On appeal from Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Ocean County.
Pressler, Bilder and Skillman. The opinion of the court was delivered by Skillman, J.A.D.
Defendant was indicted for murder, in violation of N.J.S.A. 2C:11-3a(1) or N.J.S.A. 2C:11-3a(2). The prosecutor sought the death penalty. Defendant claimed that he was insane at the time of the crime or, alternatively, that he lacked the mental capacity to have acted "purposely" or "knowingly." A jury found defendant guilty of murder but was unable to reach agreement regarding imposition of the death penalty. The trial court sentenced defendant to life imprisonment, with 30 years of parole ineligibility.
The brief filed by defendant's appellate counsel makes the following arguments:
POINT I: THE PROSECUTOR'S SUMMATION EXCEEDED THE BOUNDS OF PROPRIETY, WARRANTING A REVERSAL.
POINT II: THE TRIAL COURT ERRED IN FAILING TO INSTRUCT THE JURY REGARDING MANSLAUGHTER AS A LESSER INCLUDED OFFENSE OF MURDER.
POINT III: THE PROCESS OF DEATH QUALIFICATION IN THE PRESENT CASE DEPRIVED THE DEFENDANT OF HIS RIGHT TO A FAIR AND IMPARTIAL TRIAL AS GUARANTEED BY THE NEW JERSEY STATE CONSTITUTION.
Defendant filed a supplemental pro se brief which makes the following additional argument:
POINT I: DEFENDANT WAS DENIED THE EFFECTIVE ASSISTANCE OF COUNSEL IN CONTRAVENTION OF HIS SIXTH AMENDMENT RIGHTS UNDER THE UNITED STATES CONSTITUTION, WHEN COUNSEL FAILED TO INTERPOSE AN OBJECTION AS TO THE RACIAL COMPOSITION OF BOTH THE VENIRE AND THE PETIT JURY.
We conclude that the judgment of conviction must be reversed and the case remanded for a new trial because the trial court failed to charge the jury as to the lesser included offenses of aggravated manslaughter and manslaughter. We find it unnecessary to consider the other issues raised by defendant because they are unlikely to arise at a new trial.
The killing occurred shortly after 8:00 a.m. on March 2, 1984. A neighbor observed defendant and his wife drive away in their van. Approximately 15 to 20 minutes later, defendant came to the neighbor's door. He was drenched with blood. He said to the neighbor: "Please get help for me. Call the police . . . I just did something terrible." Defendant then asked the neighbor's daughter to go down to the van and help his wife. The neighbor's daughter ran downstairs and found the victim's bloody body with a knife protruding from her neck.*fn1 An autopsy later disclosed that the ...