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NJ Court Declines to Reverse on Double Jeopardy Grounds

04
Jun
2010

by in Criminal Appeals

State v. Kelly, ? N.J. ?, 992 A.2d 776 (2010) – Conviction and Appellate Division affirmance upheld. “In this case, a jury convicted defendant Duane Kelly of committing multiple crimes, including two murders and a robbery. Based on the court’s instructions, the jury could only have found that those crimes were committed with the use of a .357 or .38 caliber handgun.

The jury, however, acquitted defendant of both having unlawfully possessed that weapon and having possessed it for the purpose of committing the murders and robbery. The trial court ordered a new trial on the convictions because of a defense witness’s perjured testimony.

At the second jury trial, defendant was convicted, as a principal, of the murders and robbery. Defendant claims that the second trial violated the Double Jeopardy Clause of the Fifth Amendment. He essentially argues that by finding him not guilty of possessing the murder weapon, the first jury must have concluded that he was an accomplice and not the shooter….

Defendant’s retrial did not offend any principle of collateral estoppel incorporated within the constitutional guarantee against double jeopardy. A review of the jury charge and verdict sheet in the first trial indicates that the acquittals and convictions constituted an inconsistent verdict…. Because the first trial’s acquittals did not determine as an ultimate fact that defendant was an accomplice rather than the shooter, it follows that the State was not foreclosed on double jeopardy grounds from proceeding on a theory that he acted alone.

Even if the verdicts were not inconsistent, we would be loath to conclude that the State should be collaterally estopped from proceeding with a new trial necessitated by perjured testimony presented by defendant, however innocently, which tainted the convictions and the acquittals in the first trial.”

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