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State v. Masselli

Decided: July 7, 1964.

THE STATE OF NEW JERSEY, PLAINTIFF-RESPONDENT,
v.
WILLIAM MASSELLI, DEFENDANT-MOVANT



For affirmance -- Chief Justice Weintraub, and Justices Jacobs, Francis, Proctor, Hall, Schettino and Haneman. For reversal -- None. The opinion of the court was delivered by Weintraub, C.J.

Weintraub

This case involves the Interstate Agreement on Detainers adopted by both New Jersey (N.J.S. 2A:159A-1 et seq.) and New York (N.Y. Code of Criminal Procedure, ยง 669-b). Pursuant to the agreement, defendant, while serving a prison term in New York, was brought to New Jersey to answer charges in Union County and in Bergen County. In Union County he contended successfully that the prosecution had failed to meet certain time limitations, to which we shall later refer, and hence the indictment in that county had to be dismissed. The court's opinion, reported under the name of a codefendant, is State v. Chirra, 79 N.J. Super. 270 (Law Div. 1963). No appeal was taken from that judgment. Defendant then sought dismissal of the Bergen County indictment on like grounds. His applications there, both by motion and by habeas corpus, were denied. We certified his appeals before argument in the Appellate Division.

The New York enactment of the Interstate Agreement on Detainers became effective on September 1, 1957 and the New Jersey counterpart on April 18, 1958. The purpose of the agreement appears in N.J.S. 2A:159A-1:

"The party States find that charges outstanding against a prisoner, detainers based on untried indictments, informations or complaints, and difficulties in securing speedy trial of persons already incarcerated in other jurisdictions, produce uncertainties which obstruct programs of prisoner treatment and rehabilitation. Accordingly, it is the policy of the party States and the purpose of this agreement to encourage the expeditious and orderly disposition of such charges and determination of the proper status of any and all detainers based on untried indictments, informations or complaints."

The statute permits the transfer of temporary custody of a prisoner by the State of imprisonment, called the "sending" State, to the State which lodged a detainer, called the "receiving" State. The transfer may be made either on the prisoner's initiative or on the initiative of the receiving State. Article III, which appears in N.J.S. 2A:159A-3 and deals with a prisoner's request, provides that "he shall be brought to trial within 180 days after he shall have caused to be delivered to the prosecuting officer and the appropriate court of the prosecuting officer's jurisdiction" his written request for a final disposition of the indictment, information or complaint. The prisoner's request constitutes a waiver of extradition as to all charges in the receiving State for which detainers have been lodged.

Article IV (N.J.S. 2A:159A-4) deals with an application for temporary custody made by a prosecuting official of the receiving State. It provides for a delay of 30 days after receipt of the request during which period the Governor of the sending State may disapprove the transfer on his own or upon the prisoner's motion. Subsection (c) reads:

"In respect of any proceeding made possible by this Article, trial shall be commenced within 120 days of the arrival of the prisoner in the receiving State, but for good cause shown in open court, the prisoner or his counsel being present, the court having jurisdiction of the matter may grant any necessary or reasonable continuance."

Article V (N.J.S. 2A:159A-5) provides that in response to a request by the prisoner or the receiving State, the sending State shall "offer" to deliver temporary custody to the

receiving State and the representative of the receiving State "accepting an offer" shall present evidence of his authority and copies of the indictments. Subsection (c) contains one of the provisions critical in this case:

"If the appropriate authority shall refuse or fail to accept temporary custody of said person, or in the event that an action on the indictment, information or complaint on the basis of which the detainer has been lodged is not brought to trial within the period provided in Article III or Article IV hereof, the appropriate court of the jurisdiction where the indictment, information or complaint has been pending shall enter an order dismissing the same with prejudice, and any detainer based thereon shall cease to be of any force or effect."

Article VI (N.J.S. 2A:159A-6) provides that the running of the 180 days under Article III and the 120 days under Article IV "shall be tolled whenever and for as long as the prisoner is unable to stand trial, as determined by the court having jurisdiction of the matter." It also provides that the agreement shall not apply to a person "who is adjudged to be mentally ill."

The statute authorizes the promulgation of rules and regulations, N.J.S. 2A:159A-7 and 14. We will later refer to sundry forms so adopted.

With this statutory outline in mind, we can approach the facts.

On August 31, 1957 defendant was arrested in New York State. On March 24, 1958 he was convicted in Orange County, New York, and sentenced to a term of 10 to 15 years. He remained in New York's custody without interruption until January 23, 1963 when ...


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