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State v. Hall

Decided: October 28, 1964.

STATE OF NEW JERSEY, PLAINTIFF,
v.
JAN COLWELL HALL, DEFENDANT



On motion.

G. H. Brown, J.c.c.

Brown

Following his trial and conviction for the crime of seduction, defendant Hall was sentenced on November 27, 1963 to State Prison for a term of four to six years. An appeal from the conviction and sentence is now pending in the Appellate Division.

The prosecutrix married another man on May 4, 1964. Defendant now moves for an order discharging him from the sentence of imprisonment. His application is based on the second paragraph of the pertinent seduction statute (N.J.S. 2A:142-2):

"Any single man over the age of 18 years who, under promise of marriage, has sexual intercourse with a single female of good repute for chastity, under the age of 21 years, she thereby becoming pregnant, is guilty of a high misdemeanor.

If the offender marries the female at any time before sentence, the sentence shall be suspended and he shall be discharged from custody; and if he marries the female after sentence, he shall be discharged from imprisonment."

At no time since the offense, which occurred on April 19, 1962, has defendant offered or agreed to marry the victim. It is argued, though, that her action in marrying someone else has made it impossible for the defendant "to avail himself of the right granted" by the statutory proviso.

Prejudice to defendant allegedly consists in requiring his continued imprisonment after the policy of the statute has

been satisfied. According to his rationale, the legislative purpose is "not simply to punish the defendant and deter him and others from future wrongdoing"; rather, its concern is for the victim -- to convert her status of unmarried pregnancy "into one which is socially acceptable: married and pregnant, or married and a mother." Since the prosecutrix now has the desired social standing, defendant must be discharged, so runs the argument.

There is case law to illuminate in some part the intention of the Legislature in the enactment of N.J.S. 2A:142-2.

Refusal to marry is not an element of the crime -- express or implied. A statutory prototype, enacted in 1876, was before the court in Zabriskie v. State , 43 N.J.L. 640 (E. & A. 1881). The "essential elements" of the offense were itemized without mention of more than a promise to marry. The argument advanced in the case at bar that "defendant's refusal to comply with his promise of marriage is an essential part of the crime of seduction," is not supported by the citation of authority.

Succession of pregnancy is the gist of seduction. Present that condition, induced by a promise of marriage (offered in good faith or not, performed or not), and ...


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