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State v. Larocca

Decided: October 29, 1963.

THE STATE OF NEW JERSEY, PLAINTIFF-RESPONDENT,
v.
ANTHONY LAROCCA, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT



Goldmann, Kilkenny and Collester. The opinion of the court was delivered by Collester, J.A.D.

Collester

Defendant Anthony LaRocca appeals from a judgment of conviction resulting from a jury verdict on the trial of two indictments, consolidated for the purpose of trial, each charging him with the crime of open lewdness in violation of N.J.S. 2A:115-1. He makes no contention that the verdict was against the weight of the evidence, but asserts two rulings by the trial judge were erroneous and warrant the granting of a new trial. He also appeals from a denial of a motion made subsequent to the verdict wherein leave was sought under R.R. 1:25A to permit his counsel to interview, examine or question members of the jury with respect to said verdict.

I.

We consider first the post-conviction motion and the court's ruling thereon reported in 72 N.J. Super. 322 (Cty. Ct. 1962). In denying the motion to interview jurors, the court stated that no allegations were submitted to show any misconduct had occurred during the jury's deliberations of such a nature as to vitiate the verdict, and that no evidence was offered in support of the allegations that the verdict was prejudiced by the taint of extraneous influence.

Defendant argues that at the time of trial there existed extraneous factors which may have prejudiced the jury in its deliberations and consequently the trial judge was required to interview the jurors. He contends that defendant need only

allege, with some degree of probability, that extraneous influences may have been present and that such influences, if established upon inquiry of the jury, would be sufficient to set aside the verdict. He asserts that the court's ruling denied him an opportunity to expose such extraneous influence upon the jury.

R.R. 1:25A provides as follows:

"No attorney shall himself or through any investigator or other person acting for him interview, examine or question any juror with respect to the verdict or deliberations of the jury in any action except on leave of court granted upon good cause shown." (Emphasis added)

Defendant's counsel alleged that sometime prior to the trial the defendant had been indicted, tried and acquitted on a similar charge; that prior to and at the trial of the present indictments widespread publicity was given by local newspapers concerning the charges. He contends such publicity provoked intense indignation resulting in bias and prejudice against the defendant. He pointed out that one juror, Mary Brodell, admitted on her voir dire she had read such newspaper articles. For these reasons he argues he should have been permitted to interview the jurors to ascertain whether such extraneous information influenced their verdict.

The record indicates extreme care was undertaken in the selection of the jury. Prospective jurors were examined individually on the voir dire out of the presence of both the jury panel and other jurors who were selected to hear the case. All jurors stated they did not know the defendant and had not read any newspaper articles concerning him except Mrs. Brodell.

On her voir dire examination this juror recalled having read in a newspaper that defendant had been charged with molesting children. She said that the fact she had read such articles would not prejudice her, and that she would be able to decide the case on the evidence presented at the trial. Having so stated, a challenge for cause would ...


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