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State v. Rivera

March 19, 2010


On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Union County, Indictment No. 04-09-01153.

Per curiam.


Argued October 5, 2009

Before Judges Rodríguez, Yannotti and Chambers.

Defendant William Rivera was tried before a jury and found guilty of first degree murder, contrary to N.J.S.A. 2C:11-3a(1) and a(2), and second degree desecration of human remains, contrary to N.J.S.A. 2C:22-1a(2). Defendant appeals from his conviction and the sentences imposed. We affirm.


We begin with a summary of the key evidence presented at trial. Defendant was married to Ana Lucrecia Rivera (Ana); however, in 1995, they separated and defendant returned to his home country of Guatemala. Ana moved to North Plainfield with two children from an earlier marriage. In 2004, defendant returned to the United States and at some point began to date Ana. Ana's son Andres Castillo (Castillo) and her sister Liana Garcia testified that they were unaware that Ana had resumed her relationship with defendant.

Defendant's brother, Manuel Rivera (Rivera), resided with defendant and their mother in a house in Plainfield. Defendant slept in a small bedroom on the first floor. Rivera testified that he was aware that defendant and Ana were dating. He said that at approximately 8:30 p.m. on February 28, 2004, Ana pulled up to the house in her car. Defendant left the house, and drove off with Ana in her car. They returned to the house around 10:30 p.m., walked through the kitchen and entered defendant's bedroom. When Rivera retired to his room, he noticed that the television was on in defendant's bedroom.

Later that evening, defendant woke Rivera. Defendant had wounds on his neck and chest. Defendant claimed that Ana tried to kill him. Defendant told Rivera that Ana was dead, gave him his wallet and watch and said that he should take care of his children. Rivera acknowledged that, in his grand jury testimony, he had testified that defendant said that Ana stabbed him and, after trying to kill him, she tried to cut off her own breasts. Rivera phoned the police. The police reported to the scene and found defendant at the top of the stairs, bleeding from his chest. He was removed to a nearby hospital.

Rivera led the police to defendant's bedroom, where they found Ana's dead body in the bed, with the covers pulled up to her nose. Jeffrey J. Carrier of the Plainfield Police Department testified that they pulled back the covers and "discovered the victim had been sliced almost in half from her neck down to her vagina and it was open and there was a knife in her hand."

An autopsy was performed upon Ana's body. Dr. Leonard Zaretski (Zaretski), Union County's Medical Examiner, testified that Ana died as a result of certain stab wounds inflicted with a knife. Zaretski said that additional stab wounds had been inflicted after Ana died. He also stated that Ana's breasts and genital organs had been cut and removed after her death.

Defendant did not testify at trial. He presented testimony from Dr. Robert Latimer (Latimer), a forensic psychiatrist, in support of his insanity defense. According to Latimer, at the time he killed and desecrated Ana's remains, defendant "was suffering from an acute psychiatric condition known as brief psychotic reaction or disorder[.]" He said that this is a condition that "is manifested by excessive turmoil, confusion, violence, disorganized behavior and . . . frequently ends up in either homicide or suicide[.]"

Latimer stated that he believed that defendant had experienced a "catathymic crisis," which he described as a break down of the emotions. Latimer asserted that such a crisis can result from an emotional upset that "disturbs" an individual's thinking and behavior. He explained that this is usually related to a "complex which includes feelings of abandonment, rejection, humiliation, embarrassment, inferiority and above all . . . sexual impotence."

Latimer noted that, after defendant returned to Guatemala, he was involved in a severe car accident in which his penis and bladder were crushed. Defendant apparently underwent surgery to repair his penis and had to use a catheter to discharge his bladder. According to Latimer, defendant's leg "withered." He limps and suffers from other health problems. Defendant told Latimer that he was incapable of having an erection.

Latimer testified defendant said that, on the evening of February 28, 2004, he informed Ana he was going to return to Guatemala. According to defendant, Ana told him that he could only leave when she let him. Defendant said that Ana began to "[claw] at him" and kept telling him that she wanted "to go to hell with him." Defendant told Latimer that he felt humiliated because he could not get an erection.

Defendant also told Latimer that he "was nobody to" Ana. He "felt confused" and his "mind became clogged up." He stated that Ana grabbed the hair on his chest and laughed at him. Defendant felt embarrassed because he "used to be a man." Defendant reported that he had five drinks and performed oral sex upon Ana. They caressed and kissed. Defendant said that he began to doze off and the ...

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