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State v. Jenkins

Decided: November 25, 1987.

STATE OF NEW JERSEY, PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT,
v.
WILLIE JENKINS, DEFENDANT -- RESPONDENT



On appeal from Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Essex County.

J. H. Coleman and Havey. The opinion of the court was delivered by Coleman, J.h., P.J.A.D.

Coleman

The core question presented in this appeal is whether the defendant can now challenge, in a petition for post-conviction relief, the admissibility of evidence presented at trial on Fourth Amendment grounds. We granted the State leave to appeal an order dated June 10, 1987 which granted defendant an evidentiary hearing to determine (1) if there was a valid arrest warrant in defendant's name on September 29, 1976 when he was arrested in his home, and (2) the nature and extent of evidence which might have been tainted by an illegal arrest. For the reasons which follow, we reverse.

The facts essential to our decision are not in dispute. On September 29, 1976 defendant Willie Jenkins was arrested in

his Newark home. Jenkins was a suspect in a September 27, 1976 criminal episode where three men forced their way into the Newark Tobacco and Candy Company and murdered the company's manager. The three assailants also robbed the manager of cash, checks and two cartons of Kool cigarettes. The getaway car used by the perpetrators was registered in the defendant's name. Following the defendant's arrest, he was transported from his home to a Newark police station. It is now conceded that at the time of defendant's arrest, the police did not have a valid warrant to arrest him.

Subsequent to defendant's arrest, the police discovered the getaway car parked two blocks from defendant's home. The police seized the vehicle and inventoried its contents finding a box of Kool cigarettes with the tax identification number of the Newark Tobacco and Candy Company. While at the police station, defendant was read his Miranda warnings. After first denying participation in the robbery and murder, defendant later gave a detailed, written and signed confession admitting his participation in the murder and robbery.

On November 18, 1976 Essex County Indictment # 946-76 was filed charging defendant with murder contrary to N.J.S.A. 2A:113-1 (Count One), possession of a firearm, contrary to N.J.S.A. 2A:151-5 (Count Two); robbery, contrary to N.J.S.A. 2A:141-1 (Count Three); and armed robbery, contrary to N.J.S.A. 2A:151-5 (Count Four). Prior to trial defendant made a motion to suppress evidence found in his car after his arrest. This motion was denied. Neither before nor during an ensuing jury trial did defendant challenge the validity of his arrest. He was found guilty on all counts. Defendant was sentenced to life for the felony murder and a consecutive five to seven year term for being armed.

A notice of appeal was filed on June 9, 1977. In an unpublished opinion dated November 19, 1979, we stated:

On this appeal defendant argues for the first time that his arrest may have been illegal and therefore his confession, given while in unconstitutional custody, may have been the fruits of that illegal arrest. He seeks a remand to

determine whether there was a valid arrest warrant issued for his involvement in this case since he argues the testimony below concerning the existence of an outstanding warrant for his arrest on another matter was insufficient to provide a basis for the trial judge to conclude that his arrest was legal. [ State v. Jenkins, A-3864-76, slip op. at 5 (App.Div.1979)]

We rejected all of defendant's contentions and affirmed the judgment of conviction. The Supreme Court denied certification on March 17, 1980. ...


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