendant

found guilty on all charges.

Defendant appealed to the Law Division where further delays

occurred. The appeal was not decided until January 22, 2010––

four years and nine months after the offenses in question.

5 A-1060-10T3

Defendant renewed her speedy trial motion, which was again

denied. Defendant was convicted de novo on all charges. This

appeal followed.

Defendant raises the following issues for our










The Sixth Amendment guarantees the accused the right to a

speedy trial. Barker v. Wingo, 407 U.S. 514, 515, 92 S. Ct.

2182, 2184, 33 L. Ed. 2d 101, 108 (1972). Because it is

"impossible to determine with precision when the right has been

denied," id. at 521, 92 S. Ct. at 2187, 33 L. Ed. 2d at 112, the

Barker Court rejected an inflexible approach in evaluating

alleged violations of a defendant's right to a speedy trial.

Id. at 529, 92 S. Ct. at 2191, 33 L. Ed. 2d at 116. Rather, the

Court imposed a flexible balancing test, which weighs the

conduct of both the prosecution and the defendant. Id. at 530,

92 S. Ct. at 2191-92, 33 L. Ed. 2d at 116-17. This balancing

test assesses four factors: "[l]ength of delay, the reason for

the delay, the defendant's assertion of his right, and prejudice

6 A-1060-10T3

to the defendant." Id. at 530, 92 S. Ct. at 2192, 33 L. Ed. 2d

at 117. None of the factors is dispositive, but instead the

factors "must be considered together with such other

circumstances as may be relevant." Id. at 533, 92 S. Ct. at

2193, 33 L. Ed. 2d at 118.

Our Supreme Court reviewed the history of a defendant's

right to a speedy trial in New Jersey under Article I, paragraph

10, of the New Jersey Constitution in State v. Szima, 70 N.J.

196, cert. denied, 429 U.S. 896, 97 S. Ct. 259, 50 L. Ed. 2d 180

(1976). The Court recognized that the federal right to a speedy

trial had been found fundamental in 1967 and that the dimensions

of this right were delineated in 1972 by the Barker Court. Id.

at 200. In adopting that paradigm, it noted that "[t]he proper

approach suggested by the Supreme Court was an ad hoc balancing

test in which the conduct of both the prosecution and the

defendant are weighed." Id. at 200-01. It observed that the

Barker Court "regarded none of the four factors as either a

necessary or sufficient condition to the finding of a

deprivation of the right to a speedy trial." Id. at 201

(emphasis added). It "recognize[d] that application of a

balancing of interests test must be on an ad hoc basis and

necessarily involves subjective reaction to the balancing of

circumstances." Ibid.

7 A-1060-10T3

In State v. Farrell, 320 N.J. Super. 425, 427 (App. Div.

1999), an appeal from a DWI conviction, we found that "663 days

from the issuance of the summonses through thirteen noncontinuous,

widely-spaced court sessions" amounted to a

violation of the defendant's right to a speedy trial. Id. at

428. The defendant's counsel "entered his appearance and a notguilty

plea, filed notice of several motions, made discovery

requests and proffers, and asserted [the] defendant's

constitutional right to a speedy trial." Ibid. Three weeks

later, he "acknowledged receipt of some discovery and requested

other, missing" discovery. Ibid. The next day, he filed a

brief in support of his motions. Ibid. "An inordinate number

of continuances and lengthy adjournments then ensued." Ibid.

Trial did not actually begin until ten months after the

defendant was charged. Id. at 428, 433. It was then carried

for three months; was adjourned for five weeks, at which point

the defendant again asserted his right to a speedy trial; and

was then adjourned again until July 10, 1996——eighteen months

after the defendant was charged. Id. at 436-37. At that point

it was adjourned again to September 11, 1996. Id. at 439. On

that date, the trooper was not available and the prosecutor

sought an adjournment, the defendant renewed his motion to

dismiss, and the case was adjourned again and again, id. at 439-

8 A-1060-10T3

42, until it was tried to conclusion on November 13, 1996, id.

at 443-44. The defendant continued throughout this time to

press his right to a speedy trial. Id. at 439-43.

In State v. Tsetsekas, 411 N.J. Super. 1, 4 (App. Div.

2009), we again considered the delay in a DWI conviction.

