STATE OF NEW JERSEY VS. SANDRA ABRIL
The central question in defendant's appeal of her conviction for aggravated assault and related charges is whether the court was correct in ruling defendant's character witnesses could be cross-examined about whether they knew she had been convicted of murdering her husband in 1982, for which she received a thirty-year prison term.
Although the adoption of former Evidence Rule 47 ended the ability of a prosecutor to impeach the credibility of a defendant's character witness by inquiring into the witness's knowledge of alleged criminal misconduct not evidenced by a criminal conviction, neither its successor, N.J.R.E. 405, nor N.J.R.E. 607, prohibits such impeachment when the inquiry is limited to the witness's knowledge of a defendant's criminal convictions.
The panel thus rejects defendant's argument that her proposed character witnesses could not have been impeached by the prosecutor inquiring into their knowledge of defendant's prior conviction for murder, but holds sanitization would have been appropriate. The panel, however, declines to find the trial court's failure to sua sponte suggest sanitization of the conviction in the context of impeachment of a character witness automatically constitutes reversible error.
The panel remands defendant's sentence for merger of her conviction for unlawful possession of a weapon with her conviction for aggravated assault and correction of the judgment to reflect the court's oral pronouncement of sentence. See State v. Rivers, 252 N.J. Super. 142, 147 n.1 (App. Div. 1991) (noting in the event of a discrepancy between the court's oral pronouncement of sentence and the sentence described in the judgment of conviction, the sentencing transcript controls and a corrective judgment is to be entered).