NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Submitted May 6, 2013
On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Essex County, Indictment No. 92-02-0584.
Joseph E. Krakora, Public Defender, attorney for appellant (Philip Lago, Designated Counsel, on the briefs).
Carolyn A. Murray, Acting Essex County Prosecutor, attorney for respondent (Raymond W. Hoffman, Special Deputy Attorney General/ Acting Assistant Prosecutor, on the brief).
Before Judges Sabatino and Maven.
Defendant was convicted in a 1992 jury trial of first-degree murder of his wife and unlawful possession of a weapon. In this fourth appeal arising out of his conviction, defendant seeks reversal of a June 28, 2011 order denying his motion for a new trial. In that motion, defendant proffered newly-discovered evidence, most notably a recantation by his son Nigel, who had inculpated him as a witness for the State almost two decades earlier when he was ten years old. We affirm the trial court's denial of the motion.
The factual background is set forth in detail in our February 1995 opinion sustaining defendant's conviction on direct appeal. See State v. Taylor, No. A-4021-92 (App. Div. Feb. 14, 1995). Defendant and his wife had marital problems, which caused her to separate from him. She left Georgia with their two sons, relocating to New Jersey to an apartment in Montclair. Although the wife had become romantically involved with another man, she allowed defendant to stay in her apartment over the 1991 Christmas holiday. In a conversation with a guest at a party, defendant suggested that he might harm his wife.
According to Nigel's trial testimony, he overheard defendant state on the phone to Nigel's grandmother on either December 27 or 28, 1991 an intention to kill Nigel's mother. On December 30, 1991, the children woke up without their mother present in the apartment. Through a window, Nigel saw his mother slumped over the front passenger seat of her car outside. Nigel pointed this out to defendant. Rather than immediately coming to her aid, they waited an hour because defendant had suggested that they eat and bathe before they go outside to look in the car.
The wife was subsequently found dead. An autopsy showed that she had been strangled and stabbed. Defendant was identified by authorities as her assailant, and he was charged with murder and other related offenses.
Defendant did not testify at his trial. His defense theme apparently was that some of the scratches found on his own body were from his son and the rest were the result of rough sex with his wife, but that he did not cause his wife's death.
After we upheld defendant's conviction on direct appeal, the Supreme Court denied certification. 140 N.J. 328 (1995). Defendant then filed a petition for post-conviction relief ("PCR"), alleging that he received ineffective assistance of counsel. His PCR claim was rejected by the trial court and affirmed by this court. State v. Taylor, No. A-3801-98 (App. Div. Dec. 15, 2000). Again, the Supreme Court denied certification. 167 N.J. 636 (2001).
In January 2007, defendant filed a pro se motion for a new trial, alleging newly-discovered evidence consisting of, among other things, the fact that Nigel was recanting key aspects of his trial testimony. A private investigator for defendant had met with Nigel, by that point an adult, and provided a report confirming Nigel's change of narrative. Upon considering ...