State v. George Calleia, unpublished opinion, App. Div. Docket No. A-6266-08T4 (June 22, 2010) – Conviction reversed. “We will first address what we deem to be the dispositive issue in this appeal, namely, the admission by the trial court of hearsay statements attributable to the victim concerning her desire and intention to terminate her marriage with defendant….
This issue was presented to the trial court by way of defendant’s in limine motion to suppress. After hearing from counsel on the issue, the court entered an order permitting testimony in the form of statements attributable to decedent pertaining to: (1) her desire to obtain a divorce; (2) her unhappiness in her marriage; (3) contacts she had with and statements she made when seeking advice from matrimonial attorneys related to pursuing a divorce; and (4) her plans to attend a divorce seminar on the night of October 20, 2005….
We are satisfied that the admission of this evidence warrants the reversal of defendant’s conviction. The trial court’s characterization of these statements as ‘state of mind evidence’ under N.J.R.E. 803(c)(3) was incorrect. Given both the prosecutor’s statements on summation and the self-evident character of the testimony presented, these hearsay statements had the clear propensity of being perceived by the jury as evidence of defendant’s motive for allegedly murdering his wife. As such, this evidence should have been excluded as part of the State’s case-in-chief….
The trial court’s reliance on the “state of mind” exception in N.J.R.E. 803(c)(3) was misplaced because, as the record shows, the prosecutor used these statements as evidence of defendant’s motive to kill his wife.”