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State v. Hatch

Decided: September 25, 1952.

STATE OF NEW JERSEY, PLAINTIFF-RESPONDENT,
v.
STANLEY HATCH, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT



Eastwood, Goldmann and Francis. The opinion of the court was delivered by Francis, J.c.c.

Francis

[21 NJSuper Page 395] The defendant here appeals from his conviction under an indictment which charged that he "unlawfully did procure John William Smith to wilfully swear falsely in a judicial proceeding before the County Judge in Cape May County Court on July 11, 1951, that he, the said John William Smith, had had sexual relations with Irene Dickerson * * *." In dealing with the matter it is

necessary only to consider the grounds of appeal relating to the admission of certain evidence at the trial.

Bastardy proceedings were brought against the appellant, Hatch in the Municipal Court in Lower Township, Cape May County. The complaint charged that he was responsible for the pregnancy of Irene Dickerson, to whom a child was born on February 8, 1951. The trial resulted in his conviction of bastardy and an order requiring him to pay $7.50 a week for support of the child.

An appeal was taken to the County Court where the action was heard de novo. At this time one John William Smith, who had not appeared in the Municipal Court, testified as a defense witness. No stenographic record was made of this proceeding and the exact nature of his testimonial assertions is not clear. According to a prosecution witness in this trial Smith said he had had intercourse with Irene Dickerson on three occasions which could have made him answerable for her pregnancy. A defense witness, who was present also at the trial de novo , asserted that Smith testified that he had such intercourse on three occasions prior to the end of February 1949. And Smith himself, in his appearance on this indictment, seems to have agreed with the latter version of his testimony.

In any event the trial de novo resulted in a jury verdict of not guilty and Hatch was discharged.

Subsequently Smith recanted his testimony, saying that he had never had sexual relations with the young lady and that he had testified to the fact of intercourse at the request of the defendant Hatch.

On the retraction an application for a new trial of the bastardy appeal was made to the County Court. A hearing was conducted in which the parties and their witnesses were heard and defendant's documentary proof was introduced in the form of a signed statement by Smith admitting his relations with the young lady and a letter admittedly written for him to Hatch after the disavowal of his testimony, in which, according to Hatch, he reiterated its truth but said that

because of threats of jail and bastardy proceedings against him he was forced to recant. At the conclusion of the hearing the motion for the new trial was denied but both Smith and Hatch were held, one on a charge of false swearing, and the other for procuring false swearing. Thereafter each was indicted for the offense charged and Smith pleaded guilty.

Examination of the indictment against Hatch makes it plain that the issue to be tried out was: Did he procure Smith to swear falsely wilfully that he had had sexual intercourse with Irene Dickerson?

At the trial appellant denied the accusation and maintained that Smith had by oral and written statements before and after the trial de novo of the bastardy case admitted to him and to others the fact of the intercourse.

On cross-examination the prosecutor confronted him with a document apparently entitled "Reverend Stanley Hatch Fact Sheet"; also with a letter signed by him and dated January 1952, which indicated that the "sheet" had been circulated by him among his parishioners. Then, over objection on the ground of irrelevancy, the following questions were asked and allowed by the court:

"Q. Did you ever allege that an attorney, a member of the bar, had threatened Smith, who appeared here yesterday in these proceedings, with a jail sentence to force him to testify ...


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