Discovery Violations (Part 2)

by | Feb 27, 2019 | Blog, Criminal Law, Monmouth County, New Jersey, Ocean County

The Court continued in relevant part: The case went cold for approximately three years, at which time Robinson-Crews admitted in an interview at Muncy State Correctional Institution in Pennsylvania, where she was incarcerated for drug offenses, that her husband “only uttered Paperboy” in his dying declaration and that she “added on Youngin.”

Defendants were charged with Crews’s murder, arrested, and incarcerated. Isaiah Franklin and Terrell Black were in the Mercer County Correctional Center where they met and spoke to Brown and Dawson.  According to Franklin and Black, Brown and Dawson made admissions to them regarding Crews’s murder. After notifying prosecutors of defendants’ admissions, Franklin and Black arrived at favorable plea agreements in exchange for their testimony against Brown and Dawson. Almost a year later, a detective received a letter representing that Robinson-Crews admitted to inmates at the Muncy Correctional Institution that she had conspired to kill her husband (the Muncy Report).

Pretrial motions were heard in 2014.  The motion judge ruled that Crews’s alleged statement of who shot him was inadmissible because Robinson-Crews was not credible.

One week after the trial started, after counsel made opening statements and examined four State witnesses, the prosecutor turned over eighteen reports that concerned facts discussed in the testimony of the investigating officers who had already testified.  The records included the Norton Affidavit.  Defense counsel obtained the cell-phone records of defendants, which showed they did not receive phone calls from Robinson-Crews on the night of the murder. The following Monday, the State disclosed discovery item nineteen, the Muncy Report. The trial court conducted an N.J.R.E. 104 hearing and ruled that the defense could challenge the Muncy report by calling a witness and through cross-examination.

The prosecution’s withholding of exculpatory evidence is common. Since so few cases go to trial, defendants usually plead guilty before the exculpatory evidence is turned over. Unless a conditional plea is entered that preserves a defendant’s right to appeal the denial of exculpatory evidence, the right to appeal the issue is waived. Such a scenario is rare since the nature of the issue is that the evidence has been suppressed by the State and the defense is therefore unaware of the issue.