The Paterson Municipal Court complaint which is the subject of this motion to dismiss with prejudice arose out of an investigation by the Paterson Police Department and the Passaic County Prosecutor's Office into allegations that defendant, Jefferson Fullard, murdered John Wesley Brown on or about December 23, 1989. The Paterson Police, after obtaining sworn statements from witnesses, issued the complaint on January 5, 1990, charging defendant with murder as well as possession of a weapon and tampering with evidence.
While the parties are in agreement as to the propriety of dismissing the complaint against defendant, the gravamen of defendant's motion focuses upon dismissing the complaint with prejudice, thus barring the State from ever re-presenting its case against defendant. Specifically, defendant argues that the principle of fundamental fairness which underlies the double
jeopardy clauses of the state and federal constitutions mandates a permanent termination of the prosecution. By contrast the State argues that if defendant were granted the relief he is seeking the result would effectively amount to an unwarranted judgment of acquittal before defendant was made to stand trial. The State further contends that defendant has brought this motion prematurely in the sense that the interests of justice would be better served were the court to determine whether a re-prosecution infringes upon any of defendant's protected rights at the time the prosecution is rendered. In this way, the court would be able to evaluate the totality of the existing circumstances in making its determination rather than merely barring the possibility of any further prosecution based solely upon abstract principles.
The ultimate issue of first impression raised in the instant case is, therefore, whether the fact that defendant was charged with, inter alia, murder, arrested and incarcerated but never tried for these charges, constituted such an egregious infringement upon defendant's rights when viewed in the context of fundamental fairness, so as to warrant permanent relief from the prosecution of the charges. While our case law has peripherally discussed various instances where charges have been dismissed based upon fundamental fairness principles, State v. Yoskowitz, 116 N.J. 679, 563 A.2d 1 (1989); State v. Abbati, 99 N.J. 418, 493 A.2d 513 (1985); State v. Tropea, 78 N.J. 309, 394 A.2d 355 (1978); State v. Currie, 41 N.J. 531, 197 A.2d 678 (1964); State v. Gregory, 66 N.J. 510, 333 A.2d 257 (1975); State v. Tsoi, 217 N.J. Super. 290, 525 A.2d 1116 (App.Div.1987), the issue presented has not been specifically addressed.
The facts giving rise to this matter as set forth in the State's brief are as follows: On or about December 23, 1989, the Paterson Police Department commenced an investigation into the death of John Wesley Brown, who had reportedly been struck by an automobile. An autopsy examination upon the victim's body indicated that an automobile was not the cause of
death, but rather the victim died as a result of a stab wound he suffered to the chest which punctured his lung.
Bernice Martin, a 36-year old female who resides with defendant gave a sworn statement to the Paterson Police. In her statement, Martin revealed that defendant and the victim were drinking together in the Lucky 12 Tavern located in Paterson, New Jersey. At one point the two men left the establishment and, after a brief absence, defendant returned to the tavern alone.
When the tavern closed, Martin along with defendant and a codefendant left the establishment together. They arrived at their automobile, whereupon Martin observed a man, later identified as the victim, seated in the vehicle who appeared to be asleep or unconscious. Martin told the police that the automobile stopped in an area within a block of where the victim's body was eventually discovered. Defendant exited the automobile, opened the rear door and removed the victim.
The police also received sworn statements from Pamela Tann, the 20-year old daughter of Bernice Martin, and Angela Martin, a 17-year old female, both of whom reside with Bernice Martin. In their statements the girls indicated that on the night in question defendant and Bernice Martin arrived home at approximately 3:00 a.m. Each girl also intimated that she was aware defendant inveterately has a knife in his possession.
Based upon the above sworn statements the Paterson Police, on January 5, 1990, issued a complaint charging defendant with the murder of John Wesley Brown, possession of a weapon and tampering with evidence. Subsequently, on January 18, 1990, a probable cause hearing was conducted at which it was found that probable cause existed for the tampering with evidence charge, but not for the murder charge. Moreover, despite further investigation by the Passaic County Prosecutor's Office, the State concedes that it has not discovered the quantum of evidence sufficient to establish these charges beyond a reasonable doubt.
Defendant, via his attorney filed on April 29, 1991, the motion to dismiss with prejudice now under consideration. It is defendant's position that because the State's conduct caused defendant to suffer an extended period of oppression, anxiety and insecurity, the principle of ...