State v. James Messino, unpublished opinion, App. Div. Docket No. A-0535-08T4 (December 27, 2010) – Denial of PCR reversed, case remanded for evidentiary hearing.
“Defendant’s conviction arose out of the death of Dakota Roberts, the twenty-three-month-old son of defendant’s paramour, Laurie Roberts, with whom defendant resided at the time of Dakota’s death…. Unquestionably, the medical issues in the case were complex. The expert reports defendant submitted in support of his petition contain opinions confirming the opinion of Dr. Adams that Dakota’s pre-existing MPS complicated ‘by failure of the child’s clotting mechanism, [were] absolutely unique[.]’ Under these circumstances, testimony from additional experts cannot be viewed as cumulative for purposes of determining whether, if called, their testimony would have altered the jury verdict. Given the inference of abuse that could be drawn from Mangini’s testimony that Dakota started to sustain injuries after defendant and Roberts started dating, testimony from character witnesses and additional experts, as well as from the DYFS workers who conducted an investigation into suspected abuse, may have altered the jury’s verdict…. [T]he proofs presented in support of the petition represent more than bald assertions. Defendant’s allegations were supported by affidavits based upon the personal knowledge of the affiants, expert reports and DYFS records. If believed, a jury may have reasonably concluded that Dakota’s death was accidental rather than as a result of reckless indifference to the value of human life for which defendant was convicted.”