There, the defendant was arrested on May 8, 2007, and charged

with DWI. Id. at 4-5. He first appeared in court on May 15,

2007, entered a plea of not guilty, and was scheduled for trial

on July 17, 2007. Id. at 5. At that time, the State requested

an adjournment because it had just provided the defendant with

discovery. Ibid. The matter was relisted for August 14, 2007,

when the State revealed it had not provided the videotape of the

defendant's stop and arrest. Ibid. Multiple adjournments were

requested by the State over the next four months when on

December 18, 2007, the State represented it had not alerted its

witnesses of the date for trial. Id. at 5-6. The defendant

sought a speedy-trial dismissal, which the judge denied, and the

trial finally commenced at 11:00 p.m. when one of the troopers

arrived. Id. at 6-7. The trial was scheduled to continue on

March 5, 2008, but the State again sought an adjournment because

the troopers were not available. Id. at 7. The defendant

renewed his motion to dismiss, and the judge again denied the

motion. Ibid. On April 16, 2008, almost a year after the

9 A-1060-10T3

defendant's arrest, the State concluded its presentation of

evidence, and the defense presented its case. Ibid. The

defendant was convicted of DWI and appealed. Ibid. The Law

Division denied the defendant's speedy-trial motion and affirmed

the conviction. Id. at 7-8.

The Law Division judge measured the length of the delay

against the delay in Farrell and concluded that the delay in

Tsetsekas was not excessive. Id. at 11. We rejected that

approach and held that "no set length of time . . . fixes the

point at which delay is excessive." Ibid. We pointed out that

"[t]he first step in analyzing the facts requires a court to

remember" the Supreme Court's policy on DWI dispositions. Ibid.

(quoting Farrell, supra, 320 N.J. Super. at 446-47). We

observed that the 344-day dispositional period was "more than

five times the stated objective." Ibid. We concluded that

amount of delay was excessive. Id. at 11-12.

We have, however, on separate occasions concluded that

delays in drunk-driving trials were not excessive. State v.

Misurella, ___ N.J. Super. ___ (App. Div. 2011) (rejecting

speedy trial claim where delay was caused by defendant and the

State); State v. Berezansky, 386 N.J. Super. 84, 85, 99 (App.

Div. 2006) (rejecting "defendant's contention that he was

deprived of his constitutional right to a speedy trial based on

10 A-1060-10T3

the nearly five months that elapsed between his arrest and the

beginning of his trial"), certif. granted, 191 N.J. 317 (2007),

appeal dismissed, 196 N.J. 82 (2008); State v. Prickett, 240

N.J. Super. 139, 141-42, 148 (App. Div. 1990) (affirming denial

of speedy-trial motion in a trial held approximately six months

after arrest). We acknowledge these cases involved DWI charges,

but we discern no reasons why the same speedy trial principles

and analysis should not apply to municipal court trials in


The delay here far exceeded the five-month delay in

Berezansky and the six-month delay in Prickett. In fact, it far

exceeded the almost one-year delay in Tsetsekas and the 663-day

delay in Farrell. This delay consumed 1228 days from arrest to

conviction and subjected defendant to no less than thirty-one

court appearances. Indeed, the delay was further exacerbated by

the fact that it took another 504 days before the Law Division

heard defendant's appeal from the municipal conviction. By any

standard, the delay here was extraordinary. As a consequence,

we must next consider the second Barker factor––the reasons for

the delay.

The Barker Court suggested that a "deliberate attempt to

delay the trial in order to hamper the defense should be

weighted heavily against the government." Barker, supra, 407

11 A-1060-10T3

U.S. at 531, 92 S. Ct. at 2192, 33 L. Ed. 2d at 117. On the

other hand, a valid reason for the delay, such as the absence of

a witness, will be considered justifiable and excuse the delay.

Ibid. Similarly, although more neutral and given less weight,

"delays of scheduling and other failures of the process for

which the trial court itself was responsible are attributable to

the State and not to the defendant," for it is the ultimate

responsibility of the government to bring the defendant to

court. Farrell, supra, 320 N.J. Super. at 451 (citing Barker,

supra, 407 U.S. at 531, 92 S. Ct. at 2192, 33 L. Ed. 2d at 117).

Finally, delays attributable to the defendant "would not weigh

in favor of finding a speedy trial violation." State v.

Gallegan, 117 N.J. 345, 355 (1989).

Here, there is no suggestion that there was any "deliberate

attempt to delay the trial in order to hamper the defense."

Barker, supra, 407 U.S. at 531, 92 S. Ct. at 2192, 33 L. Ed. 2d

at 117. However, the bulk of the delays were attributable to

the municipal court judge, his staff, and the prosecutor. The

record is devoid of any evidence that defendant caused any of

the twenty-nine adjournments with the exception of one

adjournment when she filed her recusal motion. Although the

State blames the judge, his delays "are attributable to the

12 A-1060-10T3

State and not to the defendant." Farrell, supra, 320 N.J.

