Lawrence J. Johnson, also known as Lawrence Johnson, Jr., also known as Lawrence Albert Johnson, filed a complaint in the Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, in which he demands to be discharged from any custody or confinement whatever.
This matter was referred to this court by Frank T. Lloyd, Jr., A.J.S.C.
The September term 1943 of the grand jury of Camden County did
"PRESENT THAT Lawrence J. Johnson late of the City of Camden in the said County of Camden, on the first day of October in the year of our Lord one thousand nine hundred and forty-three at the City aforesaid in the County aforesaid, and within the jurisdiction of this Court, in and upon one, William W. Freeburger, in the peace of God and this State then and there being, willfully, feloniously and of his malice aforethought did make an assault, and him, the said William W. Freeburger, then and there willfully, feloniously and of his malice aforethought did kill and murder, contrary to the form of the statute in such case made and provided, and against the peace of this State, the government and dignity of the same."
There appears to be no dispute that the petitioner was born April 29, 1929, and that he committed the offense subsequent to his fourteenth but before his fifteenth birthday, and it further appears that at the time of his plea, then being represented by counsel, on the 17th day of May, 1944,
the then defendant entered a plea of non vult and was sentenced to life imprisonment by the Court of Oyer and Terminer of Camden County.
It appears from the oral argument in behalf of Johnson that the three main grounds upon which he relies for his release from his confinement are based upon the contention that on May 17, 1944 the Camden County Court of Oyer and Terminer had no jurisdiction to impose the sentence that it did and that this ground arises out of the case of State v. Monahan , 15 N.J. 34 (1954).
As to the first ground of the plaintiff-petitioner, the court does not feel that the case of State v. Monahan is entirely applicable to the case at hand.
The second ground propounded by counsel for Johnson is that Johnson's continued confinement and his confinement at the present time is and was a violation of the Fourteenth Amendment of the Federal Constitution in that to be confined by an order of a court without jurisdiction is a violation of the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment of the Federal Constitution. The court finds no such violation since the defendant was sentenced by the judge of the Court of Oyer and Terminer, who is the same judge who would sit in Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court. In the Court of Oyer and Terminer the defendant was first indicted by the grand jury, entered a plea of not guilty, which was later retracted and a plea of non vult entered. The court in passing sentence and accepting the plea of non vult foreclosed any possibility that the defendant would be electrocuted.
Indeed, under the philosophy underlining our system of penology, it is nothing more than conjecture that the defendant would be entitled to his release either under the sentence passed by the Court of Oyer and Terminer or such sentence that might be imposed by the Juvenile Court. As to the term life imprisonment, the court takes judicial notice that such a sentence is ...