Halpern, Matthews and Bischoff.
Defendant Samuel L. Clark appeals from a conviction of second-degree murder and the imposition of a 24-25-year consecutive sentence.
Defendant was indicted for the April 27, 1971 murder of one Robert Sayles. The first trial of the indictment terminated in a mistrial when the jury failed to agree on a verdict. A second trial, before a different judge and a jury, resulted in a verdict of guilty of second-degree murder. A motion for a new trial was denied. Subsequently, defendant was sentenced to 24 to 25 years in State Prison, to be served consecutively to sentences of 30 years for rape and a consecutive 5-7-year term for robbery, then being served.
While this appeal was pending the State petitioned the Supreme Court for certification, but its application was denied.
At the time of Sayles' death he and defendant were inmates at Trenton State Prison, then confined to ward one of the prison hospital. Sayles' death was discovered at 7:02 A.M. on April 27, 1971. The cause of death was determined by the deputy county medical examiner to have been asphyxia due to suffocation by ligature or strangulation. Time of death was estimated between 1 and 4 A.M. The State produced testimony from which the jury could find that Sayles' assailant was a ward one patient, and that the strangulation did not occur in bed.
Ward one is a large, rectangular room with screened and barred windows at each end. Entrance is gained through a sliding, metal grill gate which is padlocked during the night. The guard on duty possesses the only key. The ward contains 12 beds. A bathroom area, containing an enclosed toilet and a curtained tub, faces beds 11 and 12.
On the night of April 26-27, 1971 ward one was locked between midnight and 5:30 A.M. The night nurse made her final evening rounds at midnight. The deceased spoke to her at this time. After the nurse left the ward the correction officer immediately locked the gate. Although the nurse returned at 1 A.M. to order defendant and inmate Pryor to bed, she did not reenter the ward. According to the correction officer the gate remained closed until 5:30 A.M. when morning medication was administered. At this time both the correction officer and nurse noticed that Sayles was in his bed in the left corner of the room. He was completely covered, and no movement was detected. He was in the same position when he was found dead at 7 A.M. He was dressed in a white prison-issue pajama top and yellow "civilian" pajama bottoms. The pajama bottoms were streaked with dirt and pulled below the hip bone. The pajama legs were not crumpled, as normally occurs during sleep.
On April 26-27, 1971 seven inmates were confined to ward one. Libertat Nieves was assigned bed 3; William Fuller, bed 6; Arthur Daniels, bed 7; William Miles, bed 8; defendant Samuel Clark, bed 9; Leon Pryor, bed 11, and Robert Sayles, bed 12. Several of the patients, including Miles, Fuller and Daniels, were confined to bed. Nieves was described as one who shunned the companionship of others. Pryor was hospitalized for treatment of a post-duodenal ulcer and was administered sleep inducing medication. Defendant was receiving treatment for a recurrent knee injury but was not confined to bed.
Daniels and Pryor testified that they socialized with Sayles and defendant, sometimes playing baseball with a sponge wrapped tightly in belts of the hospital-issue terry robes and with defendant's cane. They last played that game during the evening of April 26. The following morning defendant's terry cloth belt, used the previous evening to wrap the sponge, was missing.
Pryor admitted a single homosexual encounter with the deceased. Daniels testified that defendant constantly harassed
Sayles by slapping him, prodding him with a cane and repeated arguments. Although Daniels said that he believed the harassment to be in jest, he testified that it was difficult for him to distinguish Clark's teasing and anger. Pryor testified to a knife-wielding ...