Both defendants here move for a new trial pursuant to R. 3:20-1; they also move for an order entering judgments of acquittal on the three counts of the indictment on which the jury returned verdicts of guilty.
Defendants were found guilty of (1) cruelty to Ana Hofford, (2) cruelty to Juliet Hofford and (3) possession of controlled dangerous substance [paregoric and/or oxazepam].
The standard to be applied by the trial court on a motion for a judgment of acquittal is the same whether the motion is made at the end of the State's case or at the end of the entire case. State v. Kluber , 130 N.J. Super. 336, 341-342 (App. Div. 1974), certif. den. 67 N.J. 72 (1975). This standard is set forth in State v. Reyes , 50 N.J. 454 (1967), as follows:
The broad test for determination of such an application is whether the evidence at that point is sufficient to warrant a conviction of the charge involved. R.R. 3:7-6. More specifically, the question the trial court must determine is whether, viewing the State's evidence in its entirety, be that evidence direct or circumstantial, and giving the State the benefit of all its favorable testimony as well as all the favorable inferences which reasonably could be drawn therefrom, a reasonable jury could find guilt of the charge beyond a reasonable doubt. [at 458-459]
The obligation of the court is to consider the State's proofs in the light of the foregoing standard. State v. Reyes,
The trial court is not to attempt to weigh the State's evidence -- the court is not concerned with the worth, nature or extent (beyond a scintilla) of the State's evidence, but only with its existence viewed most favorably to the State. State v. Kluber, supra; State v. Muniz , 150 N.J. Super. 436, 375 A.2d 1234 (App. Div. 1977).
No consideration is to be given to any evidence or reasonable inferences to be drawn therefrom adduced on defendants' case. State v. Gora , 148 N.J. Super. 582, 596 (App. Div. 1977); State v. Lemken , 136 N.J. Super. 310, 314 (App. Div. 1975).
Here the State presented testimony of Bart Cox, a patrolman with the Wall Township Police Department; Nancy Blunck of the Wall Township First Aid Squad; Richard Coumbis, a forensic scientist; Dr. Donald Shields, the chief pathologist at Pt. Pleasant Hospital; Dr. Richard Reutter, who treated Juliet Hofford at Jersey Shore Medical Center, and Joan Blum and Lynn Decker Crue, both of the Division of Youth & Family Services.
The testimony elicited from these witnesses tended to establish that late in the morning on May 12, 1976 defendants sought help for Ana Hofford who was having difficulty breathing.
In response to this request for help, initially Officer Cox and later Nancy Blunck arrived at the residence in Wall Township where the Hoffords were staying. While at the house it was determined, as a result of questions directed to defendants, that a possible cause of the child's difficulties might be paregoric, which had been administered by defendants to Ana the night before.
After mouth-to-mouth resuscitation was administered to Ana without success, the Wall Township First Aid Squad brought her to Pt. Pleasant Hospital.
Shortly after Ana Hofford was brought to the hospital the First Aid Squad responded to a second request for assistance at the house where the Hoffords were staying. Upon their arrival the First Aid Squad found that Ana Hofford's twin sister, Juliet, was also having difficulty breathing. About an hour after Ana Hofford arrived at Pt. Pleasant Hospital, Juliet Hofford was brought to that hospital.
Subsequent questioning of defendants in an attempt to determine what caused the children's conditions in order to facilitate treatment revealed that both children had been given doses of paregoric the previous night.
Ana Hofford was dead on arrival at Pt. Pleasant Hospital. Juliet Hofford, although in serious condition on arrival at Pt. Pleasant Hospital, was successfully treated after transfer to Jersey Shore Medical Center, and subsequently released from that hospital.
An autopsy and subsequent tests of Ana Hofford revealed the presence of oxazepam and morphine in her vital organs. Oxazepam is a tranquilizer; paregoric contains morphine and is used for treatment of a variety of minor ailments.
Paregoric is a controlled dangerous substance prescribed in Schedule III by virtue of N.J.S.A. 24:21-7(f)(8).
Oxazepam is a prescribed controlled dangerous substance listed in Schedule IV (N.J.S.A. 24:21-8) pursuant to authority granted to the Commissioner by N.J.S.A. 24:21-3. See N.J.A.C. 8:65-10.1.
The amount of morphine contained in the liver was determined to be significant in that it could account for the cause of death. Further, there was evidence from which the jury could find that morphine and oxazepam in combination have an "additive" effect, that is, the cumulative effect would be greater than the sum of the two elements.
There was further testimony that Juliet Hofford had responded affirmatively to NARCAN, a narcotic antagonist. This response was manifested by her revival from a comatose state after its administration. There was also testimony that ...