Super. at 451.

The third Barker factor, the defendant's assertion of her

right to a speedy trial, "is entitled to strong evidentiary

weight in determining whether the defendant is being deprived of

the right." Barker, supra, 407 U.S. at 531-32, 92 S. Ct. at

2192-93, 33 L. Ed. 2d at 117. The strength of the defendant's

efforts are closely related to the other Barker factors. Id. at

531, 92 S. Ct. at 2192, 33 L. Ed. 2d at 117; see, e.g., Farrell,

supra, 320 N.J. Super. at 451-52 (finding in favor of the

defendant who, given the "excessive" delays, invoked his right

to a speedy trial at the outset and on eight other occasions).

At the same time, the defendant's "failure to assert the right

will make it difficult for a defendant to prove that he was

denied a speedy trial." Barker, supra, 407 U.S. at 532, 92 S.

Ct. at 2193, 33 L. Ed. 2d at 118.

Here, defendant asserted her right to a speedy trial on

March 7, 2006, February 27, 2007, and March 26, 2008. Because

we do not have transcripts of all court appearances, we do not

know if there were other occasions when defendant asserted her

right to a speedy trial, but we do know that she maintained that

position for almost two years, leaving only one factor to


13 A-1060-10T3

The final Barker factor is the prejudice to the defendant

caused by the delay. Ibid. The Barker Court identified three

interests that the right to a speedy trial protects: (1)

preventing oppressive pretrial incarceration; (2) minimizing

anxiety and concern of the defendant; and (3) limiting the

possibility that the defense will be impaired. Ibid. Moreover,

prejudice can be found "from employment interruptions, public

obloquy, anxieties concerning the continued and unresolved

prosecution, the drain on finances, and the like." State v.

Smith, 131 N.J. Super. 354, 367-68 n.2 (App. Div. 1974), aff’d

o.b., 70 N.J. 213 (1976).

Here, defendant was not incarcerated pretrial, and there is

no suggestion that her defense was impaired as a result of the

delay. She does, however, urge that she "experienced anxiety

over the drawn[-]out prosecution, had interruptions in her

employment, and suffered financial drain as a result of the

delay." Indeed, we cannot imagine that the latter was not the

case as generally attorneys expect to be compensated for making

thirty-one court appearances. In Farrell we found that

the prosecution's clear inattention to its

responsibilities along with the municipal

court's patent failure to prepare itself to

try the matter expedi[ti]ously and shepherd

it to resolution efficiently . . . were so

egregious that no showing of prejudice is

required in order for this defendant to

succeed on his argument that, in fundamental

14 A-1060-10T3

fairness terms, he was denied his adequately

asserted right to a speedy trial.

[Farrell, supra, 320 N.J. Super. at 452-53.]

The delay there was 663 days; here it was almost twice as

long. We see no basis for distinguishing the facts in Farrell

and are persuaded that the result should be the same. Although

some showing of prejudice has been made, none was required. As

a result, it was error to deny defendant's speedy-trial motion

because "the denial of fundamental fairness was so great, and

the integrity of the judicial process so crippled, as to require

that the convictions be vacated." Id. at 453.

In light of our disposition of the speedy-trial issue,

defendant's claim that her convictions should be reversed on

other grounds is moot.

Reversed and remanded for vacation of the judgment of

conviction and refund of all fines, penalties, and costs.

theft requires unlawful control over, movable property of another with purpose to deprive him thereof.






Telephonically argued September 2, 2011

Decided September 16, 2011

Before Judges Alvarez and Nugent.

On appeal from the Superior Court of New

Jersey, Law Division, Cumberland County,

Municipal Appeal No. 26-10.

DOCKET NO. A-2070-10T3

Marianne V. Rogers, Assistant Prosecutor,

argued the cause for respondent (Jennifer

Webb-McRae, Cumberland County Prosecutor,

attorney; Ms. Rogers, of counsel and on the







Defendant Luis Batiz appeals a disorderly persons theft

conviction, N.J.S.A. 2C:20-3(a), after a trial de novo on the

record in the Law Division pursuant to Rule 3:23. For the

reasons that follow, we reverse.

2 A-2070-10T3

In addition to the theft conviction, defendant was

convicted in the municipal court of the petty disorderly persons

offense of disorderly conduct, N.J.S.A. 2C:33-2(a), the

disorderly persons offenses of obstruction, N.J.S.A. 2C:29-1(a),

and hindering apprehension, N.J.S.A. 2C:29-3(a). After the

November 19, 2010 trial de novo, the Law Division judge

determined that the statutory elements for the offenses other

than theft were not established and found defendant guilty only

of theft.

