On appeal from Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Mercer County.
Furman, Long and Scalera. The opinion of the court was delivered by Scalera, J.A.D.
Defendant appeals from his convictions for murder, contrary to N.J.S.A. 2C:11-3 a(1) and (2) (count 1) and possession of a weapon for an unlawful purpose, contrary to N.J.S.A. 2C:39-4d (count 2). After the conviction on count 2 was merged, he was sentenced to life imprisonment with a 30 year period of parole ineligibility and ordered to pay $25 to the Violent Crimes Compensation Board.
The evidence produced at trial indicated that on July 15, 1984, twenty-four year old Frank Randolph (Frank) was fatally stabbed during a fight involving numerous participants which erupted outside of the Prospect Village apartments in Trenton. An outdoor birthday party was being given there by Donald Wilson (Wilson) at his mother's home for his four year old daughter. Several members of the victim's family were invited
guests. Apparently, Darryl McKinney (McKinney), the nephew of defendant William Bishop, had previously fathered a child with Darlene Randolph (Darlene), the wife of Harvey Randolph, the victim's brother. McKinney and Harvey Randolph (Harvey) had had several arguments regarding Darlene in the past, including a fight just two weeks prior to this incident.
Frank was one of the guests who attended the Wilson party that day. McKinney was hanging around outside of his apartment located in the same complex, with Maurice Bird (Reecie). He called Frank over from across the lawn and after they exchanged some heated words, eventually a fight ensued. It then escalated into a general melee involving some 15 to 20 persons from the party and neighborhood.
Anthony Shields (Shields), the victim's cousin, saw the fight start and ran to his cousin Willie Randolph (Willie) for help. By the time Willie arrived at the fight scene it had moved from the lawn area into the street. Willie was the only witness to the actual stabbing of the victim by the defendant. He recounted that as he and Shields approached, people began fighting with them thereby keeping them from reaching Frank. Meanwhile other persons were "jumping" and beating Frank as he was on the ground. Willie saw Frank get back onto his feet and also saw the defendant with a knife, standing within the group that was kicking Frank. He described the incident as follows:
There was people everywhere. There were people beating him, fighting him. And, this guy approached him with the knife, and I was trying to get to the guy before the guy got to him. Any everybody was hollering, he's got a knife, but Frank was weak and people had beat him so bad he couldn't even hardly stand up. This guy just stuck him.
Willie also testified that he had seen the defendant standing to the side of the fight for about ten to fifteen minutes before he joined in. After the defendant stabbed Frank, Willie spun him around and kicked him in the chest causing him to fall to the ground. The knife fell out of his hand but the defendant retrieved it.
Anthony Randolph (Anthony), another cousin of the victim, saw Willie kick the defendant to the ground and viewed the knife fall out of his hand. Anthony's girlfriend had yelled a warning to him about the weapon. He testified that the defendant had actually chased after him, "sticking" [him] with the knife." Robert Carl Randolph, also a cousin, saw the defendant come from a nearby house with a piece of metal in his hand, which he assumed was a knife. He and another man attempted to restrain the defendant as he came off the porch because he appeared to be "out of control." However, defendant broke loose from their hold and entered the fray. Wilson also saw the defendant run from the porch of the house where he was standing and get into the fight at a time when Frank was being pummeled by McKinney and Reecie.
After he was stabbed, Frank fell down along side a parked car. Several of his cousins picked him up and ultimately took him to Mercer County Hospital where he was ...