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State v. Chipepo

July 26, 2010

STATE OF NEW JERSEY, PLAINTIFF-RESPONDENT,
v.
VIETTE CHIPEPO, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.



On appeal from Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Essex County, Indictment No. 05-01-0010.

Per curiam.

NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION

Submitted May 19, 2010

Before Judges Graves and Sabatino.

On January 3, 2005, defendant Viette Chipepo and her husband Mwansa Chipepo were charged with second-degree conspiracy to promote or facilitate the crime of aggravated arson, in violation of N.J.S.A. 2C:5-2 and N.J.S.A. 2C:17-1(a) (count one); and second-degree aggravated arson by starting a fire in the Township of Maplewood with the purpose of destroying a building or structure, in violation of N.J.S.A. 2C:17-1(a)(2) (count two). Following a joint trial, defendant was found guilty on both counts.*fn1 The court sentenced defendant to a five-year prison term.

On appeal, defendant presents the following arguments:

POINT I

THE PROSECUTOR'S OPENING STATEMENT ALLEGED FACTS THAT WERE NEVER INTRODUCED INTO EVIDENCE DURING THE TRIAL, DEPRIVING THE DEFENDANT OF A FAIR TRIAL AND VIOLATING HER DUE PROCESS RIGHTS IN VIOLATION OF THE NEW JERSEY AND UNITED STATES CONSTITUTIONS.

POINT II

THE CONVICTIONS AGAINST THE DEFENDANT WERE AGAINST THE WEIGHT OF THE EVIDENCE AND SHOULD BE SET ASIDE (NOT RAISED BELOW).

POINT III

THE LOWER COURT ERRED BY NOT GRANTING DEFENDANT'S MOTION FOR JUDGMENT OF ACQUITTAL AT THE END OF THE CASE.

POINT IV

THE PROSECUTOR MADE IMPROPER COMMENTS ABOUT FACTS NOT IN EVIDENCE DURING SUMMATION REQUIRING REVERSAL OF THE DEFENDANT'S CONVICTIONS.

POINT V

THE FAILURE OF THE LOWER COURT TO SENTENCE THE DEFENDANT AS A THIRD-DEGREE OFFENDER INSTEAD OF AS A SECOND-DEGREE OFFENDER, COUPLED WITH THE IMPOSITION OF A FIVE YEAR PRISON TERM, RESULTED IN A SERIOUS INJUSTICE WHERE THE JUDGE DETERMINED, AMONG OTHER THINGS, THAT THERE WERE NO AGGRAVATING FACTORS, ...


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