On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Ocean County, Indictment No. 06-11-2612.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Submitted December 5, 2011
Before Judges Parrillo and Alvarez.
Defendant June Gorthy, also known as June Governale, appeals from a jury verdict finding her not guilty by reason of insanity of fourth-degree stalking, N.J.S.A. 2C:12-10(b). See N.J.S.A. 2C:4-1. She also appeals her convictions on the remaining two counts of the indictment, fourth-degree possession of prohibited weapons, namely, hollow-point bullets, N.J.S.A. 2C:39-3(f)(1), and third-degree unlawful possession of a .22 Ruger handgun, N.J.S.A. 2C:39-5(b). We remand as to the stalking count, but affirm as to the weapons offenses.
After the trial, the judge conducted a Krol*fn1 hearing on the stalking count, pursuant to N.J.S.A. 2C:4-8, during which expert testimony and a report were submitted. The judge concluded that defendant could not be released "without supervision or conditions without posing a danger to the community and to herself," and therefore ordered her "as a person civilly committed" to a mental health facility approved by the Commissioner of Human Services to receive treatment, not to exceed eighteen months. See N.J.S.A. 2C:4-8(b)(3). On that same date, September 30, 2009, the court imposed two concurrent five-year terms of probation on the weapons counts, subject to defendant having no contact with the stalking victim or her family. At that juncture, because of defendant's several arrests and eventual incarceration while awaiting trial, she had accumulated 1215 days of jail credit.
At the conclusion of the pretrial competency hearing, having found defendant competent to stand trial, the judge also concluded that she could not "voluntarily, intelligently and knowingly waive" the defense of not guilty by reason of insanity on the stalking count because defendant's expert opined that defendant's beliefs about the victim were delusional. He overruled defendant's vigorous objection - because she could be "incarcerated into a hospital" - to being compelled to present a not guilty by reason of insanity defense. Defendant also objected based on the irrefutable fact that even if convicted of all the charges, she had accumulated such substantial credits that additional incarceration was unlikely. Additionally, she was concerned about the stigma that might result from such an acquittal. Defendant instead wished to present to the jury her claim that she had been invited to New Jersey by the victim and that their consensual relationship constituted a defense to the stalking charge.
We glean the following facts from the record, noting that the indictment alleges that the stalking occurred between July 1, 2002 and May 31, 2006. Defendant met the victim, C.L., in 1998 while attending a workshop on "Healing Trauma" at Esalen Institute in California. C.L. is a licensed marriage and family therapist in New Jersey and was one of the two presenters at that workshop. Defendant attended a second seminar, in which C.L. was involved, in November 1999. In violation of Esalen's protocols, she asked C.L. personal questions. Afterwards, defendant began to attempt to communicate with the victim, who wrote to defendant once that she wanted no contact with her and that defendant should obtain professional help. Because defendant persisted, C.L. took significant steps to conceal her whereabouts, including removing her address from her business cards and her number from the phone directory.
Sometime in very early July 2002 defendant left her home in Colorado, and drove a truck and horse trailer to New Jersey. On July 8, 2002, defendant left a message on C.L.'s answering machine indicating she "was in town." The following day, C.L. found a note from defendant taped to her office door. C.L. immediately contacted the Manasquan Police Department.
On July 10, 2002, C.L. was notified that defendant was taken into custody, having been located that day seated on the floor in front of the victim's office door. C.L. was also informed by police that they had seized an axe, guns, knives, and ammunition from defendant's vehicle.
Officer Donald Scott Clayton of the Manasquan Police Department, the arresting officer, testified that on that date when he encountered defendant at C.L.'s office, she claimed she had become friendly with the victim while attending seminars in California. When she could not produce either the victim's home phone number or home address, however, the officer requested that she produce identification. When defendant stood up, the officer asked if she had any weapons, and she handed over a folded buck knife that hung from a sheath on her belt. After Officer Clayton confirmed telephonically that the victim wanted no contact with defendant, he obtained defendant's permission to search her truck. In it he found a .22 Ruger handgun in a duffle bag on the front seat and five rounds of .22 caliber ammunition in a small white envelope in the driver's side door well. Officer Clayton also seized the following items from defendant's horse trailer, in which her personal belongings were stored: a 30-30 rifle wrapped in bubble wrap, four more handguns and several hundred rounds of ammunition, .22 caliber and 9 mm caliber ammunition in the pouches of a saddlebag, a long-handled axe, a hunting knife in a sheath, 9 mm Ruger hollow-point bullets, .25 automatic ammunition, and .45 caliber ammunition. Defendant was charged only with possession of the hollow-nosed bullets and the .22 Ruger handgun.
Despite a no-contact order, defendant left a voicemail message on C.L.'s phone in December 2002, resulting in an additional arrest. In April 2006, defendant resumed leaving messages on the victim's office voicemail.*fn2
On May 9, 2006, Officer Keith Smith responded to a report that a woman was yelling at patrons as they walked in and out of a local post office. When Officer Smith asked the person for her name, defendant gave him C.L.'s last name and C.L.'s home address.
Detective Sergeant Jacob Kleinknecht, who also responded to the scene during the post office incident, had participated in the 2002 investigation. He knew that in April 2006, the victim had reported that defendant was again attempting to contact her.
Detective Kleinknecht explained to the jury that when he encountered defendant at the post office, he happened to have with him the number from which the suspicious calls made to C.L. in April 2006 originated. While standing in front of defendant, he dialed that number, and heard defendant's cell phone ring. He asked her to remove it, and saw that the call's origination point was his number. When Detective Kleinknecht "confront[ed]" defendant about this, she did not respond, and was rearrested.
During the trial, defendant testified on her own behalf. She said that C.L. wanted a relationship with her, but was denying it in order to protect her career. With regard to the weapons found in the vehicles, defendant said merely that all were legal to possess in Colorado and that she had no intention of harming anyone. She had been involved in the sport of target shooting since childhood.
Defendant's expert, Kenneth J. Weiss, M.D., explained to the jury that defendant suffered from "schizoaffective disorder," in other words, that "beyond the mood swings" symptomatic of bipolar disease, she also suffered from "persistent delusions." He opined that her "hybrid condition" caused her to genuinely lack understanding that her conduct towards the victim was threatening, because she had no ability to perceive the difference between right and wrong with regard to C.L. See N.J.S.A. 2C:4-1 ("A person is not criminally responsible for conduct . . . if . . . he did not know what he was doing was wrong."). Dr. Weiss's opinion was limited to the stalking charge.
On appeal, defendant raises the following points:
IT WAS ERROR FOR THE TRIAL COURT TO ALLOW AN INSANITY DEFENSE OVER THE OBJECTION OF ...