On appeal from an interlocutory order of the Superior Court of New Jersey, Chancery Division, Family Part, Hudson County, Docket No. FJ-09-2057-10.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Submitted February 3, 2011 - Decided
Before Judges Wefing and Baxter.
A.A. was charged with delinquent acts which, if committed by an adult, would constitute murder, N.J.S.A. 2C:11-3; possession of a firearm for an unlawful purpose, N.J.S.A. 2C:39-4(a); and unlawful possession of a weapon, N.J.S.A. 2C:39-5(b). The State filed a motion pursuant to N.J.S.A. 2A:4A-26(a)(2) for waiver of the Family Part's jurisdiction and for transfer of the charges to the Law Division for A.A. to stand trial as an adult. Following an evidentiary hearing, the trial judge found the State failed to establish probable cause to believe that A.A. committed the charged offenses, and entered an order on September 1, 2010 denying the State's motion for waiver to the Law Division.
We granted the State's motion for leave to appeal. For the reasons that follow, we vacate the September 1, 2010 order and remand for the entry of an order transferring the matter to the Law Division for further proceedings.
At the probable cause hearing, the State presented testimony from Detective Sean O'Leary and Detective Javier Toro of the Hudson County Prosecutor's Office. O'Leary testified that he was assigned to investigate the fatal shooting of Alterique Perry, which occurred in the early morning hours of December 19, 2009 in the vicinity of Woodlawn Avenue and Corcoran Street in Jersey City. During the course of the investigation, he and Toro interviewed several individuals who attended a party at the home of Euria Baxter shortly before Perry was shot. Toro testified to the statement Baxter provided. She stated that there was a party at her residence on the night of December 18, 2009 that ended in the early morning hours of December 19, when she ordered everyone to leave. Within a few minutes, she heard gunshots and saw Perry attempting to run away from the corner of Woodlawn and Corcoran. She then saw him hit by a bullet and fall to the ground.
Another witness, Tashema Porter, provided a statement to O'Leary that she overheard a man whom she knew as "Akon" on the telephone telling someone that Alterique Perry was present at the party. Shortly after Akon made this phone call, "Greedo" and "S-Dot" arrived at the party. It was after a fist fight between some of the males at the party that Baxter turned off the music, announced that the party was over and directed everyone to leave. Porter saw A.A. leave Baxter's house and proceed to the corner of Woodlawn and Corcoran.
O'Leary also described his interview with LaPorsha Reed, who told him that after the party ended, she heard an eruption of gunfire coming from the corner of Woodlawn and Corcoran where she observed A.A. standing. After the shots were fired, she saw A.A. and two others running east on Woodlawn Avenue. Reed did not say she saw A.A. holding a gun or firing.
Although the interviews of Baxter, Reed and Porter were all conducted in the early morning hours of December 19, 2009, the interview of the State's principal witness, Demetrius Bell, did not occur until April 1, 2010. Bell was issued Miranda*fn1 warnings when his interview with O'Leary began, because the extent, if any, of Bell's involvement in Perry's murder was unknown. Bell told O'Leary that after the party ended, he turned left to the corner of Woodlawn and Corcoran where he saw A.A. and other members of the Crips gang standing on the corner. According to O'Leary, Bell told him that he saw a gun in the hands of a man whom he knew as "Fat Cat," and that he also saw a gun in "Greedo's" hand. O'Leary testified that a database used by law enforcement established that "Greedo" and "Mayo" were nicknames for A.A. Bell also said he saw flashes of gunfire coming from the guns that both Greedo and Fat Cat were holding. After he heard the shots ring out, Bell ran east on Woodlawn Avenue and went home.
At some point after O'Leary completed his interview of Bell, he showed Bell a photograph of A.A. Bell identified A.A. as "Greedo," one of the two people he had seen firing a gun on the night in question. After identifying A.A.'s photograph, Bell signed it. O'Leary identified A.A. in court as the person whose photograph Bell had signed.
On cross-examination, O'Leary explained that A.A.'s half-brother, R.A., used the nickname "Greede," and that some of the witnesses appeared to use the names "Greede," which referred to R.A., and ...