Attempt Crimes And Substantial Steps (Part 4)

by | Jul 25, 2020 | Blog, Criminal Law, Monmouth County, New Jersey, Ocean County

The New Jersey Supreme Court continued in relevant part: The Appellate Division’s requirement in this case that the State produce such evidence raises the level of proof required to establish a substantial step for criminal attempt. The Appellate Division’s implication that only direct evidence can support a substantial step flies in the face of our jurisprudence, which allows juries to consider the evidence proffered and draw reasonable inferences accordingly. The jury was entitled to apply its common sense and experience in evaluating the meaning of defendant’s statements. In doing so, it could draw reasonable inferences about the defendant’s purpose.

In the case at hand, the State was not required to show that defendant had orchestrated a plan detailing when and how A.A.’s murder was to be carried out. Nor was there a need to show that defendant had provided descriptions of A.A.’s home, cars, or daily routines because, as defendant plainly stated in the recorded phone call, “everybody knows where she’s at but nothings going on . . . somebody should of went and downt that bitch already.” A jury could reasonably conclude from defendant’s statements that, because A.A. was familiar to those persons defendant was enlisting to carry out the murder or his release on bail, defendant had to do nothing further than continue to push to have his orders carried out. Defendant’s repeated calls to action from prison to facilitate the murder of A.A. constitute a sufficient basis on which a jury could find a substantial step for purposes of criminal attempt. See N.J.S.A. 2C:5-1 (a person is guilty of criminal attempt when he or she “purposely does . . . anything which, under the circumstances as a reasonable person would believe them to be, is an act . . . constituting a substantial step in a course of conduct planned to culminate in his commission of the crime”).

Additionally, defendant’s plan for his cousin to bail him out so that he could kill A.A. himself can also constitute a sufficient basis for a jury to find a substantial step for criminal attempt. Defendant clearly and repeatedly demanded that his cousin bail him out so that he could “handle what he gotta handle” — that is, to kill A.A. — and that it did not matter “if he was out here for one day or one week . . . his case will be better.” Those utterances also strongly corroborate his alleged criminal purpose to murder A.A. so that she would not appear in court to testify against him.

Justice Timpone repeatedly uses the term “prison” to refer to the location of the defendant’s phone calls. The calls were made from the Atlantic County Jail. There is a difference between “jail” and “prison”. Jail is where defendant’s await disposition of a criminal case and where convicts serve sentences of less than one year. “Prison” is reserved for convicts serving sentences ranging from several months to life.