Terroristic Threats and School Shootings (Part 3)

by | Jan 20, 2019 | Blog, Criminal Law, Monmouth County, New Jersey, Ocean County

The defendant in Tindell allegedly made various terroristic threats to multiple people in separate incidents. The court held that the jury needed to be instructed to determine unanimously to which victim or victims the defendant made those threats.

Subsection b. addresses threats to kill. It is based on prior law. The prior statute is explained in State v. Kaufman requiring that the threat be such that an ordinary individual hearing it would believe that death was seriously threatened whether or not he actually was put in fear. A threat to kill that could be prosecuted under subsection b. may also be prosecuted under subsection a. if it meets the purpose requirement of that subsection.

The defense should move to exclude any evidence relating to sub-section a or sub-section b if the indictment only references one sub-section or the other. That is because the defense must have notice of what offenses they are required to defend and the grand jury must approve any charge before it can be considered by a trial jury, absent an explicit waiver by the defense. These arguments would be watered down in the juvenile system where most school shooting threats will be prosecuted due to the defendant usually being under 18 years old. There is no right to grand jury review in the juvenile system just as there is no right to a jury trial.

When evaluating the objective situation, courts must consider the plaintiff’s individual circumstances and background in determining whether a reasonable person in that situation would have believed the defendant’s threat. Therefore, in the domestic violence context, a court should regard any past history of abuse as a part of a complainant’s individual circumstances in determining whether a reasonable person in those circumstances would have believed the threats at issue.

It is not entirely clear whether the statute requires the State to prove that the intended victim of the threat actually knew of the threat. The model charge to the jury, however, contains no such instruction.