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State of New Jersey v. Miguel Sanchez

December 3, 2012

STATE OF NEW JERSEY, PLAINTIFF-RESPONDENT,
v.
MIGUEL SANCHEZ, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.



On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Camden County, Indictment No. 92-02-0519.

Per curiam.

NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION

Submitted October 23, 2012 -

Before Judges Messano and Ostrer.

Following a jury trial, defendant Miguel Sanchez was found guilty of first-degree murder, N.J.S.A. 2C:11-3(a)(1); second-degree possession of a weapon for an unlawful purpose, N.J.S.A. 2C:39-4(a); and third-degree unlawful possession of a weapon, N.J.S.A. 2C:39-5(b). The judge separately found defendant guilty of possession of a weapon by certain persons, N.J.S.A. 2C:39-7.*fn1 On July 20, 1994, the judge sentenced defendant to an aggregate term of thirty years' imprisonment without parole.

Defendant appealed and, among others, specifically raised the following two points:

POINT I: THE TRIAL COURT ERRED BY PERMITTING DEFENSE COUNSEL TO WAIVE THE DEFENDANT'S PRESENCE DURING THE TRIAL WITHOUT OBTAINING A VOLUNTARY WAIVER OF HIS CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHT FROM THE DEFENDANT HIMSELF. (NOT RAISED BELOW).

POINT II: THE TRIAL COURT ERRED BY DENYING DEFENSE COUNSEL'S REQUEST FOR A CONTINUANCE TO REEVALUATE THE DEFENDANT'S COMPETENCY TO PROCEED TO TRIAL, TO PERMIT THE DEFENDANT TO TAKE THE MEDICATION NECESSARY TO MAINTAIN COMPETENCY, AS WELL AS TO FACILITATE A MEANINGFUL PARTICIPATION IN HIS DEFENSE. [State v. Miguel Sanchez, No. A-6964-94 (App. Div. March 10, 1997) (slip op. at 2).]

In our opinion, we summarized the evidence at trial, which included the victim's friends seeing defendant arguing with her, brandishing a gun and walking away with the victim to talk. Id. at 3. When the victim did not return, her friends went looking for her and found her shortly thereafter suffering from a gunshot wound. Ibid. She was dead on arrival at the hospital.

Ibid. Defendant confessed to a friend, who, when called as a witness at trial, recanted his prior statement to law enforcement. Id. at 3-4. When apprehended, defendant made several incriminating statements to the police. Id. at 4.

We affirmed defendant's conviction and sentence. Id. at 6. In addressing the above two points, we said:

While he was incarcerated pending trial, defendant exhibited a psychosis which was controllable by Haldol. Nevertheless, defendant was found competent to stand trial at two separate competency hearings, one held prior to trial, and one held at the commencement of trial. The trial court determined that defendant was pretending illness in order to thwart the trial.

During the trial, defendant voluntarily and purposely refused to take his medication. The court found it necessary, on one occasion, to remove defendant from the courtroom as a result of his obstreperous conduct. Defendant had bitten a court officer on the arm and drew blood. The next day, defendant wished to return to the courtroom. The trial court, concerned about the biting incident among other acts, said it would only allow defendant to return if he were bound and shackled. Defense counsel would not consent to allowing defendant back in the courtroom if he was bound and shackled. We do not view defense counsels' refusal to allow defendant to be present, bound and shackled, as a waiver of defendant's right to be present at the trial. In the final ...


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