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State v. Leckis

Decided: June 10, 1963.

STATE OF NEW JERSEY, RESPONDENT,
v.
BENEDICT LECKIS, APPELLANT



Goldmann, Freund and Foley.

Per Curiam

[79 NJSuper Page 480] Defendant appeals the County Court's denial of his application for a writ of habeas corpus. Our analysis of his pro se brief indicates that he relies upon the following grounds: (1) he was not represented by counsel, nor informed by the court of his right to counsel; (2) he was not explicitly and definitively informed of the serious nature of the crime charged (atrocious assault and battery); (3) sentence was imposed without the benefit of a presentence investigation and report, as required by R.R. 3:7-10(b); (4) the proceedings resulting in his conviction were characterized by unwarranted

haste, passion and prejudice, and finally, (5) the 6 1/2-7-year State Prison sentence imposed was excessive.

On June 22, 1961 defendant was arrested on the complaint of a state trooper charging him with atrocious assault and battery upon his father, John Leckis. After arraignment before the local magistrate, he was lodged in the county jail. While in jail he executed Criminal Form 13A, "Statement of Defendant." The signature to the statement is admittedly defendant's, but the answers to the several questions in the form are in another handwriting, apparently that of the county detective who witnessed the statement. The answers indicate that defendant was unable to afford the services of an attorney but was aware of his right to have the court assign one to represent him. The answer to the question whether defendant wanted the court to assign such an attorney was "No." Defendant answered "Yes" to the questions inquiring whether he had voluntarily signed a waiver of indictment and trial by jury, and also whether he understood the nature of the offense charged, stated as "A.A. & Battery." The answer to the question whether any promises had been made as to the sentence he would receive was "No." Finally, as to how defendant intended to plead, the answer was "Guilty."

On June 26 defendant also signed a waiver of indictment and trial by jury (Criminal Form 6) wherein it was stated he was charged with atrocious assault and battery in violation of N.J.S. 2A:90-1, the waiver being witnessed by the same county detective.

Thereafter, on June 30, an accusation was brought against defendant (Criminal Form 13) alleging that on June 22 he "did commit an atrocious assault and battery upon John Leckis, by atrociously striking, beating, lacerating and wounding him," in violation of N.J.S. 2A:90-1. On the same day defendant was brought before the County Court judge for plea and sentence. In the meantime, the county probation department had on June 29 prepared a "Social Investigation" report, apparently in light of defendant's execution of Criminal Form 13A and the waiver of indictment and trial by jury.

What happened when defendant appeared for plea and sentence is illuminating. The prosecutor read the accusation in full. The judge, addressing defendant, then asked, "Mr. Leckis, you have decided, as I understand it now, that you do not want an attorney to represent you; is that correct?" and defendant answered, "Exactly." The following colloquy ensued:

"THE COURT: Do you understand the charge which the Prosecutor has read to you, of atrocious assault and battery upon your father, John Leckis? Do you understand the charge?

THE DEFENDANT: I don't know what the charge would be, sir.

THE COURT: Well, do you want to read that part again? It is perfectly plain.

[PROSECUTOR]: Did commit an atrocious assault and battery upon John Leckis, by atrociously striking, beating and lacerating and wounding him.

THE DEFENDANT: No, sir.

THE COURT: What you now say is 'No, sir?'

THE DEFENDANT: I did not strike him.

THE COURT: You didn't touch ...


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