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State of New Jersey v. Vincent Johnson

June 29, 2011

STATE OF NEW JERSEY, PLAINTIFF-RESPONDENT,
v.
VINCENT JOHNSON, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.



On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Burlington County, Indictment No. 06-06-0700.

Per curiam.

NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION

Submitted: June 8, 2011

Before Judges Sapp-Peterson and Fasciale.

Defendant appeals from his conviction for fourth-degree shoplifting, N.J.S.A. 2C:20-11b(1).*fn1 He contends, for the firsttime, that the trial judge abused his discretion by admitting into evidence a register receipt concerning the value of items taken. We affirm.

David Culliton, a manager at ShopRite, watched defendant attempt to walk out of the store without paying for seafood. Culliton confronted defendant and escorted him to the seafood department. Defendant then returned the seafood, walked out of the store, and was apprehended by the police.

After defendant was arrested, Culliton watched a clerk scan the seafood items on a "register in training."*fn2 Scanning the price tag on the seafood allowed the register to total the amount of the stolen items.

The State proved the value of the merchandise through testimony from Culliton. Before being questioned about the register receipt, Culliton testified independently that the value of the seafood -- "six lobsters, five shrimp, crab cake, crab legs and some [s]napper filet" -- was more than $200. The State introduced into evidence, without objection and after Culliton's testimony about value, the receipt from the "registerin training." The receipt, with a total of $259.02, verified what the clerk scanned.

Defendant was not present during the trial and the jury found him guilty as charged. The judge sentenced him to five years probation with 364 days in the county jail, and imposed the proper fines and penalties. This appeal followed.

On appeal, defendant raises the following argument:

POINT I

THE HEARSAY DOCUMENT OFFERED AS PROOF OF VALUE WAS CREATED SPECIFICALLY FOR LITIGATION AND IMPROPERLY OFFERED INTO EVIDENCE; AS IT WAS THE ONLY EVIDENCE THAT ELEVATED THE CRIME TO A FOURTH-DEGREE, THE MATTER MUST BE REMANDED FOR A NEW TRIAL ABSENT THIS IMPROPER EVIDENCE (NOT RAISED BELOW).

The scope of our review of a judge's evidentiary ruling is generally limited to ascertaining whether his or her discretion was mistakenly exercised, provided the ruling is not inconsistent with applicable law. State v. Burns, 192 N.J. 312, 332 (2007) (citing Brenman v. Demello, 191 N.J. 18, 31 (2007)); State v. B.M., 397 N.J. Super. 367, 374 (App. Div. 2008). Error in the admission of evidence will not be deemed harmful if the weight of the evidence against the defendant is great. State v. Soto, 340 N.J. Super. 47, 65 (App. Div.) (citing State v. Federico, 198 N.J. Super. 120, 131 (App. Div. 1984), aff'd, 103 N.J. 169 (1986)), certif. denied, 170 N.J. 209 (2001).

Here, defendant failed to object on hearsay grounds to the admissibility into evidence of the receipt; therefore, we must determine whether any error contributed to an unjust and unwarranted result. R. ...


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