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State v. Rowe

November 25, 1998

STATE OF NEW JERSEY, PLAINTIFF-RESPONDENT,
v.
STENNETT A. ROWE, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.



Before Judges Muir, Jr., Keefe, and Coburn.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: The opinion of the court was delivered by Coburn, J.A.D.

[9]    Submitted November 4, 1998

On appeal from Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Middlesex County.

The defendant, Stennett A. Rowe, was found guilty by a jury of sexual assault, N.J.S.A. 2C:14-2c, and criminal sexual contact, N.J.S.A. 2C:14-3b. After merging the convictions, the trial Judge imposed a sentence on the sexual assault charge of eight years imprisonment and the appropriate statutory penalties. We affirm. *fn1

The victim, M.H., a woman of twenty-nine years, and the defendant, a man of thirty-four years, lived within a block of each other on the same street in New Brunswick and had been acquaintances for over a decade. M.H. first met defendant about eleven years before the rape when she was dating his brother.

On the afternoon of July 18, 1995, M.H., who lived with her mother, L.D., left home, intending to walk to a nearby hospital to visit her sick nephew. Shortly thereafter, she met the defendant and at his invitation accompanied him to his home, where approximately two weeks before they had a pleasant and uneventful visit.

The defendant led M.H. to his basement room, closed the door, and tied it with a piece of cord or wire. He took off his shirt and sat beside her on a couch. The day was hot and muggy and she did not think anything of the shirt removal. After they talked for awhile and M.H. was about to leave, defendant sat on his bed and then walked toward M.H., holding his exposed penis in his hand. Standing directly over M.H., who was still seated on the couch, defendant said, "[C]ome on, let's get busy." M.H. said, "No." She started to walk out, but he grabbed her, pushed her on the couch, and fell on top of her. She angrily told him to get up. He did, and she began to leave again. He grabbed her, threw her on the couch, and demanded that she "give him some head." She said, "No." He got off her again, as requested, but when she started to walk out, he grabbed her faster and harder than before and threw her on the bed. He fell on top of her and said, "[I]t wasn't going to take that long, it was only going to take a couple of minutes." She tried to resist physically but was unable to free herself. He reached towards the drawer of a night table and said, "[D]on't make me get ugly." She feared that he was reaching for a weapon. He pulled her panties aside, forced his penis into her vagina, and said, "[W]hy don't you just make love to me?" She began to cry. After a few minutes, he said, "I'm not going to come in you." He then withdrew and ejaculated on the blouse she was wearing.

M.H. immediately went home. Her mother, L.D., testified that she was surprised to see her daughter so soon after she had left to make the hospital visit. In her judgment, not enough time had passed for the hospital visit to have happened. Because M.H. was crying and very upset, her mother asked what was the matter. M.H. said she had been raped by the defendant. As a result, and without prompting by M.H., L.D. called the police, who arrived within minutes. At that time, M.H. appeared to the police to be "dazed, sort of confused. She was upset [and] crying." She related that she had just been raped by the defendant.

The police accompanied M.H. to the Rape Crisis Center at Roosevelt Hospital. She was treated for aches and pains and a bruise on her arm. Semen, later determined to be consistent with defendant's blood type, was recovered from her blouse and panties.

Defendant called B.D., M.H.'s recently ex-boyfriend, as a witness. He said that about two weeks before the trial M.H. and he had an argument over money during which she said, "she would do to [him] what she did to that other nigger." He also said that he told L.D. of M.H.'s remark. L.D. testified that B.D. told her about the remark in a telephone conversation, but had thereafter on three separate occasions said that he had made that story up. M.H. denied having made the remark.

Defendant testified that M.H. had proposed sex that day and that she freely and happily consented to it. Afterwards, she asked him for money. He refused, her manner changed, and she left. He said that M.H. took her clothes off before they had sex, leaving unexplained the presence of his semen on her blouse. He also indicated there was no struggle, leaving unexplained M.H.'s arm bruise. He claimed that he first saw M.H. that day between 2 p.m. and 3 p.m. He claimed they spent two-and-a-half to three hours together and that the sexual act lasted for a couple of hours. He specifically claimed that his penis was in her vagina for an hour-and-a-half to two hours. That testimony could be seen as inconsistent not only with M.H.'s testimony, but with L.D.'s testimony regarding the surprisingly brief period of time that M.H. was out of the house that afternoon.

We turn to defendant's primary point:

"POINT I"

"THE DEFENDANT'S RIGHT TO DUE PROCESS OF LAW AS GUARANTEED BY THE FOURTEENTH AMENDMENT TO THE UNITED STATES CONSTITUTION AND ART. I PAR. 1 OF THE NEW JERSEY CONSTITUTION AND DEFENDANT'S RIGHT OF CONFRONTATION AS GUARANTEED BY THE SIXTH AMENDMENT TO THE UNITED STATES CONSTITUTION AND ART. I PAR. 10 OF THE NEW JERSEY CONSTITUTION WERE VIOLATED WHEN THE TRIAL COURT IMPROPERLY EXCLUDED HIS PROFFER ...


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