King, J.c.c. Temporarily Assigned.
[130 NJSuper Page 15] This is a motion for a new trial following convictions of defendants Charles Reddy and Robert Reddy for murder in the first degree. On July 21, 1972, shortly before midnight, four men armed with a shot gun, two hand guns and assorted knives robbed the bartender of the Twilight Zone Cafe at Second and Beckett Streets in Camden, New Jersey. During the course of the robbery one of the patrons was shot and killed. About an hour after the robbery four men were apprehended by the police in North Philadelphia as a result of an all points bulletin. The vehicle being used by the four men at the time of arrest matched the description of the vehicle seen fleeing the scene of the crime by a patron of the bar. The cash proceeds of the armed robbery were found in the car, as well as several distinctive receipts which vendors had given the operator of the cafe on the day of the crime. Weapons fitting the description of the arms used at the scene were also found in the car. One of these weapons, a .38 police special, was later identified as the murder weapon by ballistic testing at the State Police Crime Laboratory. At the time the car was stopped and the four men arrested, defendant Robert Reddy
was the operator and defendant Charles Reddy was the occupant of the right-hand front seat. The back seat was occupied by Albert Locke and a fourth man. In this prosecution Charles Reddy and Robert Reddy were convicted of murder in the first degree and had been sentenced to life in prison prior to the return day of this motion. Approximately one year before the trial in this case on May 9, 1973 Locke pleaded guilty to the charge of murder and is presently serving a 20-30-year sentence in State Prison. The fourth man has not yet been tried and is still resisting extradition to this jurisdiction from the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.
This trial commenced on Monday, May 20, 1974, with jury selection which lasted 1 I/2 days. On Tuesday, May 21, 1974, the trial continued with openings and the presentation of evidence. The evidence included proof that Locke and the fourth man were arrested with the Reddys and were seated in the back of the car when it was stopped by the police. On Wednesday afternoon an article appeared in the Camden Courier Post. The Courier is the leading local newspaper in the Camden County and Southern New Jersey area, with an average daily circulation of about 125,000 copies. The article related essentially the facts stated in the prosecutor's opening statement describing the offense and the manner of apprehension in Philadelphia shortly after the crime. Unfortunately, the article also disclosed that codefendant Locke, who was apprehended with the Reddy defendants while in the alleged "get away" car, had pleaded guilty to the murder charge on May 9, 1973:
In addition to the Reddy brothers, the policeman also arrested Albert Locke, 26, of the 500 block of S. 5th Street, and Robert Colclough, 27, of the 1700 block of Greene Street, both of Philadelphia.
Colclough is still in custody in Philadelphia, fighting extradition to New Jersey. Locke pleaded guilty to the murder on May 9, 1973. [ Courier Post, May 22, 1974, page 71]
The jury had been cautioned about media exposure at the beginning of the trial, and the caution was periodically renewed. The jury was not sequestered and, of course, there was
a reasonable possibility of their exposure to the article. On Thursday morning, May 23, 1974, defense counsel brought the article to the court's attention in the form of a motion for a mistrial. The court heard the motion and reserved decision. At this point there was a very real possibility that Locke might testify for either the defendant or the State. If Locke did testify, the fact of his plea as well as the circumstances of his apprehension would have most likely been brought before the jury and the possible prejudicial effect of the article would have been obviated, with the safeguards of confrontation and cross-examination. In State v. Gardner, 54 N.J. 37 (1969), the court stated:
Because Gilchrist [a codefendant] testified in the instant case, and reiterated the evidence previously introduced through the testimony on his out-of-court oral admissions (including what the trial court had deleted), the Young [ State v. Young, 46 N.J. 152] and Bruton [ Bruton v. United States, 391 U.S. 123, 88 S. Ct. 1620, 20 L. Ed. 2d 476] cases are inapplicable. * * * Gilchrist's decision to take the stand and testify on the subject matter of the oral admissions attributed to him subjected him to cross-examination by his co-defendants. It follows, therefore, that Gardner and Mason have been adequately afforded their Sixth Amendment right of confrontation, and any alleged error committed by the introduction of the oral admission was cured. * * * [at 44]
On Thursday, May 23, 1974, Locke was brought to the local County Jail from State's prison. He was interviewed by the prosecutor who declined to call him as a witness. On Monday, May 27, 1974, the prosecutor rested. After some debate defendants also declined to call Locke as a witness and Locke was then returned to State Prison. Defendants also declined to take the stand, offered one alibi witness, and rested on ...