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State v. Chandler

Decided: December 12, 1967.


Antell, J.c.c.


This is a murder case wherein the death penalty will be sought. On this motion defendant applies for dismissal of the indictment on the ground that the grand jury which returned the bill failed to hear evidence tending to establish his guilt.

The court takes judicial notice that during the period between July 13 and 17, 1967 the City of Newark was violently shaken by widespread civil disturbances. Buildings were forcibly entered and vandalized by rioting mobs, stores were looted, incendiary fires burned uncontrolled, firemen were stoned and fired upon, automobiles were wantonly attacked. Traffic was rerouted and transportation was paralyzed. Ambulance and squad car sirens wavered steadily over the turmoil. Damage to private property amounted to millions of dollars. There was death and personal injury, and the suffering was shared by the innocent and the guilty alike.

Outside police support and the National Guard entered the city to restore order. The military presence was evident not only in Newark but throughout the county. Troop convoys passed through suburban communities to and from supply points, and armed guardsmen in battle dress were detached to defend vulnerable stations from possible assault. Gun battles were waged on the streets and in houses between lawless civilians and police-military units, with injury and loss of life to men, women and children. More than 1,000 arrests were made. A state of emergency was proclaimed by the Governor and a curfew imposed on the city.

On July 17 the grand jury then sitting in the county was convened and specially instructed by the acting assignment judge concerning riot-connected charges likely to be brought before it.

Throughout the five convulsive days and nights communication media chronicled the furor in great detail, not only locally but throughout the United States and in foreign

countries, dilating on the prevalence of gunfire, the pillaging of liquor supplies, and the burning of buildings. Major networks even televised actual sequences of the depredations in progress. The commercial life of the city faltered and stopped. Hardly a resident of the county was untouched in one way or another by the catastrophe or felt secure from its consequences. Ominous rumors were repeated. Bitter and inflammatory statements were publicly made. A mood of great public anxiety arose and mingled with the smoke that shrouded the city.

Against the background of these unprecedented events the following facts, relevant to this application, either appear of record or have been furnished by the prosecutor in response to a demand for particulars served by defendant.

The crime, a homicide by shooting, is alleged to have been committed on July 14, 1967 at 255 Fairmount Avenue, within the heart of the riot area. Defendant was identified and arrested by police authorities on July 17. On July 18 he was interrogated by the police and on July 19, the matter was presented to the grand jury. The indictment charging him with murder was returned the same day. We have not been told how many other matters were also considered and acted upon that day.

In reply to demand No. 8 the State furnished the names of four eye witnesses to the alleged homicide, three of whom reside in Newark, the fourth in Jamaica, New York. Demand No. 9, which calls upon the State to furnish "the names and addresses of all those who have relevant information of the homicide alleged in the indictment," is answered by the State with the names of three more persons, two of whom reside in Newark, the third being Dr. Edwin Albano, the county medical examiner. Responding to demand No. 10, calling for the names of whatever witnesses testified before the grand jury, the names of Detective Charles Accocella, a prosecutor's detective, and Dr. Albano were given. During oral argument the State acknowledged that Dr. Albano's name was erroneously supplied, and that only Detective

Accocella appeared before the grand jury. Accocella's name was not offered by the State either as an eye witness to the crime in answer to demand No. 8 or as one having "relevant information" in answer to demand No. 9. In reply to demands Nos. 16 and 17 the State furnished the names of police officers to whom it alleges defendant made oral admissions and gave a written statement. But these names are not given in answer to No. 9, calling for names of persons having relevant information.

At the outset of its term of service the grand jury was instructed by the assignment judge that it "is your duty to find indictments in proper cases, but also to protect innocent persons from having unfounded criminal ...

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