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Defense Attorney Should Investigate Pending Charges Against Witnesses


by in Criminal Defense

In this recent NJ Criminal case, the defendant’s trial attorney may have failed to investigate or discover that the prosecution’s key witness had several pending criminal charges against him at the time of trial. This won the defendant an evidentiary hearing on the issue.

State v. Shawn July, unpublished opinion, App. Div. Docket No. A-5154-07T4 (July 26, 2010) – Denial of PCR reversed, case remanded for evidentiary hearing. “Defendant … on appeal and focuses solely on the question whether his trial attorney was ineffective for failing to discover the existence of additional open charges allegedly pending against Richardson. This, defendant contends, led to an ineffective cross-examination of Richardson, whose credibility was a critical element of the State’s case…. We note that in our earlier opinion, … we were considering the quantum of Richardson’s convictions; that is, would the jury consider him less credible if it knew that he had more than thirteen convictions, rather than considering the question of whether Richardson, in light of pending charges, had a motive to favor the prosecution in his testimony. We do not think it could be seriously questioned that the greater the number of pending charges Richardson might face, the stronger his motivation might be to testify along the lines that favored the State. From the arguments presented to the trial court and to us, it is clear that there is a material factual dispute as to whether defendant’s trial attorney was aware of all of the pending charges that Richardson faced at the time he took the stand. That factual dispute cannot be resolved from the papers; a plenary hearing is required.”






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