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State v. Reldan

December 7, 2004

STATE OF NEW JERSEY, PLAINTIFF-RESPONDENT,
v.
ROBERT RELDAN, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.



On appeal from Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Bergen County, Docket No. S-63-77.

Before Judges Petrella, Parker and Yannotti.

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

NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION

Submitted November 1, 2004

Defendant Robert Reldan appeals from the denial of his motion requesting DNA testing of hair samples produced at his trial for the murder of two women in Bergen County. Reldan was indicted on January 20, 1979, and charged with the two murders. A first jury trial ended in a mistrial. The jury in the second trial found Reldan guilty of both murders, but this conviction was reversed due to errors in the admission of other crimes evidence, and remanded for a new trial. See State v. Reldan, 185 N.J. Super. 494 (App. Div. 1982), certif. denied, 91 N.J. 543 (1982). After a suppression order was reversed in State v. Reldan, 100 N.J. 187 (1985), a third trial commenced on January 27, 1986, in which Reldan represented himself. He was again convicted of both murders and his convictions were affirmed in State v. Reldan, A-4588-85, decided May 15, 1989, certif. denied, 121 N.J. 598 (1990).

On March 9, 2001, Reldan filed a motion with supporting certification requesting DNA testing of hair samples produced at trial. After a hearing, the motion was denied by Judge Venezia on November 18, 2002.

On appeal, Reldan argues:

I. The court was incorrect in determining that even if DNA testing showed that the hair samples were not that of the victims, it would not have changed the verdict as the evidence at trial had been overwhelming.

II. The defendant's constitutional rights were violated, as it was fundamentally unfair for the court to deny his motion for DNA testing of relevant and exculpatory evidence that would potentially alter the result of his trial.

Reldan was charged with the murders of S.H. (count one) and S.R. (count two), which occurred on October 6, 1975, and October 14, 1975, respectively. The facts involving these murders and the procedural background are fully detailed in Reldan, supra (185 N.J. Super. 494), and our unpublished opinion in docket number A-4588-85, as well as in the Supreme Court's opinion upholding the reversal of an order suppressing the results of a vacuum sweep of Reldan's car's interior. See State v. Reldan, supra (100 N.J. 187). We need not further detail the procedural history and background facts here.

Reldan was convicted of second degree murder on count one and first degree murder on count two. He was sentenced to a mandatory term of life imprisonment for the first degree murder of S.R., to be served consecutively to sentences already imposed, and a consecutive thirty-year term of imprisonment for the second degree murder of S.H.

In March 2001, Reldan filed a motion to compel DNA testing on the hair samples found in his car. At the hearing of the motion on November 12, 2002, Reldan argued that he was entitled to obtain DNA testing of the hair samples in order to obtain a new trial. Reldan also argued that the State should not be allowed to argue based on evidence not admitted at the trial and that N.J.S.A. 2A:84A-32a, which the judge looked to for guidance,*fn1 is fundamentally unfair because it permits the court to consider evidence not admitted at trial to decide the motion. Judge Venezia concluded that it would be proper to consider certain evidence not admitted at trial. Additionally, he denied Reldan's motion, concluding that the evidence at trial in 1986, which included microscopic examination of materials obtained in the vacuuming of his automobile, see 100 N.J. at 195, was overwhelming and the DNA test results would have little effect on the outcome of the trial.

I.

We first consider Reldan's contention that the judge erred in denying his motion seeking to perform DNA tests on the hair samples for ...


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