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Prior Waiver of Jury Trial Not Binding After Mistrial, says NJ Court

16
Oct
2010

by in Criminal Appeals

State v. Tamesha Campbell, ? N.J. Super. ?, 2010 N.J. Super. LEXIS 125 (July 9, 2010) – Order denying jury trial after mistrial of non-jury trial reversed, case remanded.

“We granted leave to appeal to address whether the mistrial nullifies defendant’s prior waiver of her constitutional right to a trial by jury…. [W]e conclude that in the circumstances presented, defendant’s prior waiver cannot be fairly construed as extending beyond the mistrial. Here, circumstances had significantly changed since that first trial. As the result of the entry of guilty pleas by all codefendants, the legal and factual issues in the case were simplified. Scheduling problems arising from the multiplicity of counsel no longer existed. Defendant had new counsel, and she was the only person left to be tried. There was no way that defendant could have foreseen the changed circumstances of a second trial at the time she initially waived her rights. This is not an occasion in which defendant can be fairly accused of ‘gam[ing] the system.’… We stress that, under most circumstances, after a mistrial, a trial judge should not view whether to grant a request to reassert a Sixth Amendment right to a jury trial as a discretionary matter. Waivers of the right of trial by jury must be ‘strictly construed in favor of the preservation of the right.’ [Citations omitted]…. We thus hold in this case that the declaration of mistrial nullified defendant’s prior waiver of her Sixth Amendment right to trial by jury. The parties have been returned to their original positions as if there had been no trial at all. A jury trial is so fundamental to our system of justice that any waiver should not be presumed.”

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