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NJ Conviction for Robbery Reversed on Appeal


by in Criminal Appeals

The NJ criminal defendant in this case was able to win on appeal by arguing that the trial judge erred in handling a question from the jury on accomplice liability.

State v. Timothy Glenn Watts, unpublished opinion, App. Div. Docket No. A-4331-06T4 (December 4, 2009) – First degree robbery conviction reversed. “the State prosecuted Watts solely on an accomplice liability theory, contending that he willingly participated in the crime with Caldwell and that he shared a common purpose and intent with Caldwell to commit an armed robbery against Singh….

However, the State alternatively took the position that, even if Watts did not learn that Caldwell committed this armed robbery until Caldwell returned to the car with the money, by driving Caldwell away from the scene, he could have formed the requisite intent and purpose at that time to make him an accomplice to the armed robbery…. Over defense counsel’s objection, the judge answered … ‘yes’ to [the question, ‘[c]an the purpose become apparent at any point of the robbery?’]….

The judge’s answer to the jurors’ questions allowed the jurors to find Watts guilty as an accomplice of armed robbery based upon a finding that Watts’ participation in the crime did not begin until Caldwell returned to the car and Watts then first learned that Caldwell committed the robbery. For the reasons we have stated, and as more expansively stated in Whitaker, [402 N.J. Super. 495 (App. Div. 2008), affirmed ? N.J. ?, 2009 N.J. LEXIS (December 7, 2009)], we conclude that in those circumstances, any such conduct by Watts in driving the getaway car could not result in accomplice liability for the crime Caldwell committed by his own conduct. We accordingly reverse Watts’ conviction and remand for a new trial on the armed robbery charges.” (Michael Confusione, Designated Counsel)

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