On appeal from and on certification to the Superior Court, Appellate Division.
The opinion of the court was delivered by O'Hern, J. Chief Justice Wilentz and Justices Clifford, Handler, Pollock, Garibaldi, and Stein join in this opinion.
The central question posed in this defendant's appeal is whether an asserted statutory violation in the jury-selection process requires that a jury verdict of guilty be set aside. There were two parts to the question as posed below: (1) whether the disqualification from jury service of those connected with the "administration of justice" under N.J.S.A. 2A:69-1 applies to members of the law-enforcement community, and (2) whether defendant's failure to challenge such a juror specifically on that ground constituted a waiver of his right to object. Because of our disposition of the first question, we do not determine whether the failure of counsel to refer to the statute acted as a waiver of any fair-trial right. We hold that N.J.S.A. 2A:69-1 does not automatically disqualify from jury service those in the law-enforcement community, and that in the circumstances of this case their presence on the jury did not deprive defendant of his right to a fair trial and does not require reversal of his conviction. Because the other issues raised were correctly decided by the Appellate Division, we affirm its judgment.
In the early morning hours of Wednesday, October 23, 1985, the victim (referred to here as Jane Jones) was awakened by an intruder in her home. Jones recognized the voice of the intruder as that of defendant, the husband of her babysitter. He had a gun against her head.
Defendant first asked Jones if she had any money in the house. After defendant took the money, which amounted to approximately $100, he sexually assaulted his victim. Defendant then stabbed Jones repeatedly in an apparent attempt to prevent her from later identifying him. Although her injuries were massive, Jones survived the assault. She struggled to the telephone and called the police, informing them that she had been raped and stabbed. Jones gave the police a brief description
of her attacker. She later positively identified defendant as her assailant.
Soon after the attack, the police dispatcher broadcast the suspect's description that had been given by Jones. An officer observed defendant leaving a field in the area and stopped to investigate. Seeing a handgun in defendant's waistband, the officer pulled his own gun and forced defendant across the hood of the car. Defendant flung a blood-soaked hat that he held in his hand across the hood of the car, leaving a streak of blood. After handcuffing defendant, the officer searched him and found a buck knife, a pocketknife, a woman's stocking, a loaded revolver, and approximately $100.
Defendant was indicted for aggravated sexual assault, attempted murder, and several other crimes. He was convicted on all counts and sentenced to a term of 120 years with a parole-ineligibility period of sixty years.
Before the Appellate Division, defendant argued that his conviction should be reversed because two jurors had been empaneled in violation of N.J.S.A. 2A:69-1, which disqualifies any person "who through his office, position or employment is either directly or indirectly connected with the administration of justice." The jurors in question are juror Raymond Kaminski, an investigator at the Division of Criminal Justice, and juror David Dembe, a Deputy Attorney General in the Division of Law assigned to the Lottery Commission. The Appellate Division affirmed the conviction, but remanded for resentencing. The court found that defendant's failure to challenge Dembe during voir dire constituted a waiver of any objections to that juror, and that his challenge of Kaminski was inadequate because defendant did not cite the relevant statute nor use one of his peremptory challenges to remove the juror. One member of the panel dissented, finding that the failure of the trial court to remove juror Kaminski for cause had denied defendant an impartial jury.
Defendant appeals the issue addressed by the dissent as of right. R. 2:2-1(a). This Court also granted defendant's petition for certification on other issues decided adversely to him by the Appellate Division. 122 N.J. 402 (1990).
N.J.S.A. 2A:69-1 does not by its terms disqualify from general jury service members of the law-enforcement community. If being connected with "the administration of justice" ineluctably signified the disqualification of all members of the law-enforcement community, the next provision of the act that grants an exemption from service for members of police forces and fire departments would seem unnecessary. See N.J.S.A. 2A:69-2. On its face, that provision, exempting fire fighters, police officers, teachers, physicians, and others, would appear to give the otherwise-qualified class member the right to opt out of jury service. That right, implying the correlative right to serve on the jury, is inconsistent with a reading of N.J.S.A. 2A:69-1 automatically to exclude members of the law-enforcement community from jury service. A construction that will render any part of a statute inoperative, superfluous, or meaningless, is to be avoided. Hoffman v. Hock, 8 N.J. 397, 406-07 (1952), quoted in Paper Mill Playhouse v. Millburn Township, 95 N.J. 503, 521 (1984); see also N. Singer, Sutherland Statutory Construction § 46.06 (Sands 4th ed. 1984) (each provision of statute should be given effect). The more logical interpretation, then, is that N.J.S.A. 2A:69-1 was intended to apply only to judges and court personnel. After all, they are the ministers ...