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State v. Hill

September 3, 2010

STATE OF NEW JERSEY, PLAINTIFF-RESPONDENT,
v.
JEROME HILL, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.



On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Middlesex County, Indictment No. 06-07-1073.

Per curiam.

NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION

Submitted January 27, 2010

Before Judges Axelrad, Sapp-Peterson and Espinosa.

A grand jury indicted defendant, Jerome Hill, for third-degree aggravated assault, N.J.S.A. 2C:12-1(b)(5) (Counts One and Two); third-degree possession of a controlled dangerous substance (C.D.S.), N.J.S.A. 2C:35-10(a)(1) (Count Three); third-degree hindering own apprehension, N.J.S.A. 2C:29-3(b)(2) (Count Four); and third-degree resisting arrest, N.J.S.A. 2C:29-2(a)(3) (Count Five). He was found guilty of two counts of third-degree aggravated assault and one count of third-degree resisting arrest. He was sentenced to serve an aggregate five-year period of incarceration, together with appropriate fines and penalties. The present appeal followed.

On appeal, he raises the following points for our consideration:

POINT [I]

THE TRIAL COURT DEPRIVED MR. HILL OF DUE PROCESS AND COMMITTED REVERSIBLE ERROR BY SETTING ASIDE MR. HILL'S PLEA TO A THREE[-] YEAR TERM, AND THEN, JUST TWO DAYS LATER, OFFERING HIM THE CHOICE BETWEEN A PLEA TO A FOUR[-]YEAR TERM OR A TRIAL, BECAUSE IT CHANGED ITS MIND ON HOW TO PUNISH THE STATE FOR A DISCOVERY VIOLATION. (U.S. Const. [a]mends. VI and XIV; N.J. Const. [] [a]rt. I, [¶] 1, 9 and 10).

POINT [II]

THE TRIAL COURT ABUSED ITS DISCRETION BY TELLING THE JURY THAT IT HAD RULED PRETRIAL THAT THE POLICE OFFICERS HAD A RIGHT TO STOP MR. HILL, QUESTION HIM, AND ASK HIM FOR IDENTIFICATION.

POINT [III]

THE STATE'S MISCONDUCT IN REFERRING TO EVIDENCE OUTSIDE OF THE RECORD DEPRIVED MR. HILL OF A FAIR TRIAL.

POINT [IV]

THE STATE IMPERMISSIBLY BOLSTERED THE POLICE OFFICERS['] CREDIBILITY BY RELYING ON PERSONAL OPINION, THUS DENYING MR. HILL OF HIS RIGHT TO A FAIR TRIAL.

POINT [V]

THE COURT-SANCTIONED INTRODUCTION OF IRRELEVANT EVIDENCE BY THE STATE DEPRIVED MR. HILL OF A FAIR TRIAL.

POINT [VI]

THE TRIAL COURT ABUSED ITS DISCRETION BY IMPOSING A MANIFESTLY EXCESSIVE SENTENCE.

We have considered the points raised in light of the record and applicable legal principles, and we find them unpersuasive. We therefore affirm.

The following facts are relevant to the issues raised on appeal. After seeing defendant crouched in the bushes of a housing project located in a high crime area in the northern part of New Brunswick, Officers James Hoover and Michael Negvesky, who had been on routine patrol at night in a marked police vehicle, stopped their vehicle and observed defendant walking out from the courtyard. When defendant saw the officers, he "did an about-face and tried to go the other way" according to Officer Hoover. The officers got out of the car and told defendant to stop. Defendant complied, but appeared "very nervous" and "kind of jumpy" to Officer Hoover. When Officer Hoover asked defendant his name, he identified himself as Dwayne Hill. While awaiting a response from police headquarters to their warrant check, Officer Hoover noticed a driver's license sticking out of defendant's pocket. Officer Hoover took the license and saw that although defendant's picture was on the license, it bore the name of Jerome Hill. When questioned about the discrepancy between the name on the license and the name he had just provided to the officers, defendant "pushed off the car and ran around" Officer Hoover, who held onto defendant's jacket. Defendant removed his jacket, so the officer held onto defendant's shirt. Defendant stopped trying to run away, but scuffled with the officers. He was eventually restrained after pepper spray was sprayed on him. The officers and defendant received medical attention: Officer Hoover for a bite and cuts on his knees, defendant for the effects of the O.C.*fn1 spray, a type of pepper spray, and Officer Negvesky for a cut lip and knee.

In August 2006, the State offered defendant a negotiated plea to the possession charge and, in exchange, a three-year flat custodial sentence. However, defendant had not yet received discovery, although it had been requested. The plea offer was not accepted at that time. On December 15, the State once again offered defendant a three-year flat custodial sentence. Again defendant rejected the plea, and the requested medical records had still not been provided.

It was not until jury selection commenced in February 2007 that the State turned over the officers' medical records. After reviewing those records, defense counsel advised the State that defendant ...


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