NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Argued July 23, 2013
On appeal from Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Bergen County, Indictment No. 09-06-1226.
Brian J. Neary argued the cause for appellant (Law Offices of Brian J. Neary, attorneys; Mr. Neary, of counsel and on the brief; Henry A. Sackler, on the brief).
Jeanne Screen, Deputy Attorney General, argued the cause for respondent (John J. Hoffman, Acting Attorney General, attorney; Ms. Screen, of counsel and on the brief).
Before Judges Espinosa and Hoffman.
Defendant appeals from his convictions for first-degree attempted murder and second-degree aggravated assault upon Louisa Rodas; two counts of fourth-degree aggravated assault (Denise Richardson and Thomas Richardson); second-degree armed burglary; first-degree armed robbery; and three weapons offenses. He also challenges his sentence as excessive. We affirm.
On the evening of December 15, 2008, defendant entered the home he had shared with his former wife, Denise Richardson, armed with a loaded shotgun. He shot his former sister-in-law, Louisa Rodas, in the head and attempted to shoot her brother, Thomas Richardson.
In a letter to "Diane" four days after the shooting, defendant said he had "a severe argument" with his mother-in-law "that morning and she was viciously nasty so all day it ate me up until I wound up getting drunk and going to the house and mistook Louisa for [his mother-in-law]. Either way it was an awful [decision.]"
Defendant filed a notice of insanity defense and submitted a report from Dr. Robert Latimer in support. The State filed a motion to exclude Dr. Latimer's opinion, asserting that it failed as a matter of law to establish evidence of mental disease or defect under N.J.S.A. 2C:4-1 and that his conclusion regarding intoxication constituted a net opinion. The trial judge conducted a hearing pursuant to N.J.R.E. 104 to determine the admissibility of Dr. Latimer's opinion.
Defendant told Dr. Latimer that, on the day of the shooting, he went to the house to see his wife, Denise, who is now deceased, and gave the following account of the shooting:
Her mother started cursing at me. We had a verbal argument. I went back to my apartment and I got as high as I could without killing myself. I had a shotgun that I had bought in 2007. I loaded it to shoot my mother-in-law, as I thought to myself. I didn't realize what I was doing. I just wanted to shoot her. I wasn't thinking of any consequences. I went back to their house. I entered and I hit my mother-in-law. Except it was not her, it was Louisa. I told Denise to give me her cell phone because I did not want her to call the Cops. I didn't want them to come in and interrupt me from what I was doing. I couldn't see further than that. She was a nuisance. I was in and out of reality. I never thought I was going to commit a murder. It never dawned on me. I didn't want the Cops to interrupt me before I shot her. I just wanted her dead because I was angry. I was out of my mind. It would be a miracle if I get out of this.
At the time of his psychiatric examination, defendant was taking what Dr. Latimer described as "high doses of medication, Seroquel, 400 mg. an antipsychotic." Dr. Latimer concluded that defendant was competent to stand trial ...