State v. Thomas Young, unpublished opinion, App. Div. Docket No. A-1022-08T4 (June 17, 2010) – Convictions reversed.
“[T]he trial court omitted the following passage from the model charge on assessing the credibility of the testimony of a defendant who has a prior criminal conviction: [that the jury ‘may not conclude that the defendant committed the crime … or is more likely to have committed the crime’ and that the convictions are admitted ‘only for … affecting … credibility and for [no] other purpose’]…. We concur with defendant’s contention that the effect of this omission was to tell the jury how it could use the fact of his prior convictions but to fail to tell them how it could not use the fact of his prior convictions…. [T]he State’s evidence cannot fairly be characterized as overwhelming…. The State contends that the charge given to this jury does not fall within the plain error penumbra because the court did instruct the jury that defendant’s prior convictions were admissible ‘only’ in considering his credibility as a witness. In light of the clear prejudice which flows from the disclosure that a defendant has previously been convicted of a crime, we consider it inherently unfair to a defendant to permit a conviction to stand on so slim a reed.”