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State v. Baker

SUPREME COURT OF NEW JERSEY


March 16, 2009

STATE OF NEW JERSEY, PLAINTIFF-RESPONDENT,
v.
FORREST M. BAKER, SR., DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.

On certification to the Superior Court, Appellate Division, whose opinion is reported at 400 N.J. Super. 28 (2008).

SYLLABUS BY THE COURT

(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).

On June 29, 2002, a teenage boy robbed the Rite Aid store in Mount Laurel at gunpoint. Several months later, M.B.went to the Mount Laurel police station and gave a detailed statement implicating himself and his father, defendant Forrest M. Baker, Sr. M.B., who was thirteen years old at the time, claimed that defendant gave him the gun and threatened him with death unless he robbed the Rite Aid. He also implicated defendant in unsolved bank robberies in the area.

FBI agents arrested defendant and found a .45 caliber pellet gun in his car. Defendant admitted that on June 28, 2002, he robbed a Cherry Hill bank while his son was in the car, and he returned to the car with a pillowcase full of money. When a dye pack inside exploded, he told M.B. to throw the pillowcase with the cash out of the vehicle, which M.B. did. In 2003, defendant pled guilty to federal bank robbery charges. In January 2004, he began serving a seventy-eight month sentence at a federal correctional facility at Fort Dix.

The same day that defendant was questioned by FBI agents, the Mount Laurel police questioned defendant about the Rite Aid robbery. Defendant stated that he knew M.B. had committed the robbery. He acknowledged that he may have dared M.B. to do it, but he did not recall threatening M.B. Defendant was charged in a state indictment with first-degree robbery, N.J.S.A. 2C:15-1(a), and using a juvenile to commit a first-degree crime, N.J.S.A. 2C:24-9(a), in connection with the Rite Aid robbery.

Before the trial, which began in January 2006, defendant moved to dismiss the indictment based upon the State's alleged failure to comply with the Interstate Agreement on Detainers (the IAD), codified in New Jersey at N.J.S.A. 2A:159A-1 to -15. Under Section 4 of the IAD, N.J.S.A. 2A:159A-4, when a prisoner is serving a sentence in a "state" that is a party to the IAD ("state" includes the federal government), an officer in another state in which an untried indictment is pending "shall be entitled to have a prisoner against whom he has lodged a detainer . . . made available" by making a "written request for temporary custody" to authorities of the state in which the prisoner is incarcerated. Section 4 further provides that "trial shall be commenced within 120 days" of the prisoner's arrival in the receiving state, and that if trial is not had on "any indictment . . . contemplated hereby prior to the prisoner's being returned" to the sending state, then the court shall dismiss the indictment.

Beginning in July 2003, and continuing during the months after defendant commenced his federal sentence, he was shuttled back and forth between the federal prison and the county jail to face the New Jersey charges. Each time, defendant was brought before the trial court based upon an order to produce him called a writ of habeas corpus ad prosequendum. Defendant argued that the writs were the functional equivalent of a detainer and the remedy accordedby Section 4 of the IAD -- dismissal of the indictment -- was required because defendant was not tried within the 120-day time limit. The State argued that the IAD was never triggered because it did not lodge a detainer or proceed pursuant to the IAD to have him produced in state court. The trial court denied defendant's motion to dismiss the indictment.

Also before the trial, the court conducted a hearing to determine the admissibility of defendant's statements to the FBI and the Mount Laurel police. The court concluded that the evidence of the bank robbery was relevant to the "material issue" of defendant's intent and whether "there was knowledge or a plan in the robbery of the Rite Aid." The court found the two robberies to be "similar in kind," both being first-degree robberies involving defendant and M.B., and "close in time," being one day apart. The court also found the evidence of the prior robbery to be "clear and convincing" because defendant had been convicted of the bank robbery. The trial court concluded that the probative value of the evidence outweighed the prejudice to defendant under N.J.R.E. 404(b).

