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NJ PCR Hearing Granted After Jury May Have Seen Defendant in Handcuffs


by in Criminal Appeals

State v. Hector C. Morales, unpublished opinion, App. Div. Docket No. A-3968-08T4 (September 29, 2010) – Denial of PCR reversed, case remanded for evidentiary hearing. “As to defendant’s … claim with respect to the performance of his trial attorney, we agree with defendant that the trial court acted too swiftly in concluding that defendant was not entitled to post-conviction relief. Defendant asserted that at one point during the trial, the jury, which was in the hallway, saw him being transported in handcuffs. He contended in his petition that he told his attorney of this incident, and his attorney failed to pursue it before the trial court…. In our judgment, defendant was entitled to a hearing at which the credibility of his allegation could be measured by testimony offered under oath and tested through cross-examination. The trial court recognized that if the jury considering the question of defendant’s guilt or innocence of the crimes charged did, in fact, see him being escorted in handcuffs, the likelihood of irremediable prejudice was great…. Here, during the course of the hearing on defendant’s petition, the trial court expressed its view at several junctures that it did not believe defendant’s assertion. To prevent the possibility of any taint flowing from those statements, we direct that this hearing be conducted by a trial judge other than the judge who initially heard defendant’s petition for post-conviction relief.”






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