The facts can be briefly summarized. At the municipal

court trial, the State presented one witness, State Police

Trooper DeTullio.1 DeTullio testified that on February 23, 2010,

he was dispatched to a house in Fairfield Township. Upon

arrival, he saw a moving van with the name "Pack Rat Moving

Company" (Pack Rat) in defendant's driveway to the right of his

home. A Honda CRV owned by defendant's wife blocked the van's

access to the street. A second Pack Rat vehicle was parked on

the street in front of the house.

Defendant explained to DeTullio that the moving company was

attempting to remove its storage pod, filled with his personal

belongings, from his driveway; as a result, he in turn had

hidden the "key tool" or jack which secured the pod to the

1 Trooper DeTullio did not place his first name on the record.

3 A-2070-10T3

moving van.2 At DeTullio's urging, defendant produced the item,

defendant's wife moved her CRV, and both Pack Rat vehicles left

the residence, pod in tow.

Defendant contends that the State failed to prove theft

beyond a reasonable doubt. He also asserts that his claim of

right established an absolute defense to the charge. See

N.J.S.A. 2C:20-2(c)(2).

The State's position that defendant's acknowledgment that

he removed the key in order to prevent the removal of the pod,

when joined with the circumstantial evidence, was sufficient

proof of theft. The State also asserts defendant could not

raise the claim of right argument since he did not own the key

and, therefore, his removal of the key constituted theft. At

oral argument, the State advanced the further theory that Pack

Rat's ownership of the pod barred defendant from successfully

asserting a claim of right defense based on his ownership of the

pod's contents.

We review the record to determine if the conclusions

reached in the Law Division were based on sufficient credible

evidence. State v. Johnson, 42 N.J. 146, 162 (1964). In the

process, we accord substantial deference to the trial court's

2 The record contains no information regarding the dispute

between defendant and Pack Rat.

4 A-2070-10T3

credibility determinations. State v. Barone, 147 N.J. 599, 615

(1997). We do not give particular deference, however, to the

trial court's interpretation of the law. Manalapan Realty, L.P.

v. Manalapan Twp. Comm., 140 N.J. 366, 378 (1995).

Theft is defined as follows: "[a] person is guilty of theft

if he unlawfully takes, or exercises unlawful control over,

movable property of another with purpose to deprive him

thereof." N.J.S.A. 2C:20-3. Deprive is defined as "(1) to

withhold or cause to be withheld property of another permanently

or for so extended a period as to appropriate a substantial

portion of its economic value . . . or (2) [to] dispose or cause

disposal of the property so as to make it unlikely that the

owner will recover it." N.J.S.A. 2C:20-1(a).

If for the sake of our discussion we assume the State

proved the item did not belong to defendant, the State

nonetheless did not prove that defendant's removal of the key

was intended to be permanent, for an extended period of time, or

even intended to make it unlikely that the moving company would

recover it. Rather, the State proved only that defendant's

conduct was intended to prevent the towing of the pod and his

belongings from his property until such time as his dispute with

the moving company was resolved. In other words, nothing

DeTullio said in his brief testimony established a purpose to

5 A-2070-10T3

deprive the rightful owner of the object, within the meaning of

the statute.

Moreover, the State's position that the defense of claim of

right is restricted solely to property in which a defendant has

an ownership interest is not borne out in the case law. See

State v. Taplin, 230 N.J. Super. 95, 96-97, 100 (App. Div. 1988)

(defendant entitled to present a claim of right defense, and

court must instruct the jury accordingly, where defendant helped

a friend remove a television from the friend's home, assuming

the friend had the right to remove it).

The statute permits the defense to be asserted where a

person "[a]cted under an honest claim of right to the property

or service involved or that he had a right to acquire or dispose

of it as he did[.]" N.J.S.A. 2C:20-2(c)(2). In this case,

defendant acted on the belief that he had the right to prevent

removal of the pod from his own property, because his personal

belongings were inside. Although the trooper convinced

defendant to return the key, it is undisputed that defendant

took the object, which lacks any inherent value, solely to

protect his own personalty. Thus we disagree with the State's

further contention that the defense was inapplicable because the

pod belonged to Pack Rat even though the contents belonged to

defendant. Pack Rat's ownership of the pod or the key does not

6 A-2070-10T3

prevent defendant from successfully asserting the defense

because without attempting to control the pod he simply could

not protect his own property.