At trial, M.B. testified that defendant told him as they drove to the Rite Aid that they needed money, that defendant gave him the gun and told him to rob the store, and that he felt threatened by defendant to commit the robbery. M.B. was also permitted to testify about the bank robbery. Defendant was convicted of both counts of the indictment. The trial court imposed a life sentence without parole on the robbery count and a concurrent sentence of fifteen years on the second count, to run consecutively to the federal sentence defendant was already serving.

Defendant appealed, arguing that the trial court erred in denying his pre-trial motion to dismiss the indictment. He also argued that the court erred by permitting the State to introduce evidence of defendant's prior bank robbery. Finally, defendant argued that the sentence was excessive.

In a published opinion, the Appellate Division affirmed. 400 N.J. Super. 28 (App. Div. 2008). Applying United States v. Mauro, 436 U.S. 340 (1978), the panel found that the trial court's orders to produce defendant, standing alone, were not the functional equivalents of detainers triggering the IAD. The panel also found no error in the admission of the evidence of defendant's prior bank robbery. The panel held that a material issue in dispute was defendant's knowledge of M.B.'s actions and his intent to participate in the Rite Aid robbery; therefore, evidence that tended to prove that one day earlier the defendant and M.B. were together committing another robbery, using the same weapon and the same vehicle, was highly probative because it demonstrated a shared purpose and negated defendant's claims of lack of knowledge and intent. Finally, the panel concluded that the trial court did not abuse its discretion in imposing the consecutive sentence.

The Supreme Court granted defendant's petition for certification. 196 N.J. 86 (2008).

HELD: The Interstate Agreement on Detainers does not apply when the State has not lodged a detainer in the sending state.

1. The Court affirms substantially for the reasons expressed by the opinion of the Appellate Division. The Court adds the following. Under the statute's plain language, there are two necessary conditions precedent to the invocation of the IAD: the lodging of a detainer with the sending state and the receiving state's presentation of a written request for temporary custody to the sending state. Although orders to produce, such as writs of habeas corpus ad prosequendum, qualify as the required "written request for temporary custody," they do not constitute a detainer. Mauro, supra, 426 U.S. at 360-61 ("[A] writ of habeas corpus ad prosequendum is not a detainer for purposes of the [IAD]."). If, and only if, the IAD properly has been invoked according to its terms, both the State and the defendant are entitled to its benefits and limited by its burdens. The absence of a detainer lodged by the State is fatal to defendant's efforts to invoke the IAD's protections in this case. (pp. 1-5)

The judgment of the Appellate Division is AFFIRMED and the matter is REMANDED to the Law Division for further proceedings.

CHIEF JUSTICE RABNER and JUSTICES LONG, LaVECCHIA, ALBIN, WALLACE, RIVERASOTO, and HOENS join in this opinion.

Per curiam.

Argued January 5, 2009

The judgment of the Appellate Division is affirmed substantially for the reasons expressed by Judge Messano's opinion of the Appellate Division, reported at 400 N.J. Super. 28 (App. Div. 2008). We add only the following.

The Interstate Agreement on Detainers (IAD), codified in New Jersey at N.J.S.A. 2A:159A-1 to -15, "creates uniform procedures for lodging and executing a detainer, i.e., a legal order that requires a State in which an individual is currently imprisoned to hold that individual when he has finished serving his sentence so that he may be tried by a different State for a different crime." Alabama v. Bozeman, 533 U.S. 146, 148, 121 S.Ct. 2079, 2082, 150 L.Ed. 2d 188, 192 (2001).*fn1 The IAD's reach, however, does not extend beyond its specific terms. Thus, when a state -- the receiving state -- seeks to prosecute a person in the custody of another state -- the sending state --- the receiving state triggers the IAD by the coalescence of two separate but distinct acts: the lodging of a detainer with the sending state and the "presentation of a written request for temporary custody or availability" to the sending state.

