New Jersey v. Brown

One week after defendants’ murder trial began, after counsel made opening statements and examined four of the State’s witnesses, the prosecutor turned over to defense counsel nineteen reports that were in the State’s possession but had not previously been provided to defendants. Defendants moved to dismiss the indictment with prejudice. The trial court did not resolve the dismissal motion, and the case continued. At trial, the court made several significant evidentiary rulings. One ruling reversed the pretrial holding of another judge by admitting the murder victim’s dying declaration heard by the victim’s wife. Another ruling excluded as unreliable a police officer’s affidavit used in four separate search warrant applications. The excluded affidavit was offered by defendants as evidence to impeach the victim’s wife and was relevant to a defense of third-party guilt. At the conclusion of the trial, a jury convicted defendants of murder. The New Jersey Supreme Court concluded that the State’s failure to produce nineteen discovery items until one week after the beginning of defendants’ murder trial violated defendants’ due process rights under Brady. Though there was no evidence or allegation that the State acted in bad faith or intentionally in failing to timely produce the discoverable material, the Court nonetheless reversed the judgment of the Appellate Division, vacated defendants’ convictions, and remanded for a new trial because defendants were deprived of a fair trial. View "New Jersey v. Brown" on Justia Law