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State v. Gillison

New Jersey Superior Court, Law Division

Decided: September 21, 1977.


Di Buono, A.j.s.c.

DI Buono

[153 NJSuper Page 66] The testimony of Duane Hemmings before the Union County grand jury appears to establish that on January 25, 1977 he was the victim of a robbery during which approximately $1.75 was taken from him by two persons, one of whom allegedly possessed a knife. Hemmings represented to the grand jury that after the robbery he identified a person at police headquarters as one of two persons who had robbed him. The following are pertinent questions directed to Hemmings before the grand jury and his responses:

[153 NJSuper Page 67]

Q. Now, did you have occasion to see the person later?

A. Only in police headquarters. I had to say it was him or not.

Q. Was one of the persons who had did this to you a Michael Tillison? [Emphasis supplied].

A. I guess so. If that's his name, I don't know him.

Q. But the people at police headquarters were the two persons who had done it to you?

A. Yes.

An indictment was returned against Michael Gillison , charging him with violation of N.J.S.A. 2A:141-1 (robbery), N.J.S.A. 2A:119-1 (larceny), N.J.S.A. 2A:151-5 (while armed), and N.J.S.A. 2A:151-41(c) (possession of a weapon).

Defendant brings this motion to dismiss the indictment pursuant to R. 3:10-1 and R. 3:10-2, asserting that the evidence before the grand jury was insufficient to establish that defendant, Michael Gillison, was identified by the victim as being the same person named in the indictment.

The issue presented to the court, therefore, is whether the grand jury actually indicted defendant, Michael Gillison. In support of his motion to dismiss the indictment, defendant contends that the indictment does not refer to himself, but rather refers to a different person, namely one Michael Tillison. "To adequately present the State's case," defendant argues, "some evidence [before the grand jury] identifying the defendant as the person identified as the perpetrator was essential. Without such evidence, the Grand Jury could have determined that a crime was committed but could not properly determine against whom an indictment should be returned."

The question presented here is what is the necessary process for the determination of a specifically identifiable person as the one accused. Judge Learned Hand has stated:

Identity is ordinarily proved prima facie by similarity of name, though that may be answered by showing that there are two persons of the same name. When the names are not alike, other proof is

[153 NJSuper Page 68]

necessary; we may assume that the issue is always open, and that the prosecution has the burden of proof.

[ U.S. ex rel. Mouquin v. Hecht , 22 F.2d 264 (2d Cir. 1927), cert. den. 276 U.S. 621, 48 S. Ct. 301, 72 L. Ed. 736 (1928)]

The burden of proof remains solely upon the State, at all times, to prove to the satisfaction of a petit jury, beyond a reasonable doubt, that the defendant ultimately named in the indictment is the defendant appearing before the court and the individual who committed the crime in question. The purposes of an indictment are: "to enable a defendant to know that against which he must defend; to prevent an accusation in derogation of our interdiction of double jeopardy; and to preclude substitution by a trial jury of an offense for which the grand jury has not indicted." State v. Spano , 128 N.J. Super. 90, 92 (App. Div. 1973), aff'd 64 N.J. 307 (1974), paraphrasing State v. Williamson , 31 N.J. 16, 18 (1959).

It is the opinion of the court that the alleged perpetrator was clearly identified before the grand jury by the alleged victim although he was misnamed.

The court further finds that the indictment withstands the test as enunciated in State v. Spano, supra , and therefore whether a minor misnomer is before the grand jury or in the indictment is of little consequence. An indictment should not be dismissed for minor misnomers. In Hubbard v. State , 62 N.J.L. 628, 629 (1898), it was held that an indictment changed from "Armstead Herbert" to "Armstead Hubbard" would be sufficient since a motion to amend would prevail. The court said:

The indictments, although the defendant is misnamed therein, are no less valid indictments, under paragraph 9, article 1, of the amendments to the constitution of this State. [Art. 1, par. 7 of the 1947 Constitution], which provides that 'no person shall be held to answer for a criminal offense unless on the presentment or indictment of the grand jury.' [at 700].

See also, U.S. v. Fawcett , 115 F.2d 764 (3 Cir. 1940) for

[153 NJSuper Page 69]

an approval of a change from "Harry Nelson" to "Harry Nelson otherwise known as Leon Wilson".

A similar issue was presented in the case of Curtis v. Warden of Green Haven Prison , 329 F. Supp. 333 (E.D.N.Y., 1971), aff'd 463 F.2d 84 (2 Cir. 1972). In that case the accused was tried and convicted of criminally selling a dangerous drug. He brought a habeas corpus proceeding claiming that he was denied due process because he never was actually indicted for the crime.

The indictment upon which Curtis was convicted charged "Henry Doe" with having sold the drugs. Two of the three detectives on the case testified before the grand jury but neither detective supplied it with any description of the accused.

The undercover detective testified:

Q. Do you know his name?

A. First name only, Henry.

Q. Have you as of yet learned the identity [ sic ] of his last name?

A. No sir I haven't.

Q. Not as of today?

A. No sir.

The court concluded that

The court continued:

The court later (at 335) recites the decision rule used in Curtis:

1. Was the defendant the person whom the Grand Jury indicted;

2. May that fact be shown by extrinsic evidence, where neither the descriptive matter in the indictment, nor the testimony presented to the Grand Jury taken with the form of indictment suffices unaided to identify the accused person.

The latter part of the decision rule, concerning the extrinsic evidence, is further particularized. The criteria are:

In U.S. v. Hecht, supra , 22 E. 2d at p. 265, Judge Learned Hand stated that "the jurors do not indict the man who committed the crime, but him described in the evidence before them." Thus the person the grand jurors intend to indict is the person indicted. The meaning of the grand jurors

The motion to dismiss the indictment is denied.


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