State v. Karlton L. Blackmon, ? N.J. ?, 2010 N.J. LEXIS ? (June 9, 2010) – Order remanding case affirmed as modified. Remand will be for judge to provide statement of reasons for his refusal to allow defendant’s father to speak before sentencing, not for re-sentencing.
“By constitutional amendment, statute, and our Court Rules, a class of people who have a right to be heard in person in connection with a sentencing has been established, and it is a universe that does not include family, friends or supporters of defendants. We cannot, however, end our analysis of this matter with that observation because juxtaposed against that framework of unquestioned rights are practices that sentencing courts routinely follow…. [S]entencing courts commonly permit defendants’ family members and others, including spiritual advisors, to address the court in an effort to call attention to facts about the defendant that bear upon the sentence to be imposed but are not otherwise plain from the record…. It is in failing to consider the possibility that the sentencing court could have articulated an appropriate reason for rejecting the request that defendant’s step-father be heard, and in mandating that he be heard in the course of a new sentencing proceeding, that the panel erred. The defect in the sentencing proceeding was not necessarily in the court’s choice, but in failing to explain the reasons for deciding to reject it and, as a result, in failing to create an adequate record for review…. In an abundance of caution, and in keeping with our concern that proceedings not only are fair but that they be conducted so as to assure the public and participants that they are fair, we are constrained to remand this matter to the sentencing court for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.”