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State v. Wade

Decided: April 13, 1971.

STATE OF NEW JERSEY, PLAINTIFF-RESPONDENT,
v.
NATHANIEL WADE, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT



Lewis, Matthews and Mintz. The opinion of the court was delivered by Lewis, P.J.A.D.

Lewis

Defendant Nathaniel Wade appeals from an order of the Passaic County Court, denying his petition for post-conviction relief which was predicated upon the ground that his conviction was "illegal and unconstitutional" for the reason that he was precluded from cross-examining his co-defendant, John Wade, regarding an alleged extra-judicial confession inculpating defendant.

Defendant and his brother, John Wade, were jointly indicted, tried and convicted for the murder of Harry Eckstein. The facts pertaining to the crime as well as to the trial itself are cumulatively detailed in the cases of Wade v. Yeager , 415 F.2d 570 (3 Cir.), cert. den. 396 U.S. 974, 90 S. Ct. 466, 24 L. Ed. 2d 443 (1969) [herein Wade ];

Wade v. Yeager , 245 F. Supp. 62 (D.N.J. 1964), and State v. Wade , 40 N.J. 27, cert. den. 375 U.S. 846, 84 S. Ct. 100, 11 L. Ed. 2d 73 (1963). However, reference to some of the basic background facts will be helpful.

The State's theory of defendant's culpability, as set forth in the proofs and as stated in the trial court's charge, was that defendant aided and abetted his brother in the commission of a robbery which claimed the life of its victim. The State charged that on March 3, 1960 the Wade brothers drove from Connecticut to Paterson, New Jersey to meet James Knox, with whom they conspired to rob Harry Eckstein, a local taverner, who also conducted a check-cashing business for the patrons of his father's tavern.

Shortly before noon on the day of the robbery, Eckstein, having just returned from the bank with a bank envelope containing $5,200 in cash, was accosted by John within a few feet of his father's tavern. In the ensuing scuffle, Eckstein was shot and killed. Defendant, who was then driving the "getaway car" around the corner, drove by the front of the tavern when John saw him, jumped into the car, took over the wheel and drove away. A bystander, Harrison Tyler, saw a car pulling away from the scene and noticed the first two digits of "21" on the blue and white license plates. On the basis of this information, the police commenced pursuit of the car.

In the course of their flight from New Jersey, the Wade's car crashed into a retaining wall at the George Washington Bridge; they abandoned the car and fled on foot. Both of the Wades were seriously injured in their subsequent attempts to avoid apprehension and each was hospitalized after his capture. Most of the stolen money was found strewn along their escape route.

On March 22, 1960 defendant signed a confession which he repudiated at trial on the ground that it was induced by demerol, a sedative drug administered by a doctor to ease his pain, which so critically impaired his will and capacity for self-determination that he was unaware of having confessed

to the crime. John was also alleged to have confessed to the crime, but he, too, repudiated his "confession," insisting that he never made the unsigned confession of March 9, 1960 which the State introduced into evidence as his acknowledgedly true, voluntary and complete statement.

Defendant denied participating in the robbery, and John claimed he was acting in self-defense when Eckstein was killed. They testified that they had come to Paterson for separate business dealings -- defendant to purchase an interest in a tavern, and John to sell a revolver. John stated that he had agreed to sell Eckstein the gun, and when the latter refused to pay after delivery, a quarrel occurred and decedent drew the gun which accidentally discharged during a struggle. Defendant testified that he was driving around the corner near the tavern when he noticed the scuffling and pulled up, whereupon John got behind the wheel and drove away.

On March 12, 1961, two days after the completion of a 27-day trial, the jury found the Wades guilty of first degree murder with a recommendation of life imprisonment. On his appeal to our ...


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