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State v. Leach

Decided: June 25, 1976.

STATE OF NEW JERSEY, PLAINTIFF,
v.
LAWRENCE R. LEACH, JR., DEFENDANT



Gilmore, J.J.D.R.C., Temporarily Assigned.

Gilmore

This case has been presented for disposition in a highly unusual manner. After the waiver of a trial by jury both the State and the defense offered no other evidence excepting the following stipulation

That on March 19, 1974, the defendant, Lawrence R. Leach, Jr. possessed a firearm, colt 9mm semi-automatic pistol and that he did not have a permit to purchase, acquire, obtain or receive it and that he is not a licensed dealer. That the said weapon was received from P.O. Marvin Cooper for purposes of repairing same.

There seems to exist no valid reason why the matter should not be disposed of in this expeditious manner. In addition

to mutual request of both counsel, defendant was advised of what he is waiving and personally asked the court to decide the matter in its present form of presentation. Initially, it is observable that stipulations as to evidence of vital importance are not unique in criminal cases. State v. McDavitt , 62 N.J. 36 (1972) (polygraph test results); State v. Taylor , 139 N.J. Super. 301 (App. Div. 1976); State v. Nobles , 79 N.J. Super. 442 (App. Div. 1963) (statement of accomplice); State v. Marchese , 14 N.J. 16 (1953) (stipulation amending indictment).

Can the entire factual picture be stipulated? The nearest case in point is State v. Laws , 50 N.J. 159 (1967). There defendant in a murder prosecution offered to stipulate all facts as to the robbery and killing except the identity of the offenders. The State rejected the exceptance in the offer and the court sustained such rejection. The court's language did not negate such a procedure where full consent and unequivocal agreement was given by both parties.

And so the case will be decided with the court myopically viewing only that contained within the perimeter of the stipulation. While a court may draw all legitimate inferences from a stipulated factual situation; Hood v. Francis , 137 N.J. Eq. 200, 203 (Ch. 1945), I prefer to accept the words at their face value. Credibility will play no part in their assessment, nor will weight be a significant factor.

The question posed: Is defendant, who possesses a gun for the purpose of repairing same, guilty of a crime if he is not a licensed dealer or does not have a permit to purchase?

At oral argument there was amplification of the facts. It appears that the gun was delivered by the owner (who was authorized to have same) to defendant at the latter's home. Defendant had in fact accomplished repairs to the weapon when this case was born.

The Gun Control Law (L. 1966, c. 60; N.J.S.A. 2A:151-1 et seq.) was adjudicated as constitutional in Burton v. Sills , 53 N.J. 86 (1968). Its passage was prefaced

by public hearing in the Assembly (March 2, 1966); many suggestions were submitted by a group of sportsmen known as "The Citizens Committee for Firearms Legislation." This historical reference demonstrates that all concerned gave the problem more than a passing nod. All took a good look at the proposed law from many areas of focus. As a matter of fact, the Governor stated he was "particularly proud of the legislators who stood up to the vehement and often abusive opposition to this measure."

Turning our eyes again to the legislation before us we see no express provision denominating a "gun repairman." Recognition of the fact that guns ...


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