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State v. Jack

May 29, 1996


On certification to the Superior Court, Appellate Division whose opinion is reported at 281 N.J. Super. 404 (1995).

Chief Justice Wilentz and Justices Pollock, Garibaldi, Stein, and Coleman join in Justice O'HERN's opinion. Justice Handler did not participate. The opinion of the Court was delivered by O'hern, J.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: O'hern

(This syllabus is not part of the opinion of the Court. It has been prepared by the Office of the Clerk for the convenience of the reader. It has been neither reviewed nor approved by the Supreme Court. Please note that, in the interests of brevity, portions of any opinion may not have been summarized).

State or New Jersey v. Cameron Jack (A-96-95)

Argued February 26, 1996 -- Decided May 29, 1996

O'HERN,J., writing for a unanimous Court.

On May 6, 1992, a young woman withdrew cash from an automatic teller machine at a bank in Perth Amboy. When she returned to her car, she was approached by two young men, one of whom held a gun to her head and demanded the money. The woman complied, and the two suspects fled in a small car. The victim was able to observe both the license plate number of the car and the two female passengers in the back seat of the car. The victim flagged down a policeman and told the officer that she had been robbed. She gave the officer a description of the perpretators, their female passengers, and the car, and identified the license plate number and the direction in which the car was headed. Within hours, a Linden police officer stopped a car matching the victim's description. The four occupants of the car were placed under arrest. At the police station, the victim was able to identify the two male suspects as the men who had robbed her. She gave a statement implicating Cameron Jack as the man who watched while the other suspect placed the gun to her head.

Shortly before his sixteenth birthday, Jack was charged with juvenile delinquency for acts that would constitute armed robbery, assault, possession of a weapon for an unlawful purpose, and unlawful possession of a weapon if committed by an adult. Those charges were filed in Essex County, where Jack lived.

Pursuant to N.J.S.A.2A:4A-26, the Superior Court, Chancery Division, Family Part, held a hearing to determine whether Jack should be tried as an adult. That provision of the New Jersey Code of Juvenile Justice creates a presumption that the Family Part shall transfer jurisdiction of a juvenile aged fourteen or over to an adult court and prosecuting authority if it finds probable cause to believe that the juvenile has committed any of the enumerated offenses denoted as "Chart 1 offenses." Robbery is a Chart I offense. Jurisdiction may not be transferred, however, if the juvenile can show that the probability of his or her rehabilitation before the age of nineteen substantially outweighs the reasons for a waiver.

The first phase of the waiver hearing was held on October 29, 1992. Based on the evidence presented, the Family Part Judge made a preliminary finding that sufficient reason existed to believe that Jack had been involved in the armed robbery. In the second phase of the waiver hearing, held on December 17, 1992, the court addressed whether the probability of Jack's rehabilitation by age nineteen outweighed the reasons for waiver. On the basis of the record presented, the court concluded that, in light of the presumption favoring waiver and the absence of any showing of a possibility of rehabilitation, Jack should be waived to the adult court.

The case was transferred to the Law Division in Middlesex County. Jack pled guilty to second-degree conspiracy to commit armed robbery but reserved his right to challenge the jurisdictional waiver issue. The court sentenced Jack to an indeterminate term not to exceed five years at the Garden State Youth Correctional Facility, a sentence that he has served.

On appeal, Jack claims that his counsel was ineffective because, at that waiver hearing, counsel failed to present psychiatric or psychological evidence of Jack's potential for rehabilitation. The Appellate Division agreed that the performance of Jack's counsel was deficient and remanded the matter for a new waiver hearing in the Family Part.

The Supreme Court granted the State's petition for certification.

HELD: To secure a new juvenile waiver hearing, a juvenile must make a prima facie showing that there was genuine evidence of a statutorily-relevant potential for rehabilitation that was not presented to the juvenile court due to the ineffective assistance of counsel. If such a showing is made, the appellate court may order a remand to the juvenile court for further proceedings to assess the attorney's reasons for not providing the evidence, and whether there was any reasonable likelihood that the waiver decision would have been different had the evidence been presented. Only alter both tests have been met should there be a new plenary hearing on waiver.

1. The Sixth Amendment right to counsel provides for the right to the effective assistance of counsel. Whether counsel is effective is measured by the standard of reasonable competence. These principles apply equally in the context of juvenile waiver proceedings. (pp. 5-7)

2. There is a two-part test for determining whether counsel's assistance was so defective as to require the reversal of a conviction: 1) defendant must identify specific acts or omissions that are outside the wide range of reasonable professional assistance; and 2) defendant must show by demonstrating a reasonable probability that, but for counsel's unprofessional errors, the result of the proceeding would have been different. Moreover, pursuant to State v. Cronic, when the level of counsel's participation makes the idea of a fair trial a nullity, prejudice need not be shown, it is presumed. On the other hand, if ...

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