Archive for December 2012

NEW JERSEY CRIMINAL ATTORNEYS STUDY APPELLATE DIVISION RULING IN WITNESS-TAMPERING CONVICTION

On May 17, 2007, the defendant, the head of a High School’s Physical Education Department and field hockey coach, met with a 17-year-old student who claimed to have engaged in sexual encounters with another field hockey coach. The defendant called the student into their office and urged the student to rescind her claims against the coach because the defendant knew the coach from a prior relationship, claimed that the coach was on suicide watch and told the student that they could “save” the coach. The defendant was a family friend of the student and had coached her in the past.  The defendant then handed the student a note stating that “you hold the key” before the student left the office.  The student later found nine notes in the defendant’s handwriting near the student’s locker indicating the student’s obligation to tell the truth..

The defendant, facing witness-tampering and official misconduct convictions, claimed to believe that no sexual relationship existed between the student and field hockey coach. The trial judge forced the defendant to disprove an element of the charged offense by clear and convincing evidence, rather than requiring the state to prove each element beyond a reasonable doubt.

A New Jersey lawyer fought to prove that the trial judge erroneously shifted the burden of proof to the defendant. The attorney argued that the trial judge erroneously held that the defendant “had not satisfied the clear-and-convincing-evidence standard in the affirmative defense statute, N.J.S.A. 2C:2-4c(3).

The Appellate Division reversed both convictions stating that the trial judge “erred by shifting the burden of proof to [defendant] and by brining up the issue of mistake of fact or law even though the [defendant] ‘never asserted’ a defense…or presented evidence that she did not believe her conduct legally constituted an offense.”

Please visit the website of New Jersey Criminal Attorney John F. Renner for more information.

Legal Quote of the Week:

“But evidence drawn empirically from facts, though it may justify the action of the practical man, is not scientifically conclusive”

Beatrice Potter Webb, English sociologist and social reformer, ‘The Economics of Factory Legislation,” Socialism and National minimum (1909)