On appeal from the Monmouth County Court, Law Division.
For reversal -- Chief Justice Vanderbilt, and Justices Heher, Oliphant, Wachenfeld, Burling, Jacobs and Brennan. For affirmance -- None. The opinion of the court was delivered by Oliphant, J.
This is an appeal from a conviction of murder in the first degree without recommendation of life imprisonment entered after a trial before a jury in the Monmouth County Court. The appellant appeals as a matter of right, Art. VI, Sec. V, par. 1(c), Const. 1948; R.R. 1:2-1(c).
The appellant was indicted for murder under N.J.S. 2 A:113-1. The indictment is in the usual short form, R.R. 3:4-3(b), formerly R.S. 2:188-11. The proof of the corpus delicti indicated a particularly brutal murder. The autopsy disclosed that the deceased died of a severe brain injury resulting from skull fractures and concussion, together with very severe bruises and contusions around the neck with the tissues badly mashed in those areas. Pictorial exhibits evidenced that the deceased had been brutally beaten about the head.
In a confession which is corroborated in important details by other evidence, see State v. Cooper, 10 N.J. 532 (1952); State v. Cole, 136 N.J.L. 606, 610 (E. & A. 1948), and the cases cited there, the appellant related in detail his activities in the early part of the evening in question, which was July 10, 1955. He stated that he had visited a number of bars and did considerable drinking, and finally at 2 o'clock in the morning he hired a taxicab at the corner of Cookman and Main Streets, Asbury Park, to go to Long Branch. When they reached Deal he asked the deceased, the driver, "to pull off from the road and let me go to the bathroom." When he got outside of the cab he said he then demanded money of the driver who said he did not have any, and then he struck the deceased cab driver, pulled him out of the cab, struck him again, and when he fell to the ground the defendant kicked him several times. He stated then that he took the driver's wallet containing $4 and some change and also his watch and a jacket from the rear seat of the cab.
In the confession these specific questions and answers are found:
"Q. After you removed this watch from the taxicab driver's arm, what did you do with it?
A. I put it in my pocket.
Q. Who removed it from your pocket?
A. The police officer that arrested me.
Q. Now, Wynn, when you say you had an argument with the taxi driver, you meant that you went to hold him up and asked him for his ...