On appeal from Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Essex County, Indictment No. 05-11-2689.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Submitted October 15, 2009
Before Judges Axelrad, Fisher and Espinosa.
Defendant was indicted on charges arising from the shooting death of Corey Jamison and the shooting of Nathaniel Williams. He was convicted of aggravated assault, N.J.S.A. 2C:12-1(b)(1); unlawful possession of a weapon, N.J.S.A. 2C:39-5(b); and possession of a weapon for an unlawful purpose, N.J.S.A. 2C:39-4(a) and now appeals from his convictions and sentence. We affirm.
On August 7, 2005, Corey Jamison was shot and killed outside the Jetaway Lounge in Newark.
On November 14, 2005, the grand jury indicted defendant as follows: first-degree murder, N.J.S.A. 2C:11-3(a)(1) or (2) (count one); second-degree aggravated assault, N.J.S.A. 2C:12-1(b)(1) (count two); third-degree unlawful possession of a weapon, N.J.S.A. 2C:39-5(b) (count three); and second-degree possession of a weapon for an unlawful purpose, N.J.S.A. 2C:39-4(a) (count four).
On the evening of his death, Jamison visited the Jetaway Lounge with his girlfriend, Cirita Lee, and her cousin, Charles Judd. As midnight approached, Judd was asked to come and get Jamison because he was "bugging out" and acting rowdy but Jamison kept walking away from him. Judd and Lee were standing outside, near a parking lot behind the bar, talking, when Jamison walked out of the bar. Lee asked him what was wrong, but Jamison walked past them, around the corner. Both Judd and Lee were still at the rear of the bar, talking, when they heard gunshots. He and Lee went to Jamison, who was shot in the leg and the back. Lee held Jamison, crying, while Judd called 9-1-1. Judd did not see who fired the shots and did not observe Jamison in any arguments that evening.
Darryl Cauldwell was standing across the street from the Jetaway when he saw two African-American men arguing outside the Jetaway's side entrance. He did not hear what the argument was about. He identified defendant as one of the men arguing and testified that he saw defendant coming toward the other man, pointing either a finger or a gun. Cauldwell heard approximately three gunshots and ducked behind a parked car. He fled the scene on a friend's bicycle.
Nathaniel Williams was walking past the Jetaway on his way home from his girlfriend's house around midnight that evening when he observed two African-American males arguing near the side entrance. He heard gunshots and started to run away, but was shot in the left foot. When he realized that he had been shot, Williams returned to the scene. He identified defendant as the man who fired the shots that evening. At trial, Williams admitted to using heroin and cocaine at approximately 11:30 a.m. the morning before the shooting but testified it did not affect his perception of the incident.
Williams also testified that, after the gunshots were fired, he saw a slim African-American female, whom the State argued was Lee, and heard her screaming, "Eli's got a gun." However, both Judd and Cauldwell testified that they did not hear anyone yell that phrase.
Dr. Zhang of the Regional Medical Examiner's Office testified to the results of the autopsy he performed on Jamison's body. He stated that Jamison was shot in the back and in his leg from a distance beyond two and one-half feet. Dr. Zhang testified that Jamison bled to death as a result of the gunshot wounds.
An arrest warrant was issued for defendant on August 9, 2005 but police were unable to locate him at his residence, his family members' residences or his place of employment, Coach Bus Company. Employment records reflected that defendant reported to work on August 6, 8 and 9, 2005. However, when interviewed, defendant's employer stated that defendant had called in and requested family leave, saying he was still distraught over the murder of his brother, Anthony (also known as "Eli"), approximately one month earlier. Defendant never returned to work.
Defendant surrendered to police on August 31, 2005, after retaining his attorney. Police officers observed a tattoo, "Eli," on his right arm.
The timing of defendant's surrender was an issue discussed both in testimony at trial and in the prosecutor's summation. His surrender came four days after the death of Cirita Lee. Prior to trial, the prosecutor advised the court that she had been murdered on her front steps by an unknown assailant and sought to introduce such facts at trial. The trial court directed the prosecutor not to present any evidence as to the cause of death but permitted evidence that she was dead, rather than unavailable. The prosecutor elicited the following testimony from Detective Christopher Smith of the Essex County Prosecutor's Office:
Q: What day did she [Lee] die?
Q: When did you stop looking for the defendant, James Dawson?
Q: Let me rephrase. Did he ...