On appeal from the Superior Court, Law Division, Cape May County.
Brody and Long. The opinion of the court was delivered by Long, J.A.D.
In 1979 after a jury trial, John Riley was convicted of two counts of murder contrary to N.J.S.A. 2A:113-1 and 2 (currently N.J.S.A. 2C:11-2 and 3). He was sentenced to concurrent custodial terms of 30 years with 15 years of parole ineligibility. On February 23, 1982, the convictions were affirmed on appeal and in 1983 the Supreme Court denied Riley's petition for certification. State v. Riley, 93 N.J. 273 (1983). On September 12, 1984, Riley filed a petition alleging several grounds for post-conviction relief including the fact that one of the jurors at his murder trial, George Egbert, had had damaging information about Riley and was prejudiced against him thus denying him the right to a fair trial. After a hearing, on December 20, 1985, the trial judge denied the petition and Riley filed this appeal claiming that
The failure of a juror to disclose information known to him concerning the defendant prior to trial violated defendant's right to trial by impartial jury.
The facts surrounding this issue require explication. During the voir dire of prospective jurors at Riley's trial, Egbert answered all of the questions posed by the judge as to knowledge, information, bias or prejudice in the negative. Subsequent
to the jury selection process Egbert brought himself to the attention of the judge and was individually questioned because he stated that he may have worked with Riley's mother at a restaurant at some time prior to trial. However, neither defense counsel nor the prosecutor objected to Egbert's sitting as a juror because it did not appear that a close relationship existed between him and Riley's mother and he said he could be fair and impartial.
Riley was represented at trial and on appeal by Frank Marcone, an attorney licensed in Pennsylvania, who was admitted pro hac vice for the purpose of defending him. In support of the petition for post-conviction relief on February 15, 1985, Marcone filed a certification with respect to the matter of Egbert:
1. I was the attorney for the defendant, John Riley, at the time of his trial in 1979 for which he is presently incarcerated. The appeal of that conviction was also handled by me. As a result I am fully familiar with the facts set forth herein.
2. At the commencement of the trial in this matter, following the selection of the jury, a juror, George Egbert, brought himself to the attention of the court. His stated reason for doing so was to inform the court that he may have been remotely acquainted with the defendant's mother as a result of having been employed at the Lobster Shack. However, Mr. Egbert was not positive of that fact.
3. Based upon the limited extent of any potential relationship, I did not move to have Mr. Egbert removed from the jury hearing Mr. Riley's case.
4. Subsequent to the time of the trial, I had occasion to see a juror in question, George Egbert. This was not a planned meeting, but occurred spontaneously in connection with my flying.
5. At that time Mr. Egbert stated that he had been aware of the defendant's bad reputation prior to the trial. He also believed that the defendant had assaulted his own mother and sister at times prior to the trial.
6. In sum, Mr. Egbert indicated that the crimes for which the defendant was convicted was the "best thing."
The trial judge held a hearing on the petition on March 29, 1985, after which he disposed of certain other issues not involved in this appeal. However, he declined to rule on the issue of Egbert's bias but asked for a more specific affidavit from ...