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State v. Grothmann

Decided: January 2, 1953.

STATE OF NEW JERSEY, PLAINTIFF-RESPONDENT,
v.
W. CURTIS GROTHMANN, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT



McGeehan, Bigelow and Jayne. The opinion of the court was delivered by Jayne, J.A.D.

Jayne

On January 18, 1952 the grand jury of the County of Morris presented to the court two indictments against the defendant with which we are presently concerned,

designated as Nos. 47 and 48. Indictment No. 47 in the first count alleged that the defendant on November 1, 1950 in the Town of Boonton did induce a female child therein named of the age of 12 years to submit to the doing of an act which would tend to debauch the child and to impair her morals by placing his hand under her clothing and upon the private parts of her body contrary to the provisions of N.J.S. 2 A:96-3. The second count charged the defendant with the commission on the same date of an assault and battery upon the child. Indictment No. 48 alleged in the first count the commission on the same date of the same immoral offense by the defendant with another female child therein named of the age of nine years. There was in this indictment also an accusation of assault and battery. At the inception of the trial the citation in the indictments of the statute relating to the alleged debauching of the child was changed without objection to indicate R.S. 2:117-6.1, which was the statute in effect at the time of the alleged commission of that offense. Vide, Rule 2:4-11(a).

At the trial the testimony of the two children disclosed without objection the recurrent commission by the defendant of such unlawful practices at intervals over a period of the two preceding years. Consequentially at the conclusion of the introduction of the evidence on behalf of the State and in pursuance of the application of the county prosecutor, indictment No. 47 was amended to allege the occurrence of the offense on a date between April 1, 1951 and May 8, 1951, and incidentally to change the statement of the age of the child to ten years. Indictment No. 48 was also amended to place the commission of the offense therein alleged on a date between November 1, 1950 and May 8, 1951. Counsel for the defendant interposed timely objections to the allowance of those amendments.

Ultimately, the counts charging the defendant with assault and battery were dismissed and the jury found the defendant guilty on the first counts of indictments No. 47 and No. 48. The defendant was sentenced to confinement in the State

Prison for a minimum term of one year and a maximum term of one and one-half years on each indictment, with the direction that the sentences be served concurrently.

In the prosecution of the present appeal counsel for the defendant invites our attention to: (1) the allowance of the amendments of the indictments, (2) a feature of the court's charge to the jury, (3) the omission to charge a request, and (4) the alleged discordance between the verdict and the weight of the evidence.

In approaching the consideration of the allowance of the amendments it is of some precursory significance to notice that no objection whatever was interposed to restrain the infant witnesses during their interrogation from freely disclosing the many unlawful indulgences of the defendant over a relatively lengthy period, without restriction to the date specified in the indictments. The cross-examination was correspondingly comprehensive.

It must be recognized that the date of the commission of the particular misdemeanor alleged in the indictments (R.S. 2:117-6.1), except it be comprehended by the statute of limitations, is formal and not a legal and essential constituent of the offense. State v. Shapiro , 89 N.J.L. 319 (E. & A. 1916); State v. Yanetti , 101 N.J.L. 85 (E. & A. 1925); State v. Butler , 7 N.J. Misc. 868 (Sup. Ct. 1929), reversed on other grounds, 107 N.J.L. 91 (E. & A. 1930). The indictments therefore were not insufficient in that they originally stated the time imperfectly. R.S. 2:188-5; Rule 2:4-13.

It is also to be observed that as amended the indictments alleged the commission of the offense " on a date between * * *" Thus, neither indictment charged the occurrence of more than one offense. Contrast, State v. Sing Lee , 94 N.J.L. 266 (E. & A. 1920); State v. Brown , 103 N.J.L. 519 (Sup. Ct. 1927).

Additionally, the trial judge commented upon the amendments in his charge to the jury and expressly informed the jurors that "* * * the ...


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