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State v. Christie

Decided: June 7, 1966.

THE STATE OF NEW JERSEY, PLAINTIFF-RESPONDENT,
v.
FRANK BRUCE CHRISTIE, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT



Conford, Kilkenny and Leonard.

Per Curiam

A jury in the Mercer County Court found defendant guilty of armed robbery, N.J.S. 2A:141-1 and N.J.S. 2A:151-5. He was sentenced to State Prison for a term of 12 to 15 years on the robbery charge and a term of two to three years additionally for being armed, the latter sentence being suspended. The 12 to 15-year sentence was to run consecutively to defendant's present Bordentown Reformatory sentence.

In his appeal from the judgment of conviction defendant claims that the trial court committed plain and prejudicial error affecting his substantial rights (1) in the manner in which the court propounded questions to him and his witnesses; (2) in admitting evidence of his prior conviction and place of confinement at the time of trial; (3) in charging the jury with reference to the effect of prior convictions, and (4) in the cumulative effect of the combination of trial errors.

The facts are simple. On November 6, 1964, at approximately 2:30 P.M., the Town Finance Company, located on Princeton Avenue in Trenton, was held up by a lone robber, who forcibly took $300 by violence or putting in fear Loretta Stout, secretary of the company, and Charlotte Tobias, an employee. They positively and unshakingly identified defendant at the trial as the perpetrator. He took the stand and denied the accusation. His defense was alibi, and several witnesses were called by him to corroborate that he was elsewhere when the crime was committed.

The jury evidently believed the State's witnesses and disbelieved defendant and his witnesses. His past criminal record was elicited in his cross-examination for the limited purpose of affecting his credibility as a witness. There was sufficient evidence to justify the verdict. The only issue on appeal is whether the alleged trial errors unduly prejudiced the defendant and require a reversal of the judgment.

I.

Defendant quotes several passages from the testimony at trial which he asserts are illustrative of the trial judge's impatience, interference and participation in the trial to his detriment.

As to the charge of judicial impatience, reference is made to six or seven instances in the trial record where the trial judge intervened to stop further questioning or to comment, such as:

1. "She has positively identified this man; she says this is him."

2. "I think she's covered that. She said about three times this is the man. This is the man she identified, stared at him, saw him and identified him."

3. "She has answered it. This is it; that's enough."

4. When a defense witness was asked if she knew where defendant went and answered: "No I don't know where he went. He said he was going home," the trial judge, without any objection by the prosecutor, stated: "That will be stricken. You just said ...


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