PCR Discovery (Part 6)

by | Aug 12, 2021 | Blog, Criminal Law, Monmouth County, New Jersey, Ocean County

The New Jersey Supreme Court majority continued in relevant part: The Court reviews the Silva-Arzeta case in detail and similarly finds that granting defendant’s discovery motion here “would be a useless act” because he cannot possibly satisfy the “reasonable diligence” prong of the standard for a new trial based on newly discovered evidence. In sum, although the trial court erred in labeling defendant’s motion as a PCR petition, the motion can fare no better under the standard for new trials because, when such a motion is based on “newly discovered evidence,” a defendant must show “reasonable diligence.”

For completeness, the Court reviews jurisprudence governing post-trial discovery motions. In Marshall, the Court considered under what standard a request for discovery made in connection with a PCR petition should be evaluated to determine whether a particular case was an “unusual case” in which a post-conviction discovery request should be granted. See 148 N.J. at 270. Defendant challenges the applicability of the Marshall standard in the non-PCR context of his motion for discovery that might support a new trial. The Court finds defendant’s challenge unpersuasive. It is appropriate to turn to the standard applied to discovery requests in the PCR setting for guidance in the motion-for-a-new-trial context, given the lack of caselaw specific to this circumstance and the “reasonable diligence” requirement shared by the standards.

In Marshall, the Court held that “where a defendant presents the PCR court with good cause to order the State to supply the defendant with discovery that is relevant to the defendant’s case and not privileged, the court has the discretionary authority to grant relief.” Ibid. (emphasis added). “Anticipating that only in the unusual case will a PCR court invoke its inherent right to compel discovery,” the Marshall court did not define the “good cause” standard it adopted, but other jurisdictions have observed that a showing of good cause entails more than a generic demand for potentially exculpatory evidence. Without expressly invoking the good cause standard, the Court reached a similar conclusion in State v. Herrerra, 211 N.J. 308 (2012).

The Marshall murder case referenced by the majority refers to Robert Marshall, an Ocean County resident and member of nearby Toms River Country Club. The case was prosecuted by Assistant Ocean County Prosecutor Kevin Kelly. Kelly was played by actor Dennis Farina in an NBC mini-series about the case.