On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Bergen County.
Michels, Bilder and Baime. The opinion of the court was delivered by Bilder, J.A.D.
Following a jury trial, defendant Carlyle Watson was found guilty of knowing and purposeful murder, murder while committing a kidnapping, murder while committing a robbery, and possession of handguns for an unlawful purpose. He was sentenced to concurrent custodial terms of life with a minimum of thirty years for each of the murder convictions. The weapons conviction was merged in the murder convictions.
About 9:25 p.m. on the evening of January 14, 1988, Ann Valle was shot in the head while seated in her car in front of her home in New Milford. She described her assailants as "two black guys."
She was taken to the Hackensack Hospital where examination disclosed a hole in the middle portion of her forehead, subdural hematoma, multiple bullet fragments in the brain and extensive injury to the brain on both sides of the frontal area. Surgical interventions on the 14th and again on January 19th were unavailing. Following the first surgery, she remained unconscious and on a respirator until January 24th when EEG
readings disclosed a lack of brain activity. Upon removal from the respirator, she was pronounced dead. The cause of death was a gunshot wound of the brain from a gun two feet or less from her head.
Later that night, defendant Carlyle Watson and a companion Donald Henry were arrested in Teaneck in the course of an unconnected investigation of automobile break-ins. Watson and Henry had parked the Hyundai in which they were riding near a bus stop and phone booth on Route 4. Teaneck police officers who came to the area in an effort to find the perpetrators of the automobile break-ins chanced upon the two and were ultimately led by their actions to investigate and finally take them into custody. In the course of that, Watson was found to have two handguns, a .22 calibre and a .38 calibre, in his possession; Henry unsuccessfully fled the scene, and the Hyundai was found to have been stolen.
After being arrested, defendant and Henry were taken to police headquarters where questioning ultimately revealed their participation in the attack on Mrs. Valle, as well as their theft of the Hyundai about a week before, January 9, 1988. Defendant's confession revealed a plan to seize Mrs. Valle, the night supervisor of the Bergenfield Sears store, and force her to return to the store and open the safe. When Mrs. Valle resisted and screamed, she was shot. Defendant's confessions were corroborated by the accuracy of details; the possession of a .22 calibre handgun, a weapon consistent with the injury to Mrs. Valle's brain and the bullet fragments found there; evidence of the victim's hair on Henry's pants and fibre from Henry's hat on the victim's sweater; testimony from a co-worker of Mrs. Valle that Henry had also been a co-worker at the Bergenfield Sears store where Mrs. Valle was a night supervisor and that he had verified earlier on January 14th that Mrs. Valle would be on duty. The evidence, if accepted by the jury, overwhelmingly established defendant's guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.
In his brief on appeal defendant makes the following contentions:
THE STATUTE, N.J.S.A. 2C:4-2, DEFINING THE DEFENSE OF MENTAL DISEASE OR DEFECT, ON ITS FACE AND AS CHARGED TO THE JURY, SHIFTED THE BURDEN OF PROOF TO THE DEFENDANT IN VIOLATION OF HIS RIGHT TO DUE PROCESS OF LAW. (U.S. CONST. AMEND. XIV; N.J. CONST. (1947), ART. 1, PAR. 1). (Not Raised Below).
THE STATEMENTS TAKEN FROM DEFENDANT WERE NOT VOLUNTARILY MADE AND THEIR ADMISSION INTO EVIDENCE DEPRIVED DEFENDANT OF DUE PROCESS OF LAW AND VIOLATED HIS PRIVILEGE AGAINST SELF-INCRIMINATION. (U.S. CONST. AMENDS. V, XIV; N.J. CONST. (1947), ART. 1, PAR. 1).
THE COURT BELOW ERRED IN NOT GRANTING THE MOTION TO SUPPRESS SINCE THE WARRANTLESS SEARCH OF THE DEFENDANT VIOLATED THE PROTECTIONS GUARANTEED BY THE FEDERAL AND NEW JERSEY CONSTITUTIONS.
THE TRIAL JUDGE'S FAILURE TO CONDUCT A HEARING OR TO INDIVIDUALLY VOIR DIRE THE JURORS AFTER RECEIVING INFORMATION THAT THE JURORS UTILIZED EXTRA-JUDICIAL MATERIAL DURING THEIR DELIBERATIONS DEPRIVED THE DEFENDANT OF ...