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State v. Young

Decided: December 20, 1965.


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 Proctor, J.


[46 NJ Page 154] John Paul Young and a codefendant, Charles Henry Williams, were tried jointly and convicted of armed robbery before a jury in the Somerset County Court. Only Young appealed. The Appellate Division reversed his conviction because the trial court failed to excise certain references to Young in a confession made by Williams to the

police and admitted into evidence at the trial. State v. Young, 86 N.J. Super. 262 (1965). We granted the State's petition for certification. 44 N.J. 397 (1965).

The State's principal witness was Haywood I. Washington, an employee of the Veterans Hospital at Lyons, New Jersey. He testified that on March 14, 1962, he drove to a bank in Basking Ridge to cash pay checks for himself and 26 of his fellow employees. After cashing the checks he returned to his automobile and laid the bag containing the money on the front seat. At that time another car with three occupants pulled alongside his parked car. One of the three men jumped out, opened the door of Washington's car, pointed a gun at him and demanded the bag of money. Washington submitted and surrendered the bag containing approximately $3,000. He identified Young as the man who threatened him with the gun and took the money, but was unable to recognize the other two occupants of the car.

Young denied his participation in the crime and testified that he was with his girl friend in Orange, New Jersey, at the time of the robbery. His girl friend and her father gave testimony supporting Young's claim.

The State's evidence against Williams consisted primarily of a signed confession given to the police shortly after he was arrested. It named Young and one "Uncle" (who was not apprehended at the time of the trial) as his confederates and contained several references to Young's alleged participation in the robbery.

At the trial Williams recanted his confession alleging that it was coerced, but after a hearing on the issue of voluntariness the trial judge permitted the State to introduce it into evidence. Williams later testified on his own behalf and denied being in Basking Ridge on the day of the robbery.

When the State offered Williams' confession into evidence, Young's attorney requested the court to delete from the confession all references to his client. This motion was denied. At the time the confession was placed in evidence, the judge did instruct the jury that it was in no way evidential against

Young and had probative value only against Williams, and this warning was repeated during the trial and in the judge's charge. When the jury retired to deliberate they took with them Williams' unedited confession.

The sole issue for our determination on this appeal is whether it was reversible error for the trial judge to deny Young's motion to have all references to him excised from Williams' confession prior to its admission into evidence.

It is, of course, beyond dispute that the out-of-court confession of Williams was inadmissible against Young. Delli Paoli v. United States, 352 U.S. 232, 77 S. Ct. 294, 1 L. Ed. 2 d 278, 282-283 (1957). The inadmissibility is predicated upon the rule prohibiting hearsay and upon the fundamental right of every defendant to confront the witnesses against him. State v. Blanchard, 44 N.J. 195, 198 (1965). Nevertheless, it is recognized that the proper administration of criminal justice at times requires that two or more defendants be tried jointly. Our rules permitting joint trials, R.R. 3:4-8 and R.R. 3:5-6, are borrowed from the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure, 18 U.S.C.A., and represent an adjustment of conflicting considerations. State v. Manney, 26 N.J. 362, 366 (1958). Manney quoted with approval from Daley v. United States, 231 F.2d 123, 125 (1 Cir.), cert. denied 351 U.S. 964, 76 S. Ct. 1028, 100 L. Ed. 1484 (1956): "The rules are designed to promote economy and efficiency and to avoid a multiplicity of trials, where these objectives can be achieved without substantial prejudice to the right of defendants to a fair trial." State v. Manney, supra, at p. 366.

It has long been recognized, however, that the admission of one defendant's confession in a joint trial has the potentiality for prejudice to other defendants implicated by that confession. State v. Blanchard, supra, at p. 198; State v. Tassiello, 39 N.J. 282, 296 (1963); Note, 72 Harv. L. Rev. 920, 989-990 (1959); Note, 56 Colum. L. Rev. 1112 (1956). When Williams' confession was ...

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