On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Atlantic County.
Michels, Ard and Furman. The opinion of the court was delivered by Ard, J.A.D.
[177 NJSuper Page 222] Tried to a jury, defendant was convicted of first degree murder while armed and assault with intent to kill. He was
sentenced to the New Jersey State Prison for a term of life on the murder conviction and a consecutive term of seven to ten years for being armed. At the time of sentencing the trial judge merged the conviction for assault with intent to kill with the conviction for murder. This appeal followed.
Defendant urges as error the following:
POINT I As a result of the televising and broadcasting of the trial defendant was deprived of his Fourteenth and Fifth Amendment rights to due process and his Sixth Amendment right to a fair trial;
POINT II The Supreme Court Guidelines for Experimental TV Coverage fail to provide adequate methods for appellate review;
POINT III The seriousness of a homicide trial should have in and of itself precluded the use of television coverage on an experimental basis;
POINT IV The trial judge failed to comply with the guidelines for the experimental program of television coverage;
POINT V The admission into evidence of the hearsay statements by the victim identifying the defendant as the assailant prejudicially affected the substantial rights of the defendant and possess a clear capacity to bring about an unjust result.
The primary thrust of defendant's appeal in Points I through IV challenges the presence and use of radio and television in the courtroom during the trial. On May 1, 1979 the morning session of the second day of defendant's trial was the subject of coverage by one television camera and two still cameras. In addition, radio coverage was permitted.
This trial was the first in the State to be televised pursuant to a Supreme Court experimental program which relaxed 3 A(7) of the Code of Judicial Conduct prohibiting photographic and electronic media coverage of judicial proceedings. To put the matter in proper perspective, it is essential to understand that only the morning session of the second day of defendant's trial was covered by the aforementioned media. The coverage lasted two hours and consisted of the opening statements of counsel, a Wade hearing concerning the identification testimony of Leon Williams, the testimony of Frank Stites, an investigator who prepared the Williams' photo identification of defendant and the testimony of Phillip Mineer, who diagrammed and photographed the murder scene. The jury was present during the opening
statements and the testimony of Stites and Mineer. The trial took four days. At no time were the jurors photographed or televised. Televised excerpts and commentary on the trial appeared on the 5:30, 6:00 and 11:00 p.m., Channel 6 News programs.
Defendant does not point to a specific incident as proof of prejudice. He argues that by allowing the media coverage there occurred a per se denial of his Fifth and Fourteenth Amendment rights to due process as well as ...