For reversal and remandment -- Chief Justice Weintraub, and Justices Jacobs, Francis, Proctor, Hall, Schettino and Haneman. For affirmance -- None. The opinion of the court was delivered by Proctor, J.
[38 NJ Page 567] The defendants, Robert Tuddles and Eugene Watson, both juveniles, were indicted along with two others on January 2, 1962, by the Essex County Grand Jury on a charge of murder. Thereafter the defendants made separate
motions before the Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court of Essex County, each seeking "an order of said Court directing that a hearing be held in pursuance of N.J.S.A. 2A:4-15." From the court's denial of their motions, each defendant appealed to the Appellate Division. While their appeals were pending in that court, we certified both proceedings on our own motion.
The charge of murder arose out of the defendants' alleged participation in an armed robbery of a real estate office in Newark on September 26, 1961, during the course of which an employee of the real estate office was allegedly shot and killed by one of the defendants' confederates. At the time of the alleged holdup, Tuddles and Watson were 16 and 17 years of age respectively. Because of their ages, a complaint charging the defendants with juvenile delinquency had been filed, prior to the indictment, in the Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court on October 9, 1961.
A summons, also dated October 9, 1961, was served upon Watson and his mother (his father was deceased), directing them to appear at the juvenile court on October 11 to answer "a complaint filed against Eugene for Juvenile Delinquency: Re: Bench Warrant -- Larceny Auto & Adjournment & Preliminary Hearing -- (MURDER)." The summons further stated: "The family may engage legal counsel if it desires so to do." On October 11 Watson, his mother, and his older sister appeared before the court. The court held a hearing which was preliminary in nature for the purpose of determining whether the case should be referred to the Essex County Prosecutor pursuant to N.J.S. 2A:4-15. That statute provides:
"If it shall appear to the satisfaction of the juvenile and domestic relations court that a case of juvenile delinquency as defined in section 2A:4-14 of this title committed by any juvenile of the age of 16 or 17 years, should not be dealt with by the court, either because of the fact that the person is an habitual offender, or has been charged with an offense of a heinous nature, under circumstances which may require the imposition of a sentence rather than the disposition permitted by this chapter for the welfare of society, then the court may
refer such case to the county prosecutor of the county wherein the court is situate.
Any juvenile of the age of 16 or 17 years may demand a presentment and trial by jury and, in such case, when this fact is made known to the court, such case, together with all documents pertaining thereto, shall be referred to the county prosecutor.
Cases so referred to the county prosecutor shall thereafter be dealt with in exactly the same manner as a criminal case."
The Watsons were not represented by counsel and the court did not offer to assign counsel to them if they were unable to retain counsel themselves.
At the hearing a list of previous charges of delinquency against one Eugene Watson and their disposition, in addition to the charge of homicide, was read to the defendant Watson. He admitted that he was the same Eugene Watson named in the past charges as well as the one charged with homicide in the present case.
At the conclusion of the hearing the court referred the case to the Prosecutor of Essex County to be dealt with as a criminal case pursuant to N.J.S. 2A:4-15 and R.R. 6:9-7. In the order of referral the court stated:
"It appears to my satisfaction that this boy has been charged with an offense of a heinous nature and that in addition thereto he is an habitual offender. Therefore, pursuant to Statute 2A:4-15 I am referring the case to you, since under the circumstances, the imposition of a sentence rather than the disposition permitted under the Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court Act may be necessary for the welfare of society.
The statute above referred to is also implemented by Supreme Court Rule 6:9-7, which requires that under these circumstances, upon referral to the Prosecutor's office the case ...