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State v. Brewer

Decided: May 29, 1975.

STATE OF NEW JERSEY, PLAINTIFF-RESPONDENT,
v.
TYRONE LEROY BREWER, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT



Carton, Crane and Kole. Crane, J.A.D. (dissenting in part).

Per Curiam

Defendant was convicted of breaking and entering, in violation of N.J.S.A. 2A:94-1; armed robbery, in contravention of N.J.S.A. 2A:141-1 and N.J.S.A. 2A:151-5, and assault with intent to rob, contrary to N.J.S.A. 2A:90-2. On defendant's motion the trial judge merged for sentencing purposes the assault with intent to rob conviction with that for robbery. Defendant was sentenced for the breaking and entering conviction to an indeterminate term at the Youth Reception and Correctional Center, Yardville. On the robbery and the assault convictions he was sentenced to an indeterminate term at the same institution to be served consecutively to the sentence imposed for the break and entry conviction. For being armed while committing the robbery, he was sentenced to an indeterminate term to be served concurrently with the sentence imposed for the other convictions. He appeals.

Defendant contends that the trial judge erroneously limited his examination of one of the victims, Mrs. Vivona, as to an alleged violation of a sequestration order. The contention

is without merit. Both Mr. and Mrs. Vivona had fully testified on the voir dire examination as to identification. Mr. Vivona, also a victim, then testified at trial. During Mrs. Vivona's cross-examination at trial it appeared that she had discussed with him his earlier testimony over the intervening weekend. The judge did not in fact foreclose further examination of the witness as to the claimed violation of the order. He merely precluded the repetition of questions that the witness had already answered. In any event, the record plainly indicated that Mrs. Vivona's trial testimony was not influenced by any weekend conversation with her husband. As a victim she had had the same opportunity to perceive the robbery and defendant as her husband. She had already testified on the voir dire as to out-of-court and in-court identifications of defendant. Thus, her identifications at the trial could not have been altered without being impeached. The violation of the order, if it existed, had no real potential for prejudice to defendant. State v. Smith , 55 N.J. 476 (1969), cert. den. 400 U.S. 949, 91 S. Ct. 232, 27 L. Ed. 2d 256 (1970). Under these circumstances State v. Tillman , 122 N.J. Super. 137 (App. Div. 1973), certif. den. 62 N.J. 428 (1973) is inapposite.

Defendant claims that a mistrial should have been declared after his prior juvenile delinquency record may have been disclosed to the jury during the testimony of one of the State's witnesses, Detective Marhoffer. He had referred to a volume containing a picture of defendant as "a photo album retained by the Youth Section of juvenile offenders." Instead of declaring the requested mistrial, the judge directed defense counsel to submit a request to charge on this issue. That charge was given to the jury. We find it to be eminently fair and in no sense harmful to defendant. We see no basis for interfering with the court's discretionary decision not to grant the extraordinary remedy of a mistrial. See State v. DiRienzo , 53 N.J. 360 (1969). Nor do we find the information thus imparted to the jury, on the record before us, to have

prejudiced defendant in any meaningful way. State v. Macon , 57 N.J. 325 (1971). Defendant's reliance on State v. Samurine , 47 N.J. Super. 172 (App. Div. 1957), rev'd on other grounds, 27 N.J. 322 (1958), thus is misplaced.

Defendant contends that he was prejudiced by the removal of a juror at the conclusion of the trial. The juror was said to have some acquaintance with the father of one of the defense witnesses. She denied it. The court believed her but found that there had been an exchange of greetings between her and the man involved. Nevertheless, since 13 jurors were then on the panel and in order to avoid any possibility of bias, at the request of the State, the court removed her from the final jury that decided the case. We find no error or prejudice to defendant in this discretionary action by the court. Defendant was not deprived thereby of the right to an impartial jury. He was entitled to no more. State v. Belton , 60 N.J. 103 (1972); State v. Jackson , 43 N.J. 148 (1964), cert. den. 379 U.S. 982, 85 S. Ct. 690, 13 L. Ed. 2d 572 (1965). Compare State v. Marchitto , 132 N.J. Super. 511 (App. Div. 1975).

Defendant argues that the judge should have granted his motion for judgment of acquittal on the charge of assault with intent to rob either in its entirety or as it pertained to Kevin Lane and Dwayne Dicks. Our review of the proofs convinces us that the motion was properly denied. State v. Reyes , 50 N.J. 454 (1967). Moreover, the court merged the conviction for this charge with the robbery conviction for sentencing purposes. We have concluded, and the State concedes, that the conviction for the assault with intent to rob should be vacated. See State v. Bono , 128 N.J. Super. 254 (App. Div. 1974), certif. den. 65 N.J. 572 (1974). Thus, there can be no prejudice to defendant by the denial of the acquittal motion.

According to the proofs which the jury reasonably could credit, at the time of the robbery defendant had his hand in his jacket pocket in such a manner as to create a bulge. He contends that under these circumstances the judge should

not have charged the jury that it could find that he was armed. Vivona testified that this bulge, which was thrust in his nose, frightened him. There was no proof that the bulge involved a weapon of any kind or that defendant articulated any intention to use ...


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