N.J.S.A. 2A:159A-4(a).*fn2

On several occasions, the State procured the presence of defendant Forest M. Baker, Sr. from federal custody (where defendant was serving a term of imprisonment) to appear in then-pending State criminal proceedings. The State never lodged a detainer against defendant. Instead, in each instance defendant was transferred between federal and New Jersey custody via a writ of habeas corpus ad prosequendum or an order to produce. That writ is "used in criminal cases to bring before a court a prisoner to be tried on charges other than those for which the prisoner is currently being confined." Black's Law Dictionary 715 (7th ed. 1999). Furthermore, although orders equivalent to an order to produce, such as writs of habeas corpus ad prosequendum, qualify as the required "written request for temporary custody," they do not constitute a detainer. United States v. Mauro, 436 U.S. 340, 360-61, 98 S.Ct. 1834, 1847-48, 56 L.Ed. 2d 329, 347 (1978) ("[W]hen [Congress] used the word 'detainer,' it meant something quite different from a writ of habeas corpus ad prosequendum. . . . We therefore conclude that a writ of habeas corpus ad prosequendum is not a detainer for purposes of the [IAD]."). Viewed thusly, it is clear that, in the circumstances presented, the two necessary conditions precedent to the invocation of the IAD never coalesced.

Defendant nevertheless asserts that the repeated use of orders to produce or writs of habeas corpus ad prosequendum subverts the purposes of the IAD and must, in the aggregate, trigger the provisions of the IAD. That concept, styled the "writ plus" test, has been accepted in a few jurisdictions. See Baker, supra, 400 N.J. Super. at 43 (citing cases). However, because that construction is inconsistent with the plain language of the IAD, we decline to adopt it. We remain ever mindful that, [w]hen interpreting a statute, our overarching duty is to construe and apply the statute as enacted. We do so by applying the following principles. First, a court should not resort to extrinsic interpretative aids when the statutory language is clear and unambiguous, and susceptible to only one interpretation.

That said, if there is ambiguity in the statutory language that leads to more than one plausible interpretation, we may turn to extrinsic evidence, including legislative history, committee reports, and contemporaneous construction. We have explained that we may also resort to extrinsic evidence if a plain reading of the statute leads to an absurd result or if the overall statutory scheme is at odds with the plain language. We are guided by first principles: our analysis begins with the plain language of the statute. [Daidone v. Buterick Bulkheading, 191 N.J. 557, 565-66 (2007) (citations, internal quotation marks and editing marks omitted).]

The IAD provides a non-exclusive, yet cohesive framework by which prisoners held in custody by a sending state can be transferred to the custody of a receiving state for purposes of prosecution in the receiving state. The quid pro quo for compliance with the IAD is clear. Once a detainer is lodged, a sending state will not release without condition a prisoner wanted by the receiving state, and the prisoner will not be subjected to shuttling back-and-forth between the sending and receiving states. And, once transferred to the receiving state pursuant to a request for temporary custody separate from the detainer, the prisoner is to remain there until all proceedings are concluded in that jurisdiction. Thus, if -- and only if --the IAD properly has been invoked according to its terms, both the State and defendant are entitled to its benefits and limited by its burdens.

As already observed, in order for the receiving state's actions to trigger the IAD, Article IV(a) of the IAD, N.J.S.A. 2A:159A-4(a), specifically requires both that a detainer be lodged and a written request for temporary custody be made by the receiving state. The absence of either element renders the IAD inapplicable. That was the case here. No doubt, the State made several written requests for defendant's temporary custody; thus, the second prong of Article IV(a) of the IAD obviously was satisfied. However, the absence of a detainer lodged by the State -- the required first prong of Article IV(a) of the IAD, and one that cannot be satisfied by a writ commanding a prisoner's appearance -- is fatal to defendant's efforts to invoke the IAD's protections.

The judgment of the Appellate Division is affirmed and the matter is remanded to the Law Division for further proceedings.

CHIEF JUSTICE RABNER and JUSTICES LONG, LaVECCHIA, ALBIN, WALLACE, RIVERA-SOTO, and HOENS join in this opinion.

Chief Justice Rabner PRESIDING


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