In criminal matters, the State is tasked with proving a defendant’s guilt. A defendant, conversely, does not bear any burden of proof and is not required to offer any evidence. In some instances, though, a defendant may wish to assert an affirmative defense in order to avoid a conviction. The affirmative defense of third-party guilt was the topic of a recent New Jersey opinion in a case in which the defendant appealed his convictions for numerous crimes arising out of the theft of a vehicle. If you are accused of theft or any other crime, it is wise to confer with a New Jersey criminal defense attorney to evaluate your possible defenses.
The Alleged Crime
It is reported that a man stole a blue SUV in March 2017 and then picked up the defendant and another individual. A police officer recognized the SUV on the highway and began following it. A high-speed chase ensued, and the SUV ultimately careened out of control and spun into a pole. The driver died on the scene. The defendant was charged with multiple crimes, including aggravated manslaughter, vehicular manslaughter, and receiving stolen property.
Allegedly, throughout the trial, the prosecution referred to the deceased man as the carjacker but indicated that the defendant was driving at the time of the crash and that if he had pulled over, the deceased man would have lived. The defendant was convicted as charged and appealed, arguing in part that the trial court erred in failing to instruct the jury regarding third-party guilt. (more…)