In criminal matters, the State bears the burden of proving a defendant’s guilt. In contrast, while criminal defendants can set forth evidence if they choose to, they are not required to prove their innocence. Recently, a New Jersey court addressed a defendant’s challenge that a jury instruction regarding flight from the scene impermissibly shifted the burden of proof from the State to the defendant, in a matter in which the defendant was convicted of numerous crimes, including aggravated assault. If you are charged with assault or another serious offense, it is wise to talk to a skillful New Jersey assault defense attorney regarding what evidence the State may try to produce against you at trial.
The Alleged Criminal Acts and Trial
It is reported that an altercation broke out at a bar in New Jersey. The fight spilled into the street, and multiple gunshots were fired. Three people died, and numerous other people suffered injuries. During their investigation, the police identified the defendant as the individual who fired the shots. He was charged with multiple crimes, including kidnapping, first-degree murder, and aggravated assault.
Allegedly, during the trial, evidence was presented that after the incident, the defendant went to Florida, despite previously having no plans to do so. The trial court set forth a jury charge regarding flight as consciousness of guilt, and the defendant did not object to the substance of the charge at trial. He was convicted of many of the charges and sentenced to ninety-nine years in prison. He then appealed, arguing in part that the jury charge improperly shifted the burden of proof from the State onto him.