Court Discusses Evidence of Prior Acts in Criminal Cases in New Jersey
If a person is charged with a crime, the State is limited to what evidence it is permitted to introduce to establish guilt. In other words, it generally cannot introduce evidence of prior wrongs committed by the defendant in an attempt to establish the defendant was a person of a certain character and acted in accordance with that character on the date of the offense. There are some exceptions, however, as discussed in a recent New Jersey opinion in a case in which the defendant was convicted of weapons offenses and other crimes. If you are accused of a crime, it is wise to confer with a New Jersey criminal defense attorney to evaluate your rights.
The Alleged Offense
It is reported that the defendant was observed fighting with his wife outside of a bar in Paterson, New Jersey. He then got into a verbal argument with a man inside of the bar, who told the defendant to leave. The two men then became involved in a physical altercation. The defendant left and then returned fifteen minutes with a gun.
Allegedly, the defendant entered the bar, shot the man he had been fighting with, and then fled. He was arrested and charged with first-degree murder and possessing a weapon for an unlawful purpose. Prior to trial, a hearing was held during which the State sought to admit evidence the defendant was fighting with his wife prior to the shooting. The defendant objected, but the court ruled in favor of the State. A jury convicted the defendant, after which he appealed, arguing in part that the trial court erred in admitting evidence he fought with his wife.