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State v. Wyles

Superior Court of New Jersey, Appellate Division

January 7, 2020

STATE OF NEW JERSEY, Plaintiff-Appellant,
v.
TAJMIR D. WYLES, Defendant-Respondent.

          Argued telephonically December 3, 2019

          On appeal from an interlocutory order of the Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Camden County, Indictment No. 16-06-1621.

          Linda Anne Shashoua, Special Deputy Attorney General/Acting Assistant Prosecutor, argued the cause for appellant (Jill S. Mayer, Acting Camden County Prosecutor, attorney; Linda Anne Shashoua, of counsel and on the brief).

          Jack J. Lipari argued the cause for respondent (Helmer Conley & Kasselman, PA, attorneys; Jack J. Lipari, of counsel and on the brief).

          Before Judges Hoffman, Currier and Firko.

          OPINION

          CURRIER, J.A.D.

         By leave granted, we consider whether the trial court erred in redacting the statement of a State's witness procured by defendant's investigator. Defendant intended to use the unredacted portions of the statement at trial. After reviewing the statement in camera, the trial court permitted the redaction of portions of the statement it and defendant deemed inculpatory. When the redacted statement was turned over to the State on the eve of trial, the State recognized a discrepancy in the redacted document, material to the witness's version of the events.

         The State requested the court reconsider its redaction and order defendant to provide the entire unredacted statement. The motion was denied. Because we conclude the procedure employed here was contrary to the deep-rooted discovery practices established under Rule 3:13-3 and State v. Williams, 80 N.J. 472 (1979), we reverse.

         In investigating a fatal shooting in February 2016, police learned that Steve[1] had witnessed the events. The day after the occurrence, Steve met with detectives from the police department and prosecutor's office and provided a recorded statement of what had transpired. He stated he knew the shooter from the area and that he was called "Fatboy." Steve identified defendant in a photo display as the shooter; he did not know defendant's real name.

         Defendant was subsequently charged in an indictment with first-degree murder, in violation of N.J.S.A. 2C:11-3(a)(1)(2); second-degree possession of a weapon for an unlawful purpose, in violation of N.J.S.A. 2C:39-4(a); and second-degree unlawful possession of a weapon, in violation of N.J.S.A. 2C:39-5(b).

         Two years after the shooting, an investigator retained by defense counsel contacted Steve, stating he wished to clarify some "things [he] saw in the police reports." The investigator recorded the conversation.

         In December 2018, defendant filed a motion seeking in camera review and redaction of portions of the statement given by Steve to defendant's investigator. Defendant sought an order for the court to conduct an in camera review of the transcript "to determine what portions of the statement the defendant intends to use at trial, and whether any portions of the statement are work product. . . ."

         During oral argument on the motion, defense counsel advised the court he did not think anything in the statement qualified as work product. He argued instead that he was not required to turn over anything inculpatory "that he did not intend to use. . . ." Counsel stated further he would not refer to any redacted portion of the statement during his cross-examination of the witness.

         The State agreed that defendant was not required to turn over a statement of a State's witness that it did not intend to use. However, if defendant decided to use any portion of the witness statement, the entire statement had to be disclosed. The ...


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