On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Chancery Division, Family Part, Hudson County, Docket Nos. FJ-09-1244-09 and FJ-09-1142-09.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Submitted December 7, 2009
Before Judges Reisner, Yannotti and Chambers.
A.V. was charged in FJ-09-1224-09 with delinquent acts that, if committed by an adult, would constitute conspiracy to commit murder, contrary to N.J.S.A. 2C:5-2 and N.J.S.A. 2C:11-3, and murder, contrary N.J.S.A. 2C:11-3. B.W. was charged in FJ-09-1142-09 with delinquent acts that, if committed by an adult, would constitute conspiracy to commit murder, contrary to N.J.S.A. 2C:5-2 and N.J.S.A. 2C:11-3.
The State filed a motion pursuant to N.J.S.A. 2A:4A-26(a)(2) for waiver of the juveniles to the Law Division for trial as adults. Following an evidentiary hearing, the trial court found that the State failed to establish probable cause to believe that the juveniles committed the charged offenses and entered orders on May 11, 2009, denying the State's motion. We granted the State's motion for leave to appeal. For the reasons that follow, we vacate the May 11, 2009 orders and remand the matter to the trial court for further proceedings.
At the probable cause hearing, the State presented testimony from Lieutenant Keith Lamont Stith (Stith) of the Hudson County Prosecutor's Office (HCPO). Stith stated that he was involved in the investigation of the fatal shooting of Michael Williams (Williams) in the early morning hours of March 30, 2008, at the Montgomery Gardens Housing Complex in Jersey City. Stith reviewed the statements that Jamonee Gantt (Gantt) gave to the investigators concerning Williams' murder.
According to Stith, Gantt had been identified as the individual who entered the first floor hallway of a building in the Montgomery housing complex and began shooting at the persons present there. Detectives from the HCPO brought Gantt in for questioning on August 28, 2008. Gantt stated that after midnight on March 30, 2008, he was at home at his mother's residence in the Booker T. Washington Housing Complex. Gantt also said that he was inside his mother's apartment all night. Gantt told the investigators that he was not involved in Williams' death and had no knowledge of the shooting.
Gantt later contacted the HCPO and said that he wanted to return to the HCPO to discuss Williams' shooting again. Gantt met with the investigators on September 2, 2008. Gantt was informed of his Miranda rights*fn1 and signed the waiver of rights form. Gantt said that between 12:30 a.m. and 1:00 a.m., he was near his mother's residence, taking out the garbage. Several individuals approached him but Gantt did not know several of them. Gantt said that one of the unknown individuals placed a shotgun against his back.
Gantt asked for a break in the interview so that he could speak with his mother. The investigators contacted Gantt's mother. She arrived later and, after Gantt and his mother spoke privately, Gantt said that he wanted to continue the interview. Gantt was again advised of his constitutional rights, which he again waived. Gantt then said that after midnight on March 30, 2008, he was confronted by several individuals outside of his mother's apartment. Those individuals included Courtney Hemmingway (Courtney) and Chajuan Hemmingway (Chajuan). Gantt stated that another person who he did not know, pointed a shotgun at him.
Gantt returned to his mother's apartment and called a friend named Camron and told him what had happened. Gantt said that Camron later picked him up in a dark-colored vehicle. They drove to the Brunswick Estates Apartment Complex and sat in the car talking for about forty-five minutes. At around 2:00 a.m., Camron drove Gantt back to his mother's residence.
Gantt stated that, as Camron was driving him home, a vehicle came to a stop at the intersection of Florence Street and Bright Street. Gantt observed three males running east on Bright Street from a silver-colored Nissan Altima, which had been parked near the basketball courts of the Montgomery housing complex. Gantt identified the three men as Courtney, Chajuan and Quadir Wallace (Wallace), who is also known as Derrick. Gantt said that he went home and did not learn about the shooting until the following morning.
On September 15, 2008, Gantt again spoke to the investigators. In this third statement, Gantt asserted that he was exiting a Honda Accord when Courtney and Chajuan approached him and said that they wanted him to take them "somewhere." Gantt declined but Chajuan pulled out a gun and said that he had done "nothing for the hood[.]" Chajuan told Gantt, "you take us." Courtney and Chajuan got into the Honda and Gantt drove them around "the Projects[.]"
Gantt said that, as they were driving around, Chajuan got a call from A.V., B.W. and two males, who he identified as Rashein Chandler (Chandler) and Wallace. They told Chajuan that they had been driving around in a Nissan and had been shot at earlier that evening. Chajuan, Courtney and Gantt met A.V., B.W., Chandler and Wallace for a discussion. According to Gantt, Courtney became concerned because the police ...