We are mindful of "the fundamental premise that criminal

laws are to be strictly construed." State v. Hodde, 181 N.J.

375, 379 (2004). The State did not prove theft or present

evidence which defeated the claim of right defense. Thus,

defendant should not have been found guilty.

Reversed and remanded.


In this appeal, defendant challenges the order entered by the Family Part judge granting custody of one of defendant's twin daughters to her former spouse and the twins' biological father. Defendant contends that in the absence of a finding ofabuse or neglect, the minor child should have been returned to defendant, from whom she had been removed.

We hold that the court's jurisdiction over the matter was appropriately continued, notwithstanding the absence of a finding of abuse or neglect, because the court's continued assistance was required. In addition, because the Division of Youth and Family Services initiated proceedings against defendant and her former spouse under both Title 9 and Title 30, the court's jurisdiction was also appropriately invoked pursuant to Title 30.

We additionally hold that as long as appropriate procedural due process is satisfied and the requisite standards and burdens of proof attendant to each statutory scheme are satisfied, overlapping or hybrid proceedings brought pursuant to both Title 9 and Title 30 will not be set aside. 8-31-11


In this appeal from a DWI conviction, the State concedes that the right not to be subjected to unreasonable delay applies to an appeal, see State v. Le Furge, 222 N.J. Super. 92, 98 (App. Div.), certif. denied, 111 N.J. 568 (1988), and therefore, to a trial de novo in the Superior Court. We apply the factors established in Barker v. Wingo, 407 U.S. 514, 92 S. Ct. 2182, 33 L. Ed. 2d 101 (1972), and conclude that defendant's speedy trial right was not violated by a 798-day delay from the time he filed his notice of appeal in the Law Division under R. 3:23 until a trial de novo was actually held. 8-26-11

L.M.F. VS. J.A.F., JR. A-0121-10T3

In this appeal from a final domestic violence restraining order, we apply the principles articulated by the Court in J.D. v. M.D.F., _____ N.J. _____ (2011), and conclude the trial court erred in finding the predicate offense of harassment. Theparties are divorced parents. They used text messaging as the primary means of exchanging information about their two children. The domestic violence complaint alleged harassment based on defendant sending plaintiff eighteen text messages over a three-hour period. The content of the messages was not threatening or menacing in any way. We also hold there was insufficient evidence of a history of domestic violence to substantiate that a restraining order was necessary to prevent further abuse as required under Silver v. Silver, 387 N.J. Super. 112 (App. Div. 2006). 8-22-11


N.J.S.A. 2C:14-2(a) elevates the offense of sexual assault to first-degree aggravated sexual assault if

an act of sexual penetration of another person is committed under any one of the following circumstances: . . . (3) [t]he act is committed during the commission, or attempted commission . . . of robbery, kidnapping, homicide, aggravated assault on another, burglary, arson or criminal escape ....

We construe the phrase "of another," which modifies "aggravated assault" in section (3), to mean aggravated assault of a third person, such as a spouse or child, committed for the purpose of compelling the submission of the sexual assault victim, and not an aggravated assault on the sexual assault victim, which is covered in another section of the statute. 8-22-11


The prosecutor committed prejudicial error, contrary to State v. Bankston, 63 N.J. 263 (1973), and State v. Branch, 182 N.J. 338 (2005), when he remarked in summation that the State was precluded by the rules of evidence from explaining why a police detective chose defendant's picture to include in a photo array, and the court compounded the error by instructing the jury to the same effect. Additionally, defendant's right to a fair trial was prejudiced when the detective volunteered on direct examination that he selected the photo from a computer database that he called a "Mug Master." 8-19-11

State v. Larry R. Henderson (A-8-08; 062218)

The current legal standard for assessing eyewitness identification evidence must be revised because it does not offer an adequate measure for reliability; does not sufficiently deter inappropriate police conduct; and overstates the jury’s ability to evaluate identification evidence. Two modifications to the standard are required. First, when defendants can show some evidence of suggestiveness, all relevant system and estimator variables should be explored at pretrial hearings. Second, the court system must develop enhanced jury charges on eyewitness identification for trial judges to use. Defendant is entitled to a new pretrial hearing consistent with this opinion to determine the admissibility of the eyewitness evidence introduced at his trial.

State v. Cecilia X. Chen (A-69-08; 063177)

Even without any police action, when a defendant presents evidence that an identification was made under highly suggestive circumstances that could lead to a mistaken identification, trial judges should conduct a preliminary hearing, upon request, to determine the admissibility of the identification evidence.