Aggravated Assault Results In Miscarriage
- February 23, 2016
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Laquesha Cathcart and Tisha Cathcart were indicted for second-degree aggravated assault (N.J.S.A. 2C:12-1(b)(1)), second-degree burglary (N.J.S.A. 2C:18-2), first-degree robbery (N.J.S.A. 2C:15-1), and fourth-degree theft by unlawful taking (N.J.S.A. 2C:20-3(a)) after forcefully entering the victim’s apartment following a dispute over a parking spot in New Brunswick, NJ. The Cathcarts assaulted R.L. and J.D., her daughter, in the presence of R.L.’s husband, F.D., and son. R.L.’s daughter and son both advised the defendant’s that R.L. was pregnant but they continued the assault. R.L. miscarried within the week. The main issue in this matter is whether the defendants purposely or knowingly attempted to cause serious bodily injury to R.L. The trial court granted the defendant’s motion to exclude testimony relating to R.L.’s pregnancy and miscarriage after determining the probative value of the evidence was substantially outweighed by the likelihood it would prejudice the jury against the defendants. The appeal in State v. Cathcart focused on the exclusion of the evidence. N.J. As affirmed in State v. Buckley, 216 N.J. 249 (2013), N.J. Rule of Evidence 403 permits a court to exclude evidence in the event the prejudicial value outweighs the probative value. More than a possibility of substantial prejudice is required State v. Swint, 328 N.J. Super. 236 (App. Div.), cert. denied, 165 N.J. 492 (2000). To exclude evidence, the party seeking exclusion must demonstrate that the evidence is has such “inflammatory potential as to have a probable capacity to divert the minds of the jurors from a reasonable and fair evaluation.” State v. Thompson, 59 N.J. 396, 421 (1971). A significant consideration in the decision to exclude evidence is also whether other evidence is available to prove the fact the evidence is offered to prove. Biunno, Weissbard & Zegas, Current N.J. Rules of Evidence, comment 1 on N.J.R.E. 403 (2014). Exclusion of certain evidence, such as motive in a criminal matter, requires a higher showing of prejudice. State v. