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State v. Bridge

June 29, 2007

STATE OF NEW JERSEY, PLAINTIFF-RESPONDENT,
v.
AZRIEL R. BRIDGE, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.



On appeal from Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Ocean County, Indictment No. 04-12-1822.

Per curiam.

NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION

Submitted May 30, 2007

Before Judges Weissbard and Graves.

On June 9, 2004, eight days prior to his eighteenth birthday on June 17, 2004, defendant Azriel R. Bridge knowingly and purposely caused the death of Shirley Reuter, a seventy- seven-year-old resident of Dover Township*fn1 in Ocean County.

Defendant voluntarily waived jurisdiction from the Family Part to the Law Division pursuant to N.J.S.A. 2A:4A-27 and R. 5:22-1. Following the denial of his motion to suppress his lengthy written confession to the police, defendant entered a conditional guilty plea to first-degree murder, N.J.S.A. 2C:11- 3(a)(1). On January 6, 2006, defendant was sentenced to a fifty-five-year prison term with an eighty-five percent period of parole ineligibility under the No Early Release Act (NERA), N.J.S.A. 2C:43-7.2. The remaining counts of the indictment were dismissed in accordance with the negotiated plea agreement. We affirm.

On appeal, defendant presents the following arguments:

POINT I

THE DEFENDANT'S CUSTODIAL STATEMENT SHOULD HAVE BEEN SUPPRESSED BECAUSE THE STATE FAILED TO PROVE BEYOND A REASONABLE DOUBT THAT HE WAS COMPETENT TO GIVE A KNOWING AND INTELLIGENT WAIVER OF HIS MIRANDA RIGHTS, NOR DID IT PROVE THAT HIS STATEMENT WAS VOLUNTARY. U.S. CONST. AMENDS. V, XIV; N.J. CONST. ART. I, ¶¶¶ 1, 7, AND 10.

POINT II

DEFENDANT'S STATEMENTS MUST BE SUPPRESSED BECAUSE HE WAS A JUVENILE WHO WAS INTERROGATED WITHOUT PARENTAL PRESENCE OR EVEN AN ATTEMPT ON THE PART OF THE POLICE TO CONTACT HIS PARENT.

POINT III

DEFENDANT'S SENTENCE IS EXCESSIVE.

In a thirty-two-page written statement to the police on June 11, 2004, defendant stated he was selling magazines in Toms River on June 9, 2004, when Shirley Reuter allowed him to enter her home to use the bathroom. While he was in the house, defendant saw a checkbook on a table and decided to put it in his pocket. However, the victim noticed defendant put something in his pocket and she confronted him about it. As Ms. Reuter reached for the checkbook, defendant stated he pushed her hard enough that "her feet actually came out from underneath her," and as she fell, she hit her head on the corner of a table. As the victim lay on the floor, defendant struck her three times "on the side of her face" with a "paddle"*fn2 from the fireplace to "wake her up." After the paddle broke, defendant used a poker from the fireplace "to poke her to see [if she would] wake up." When the victim did not wake ...


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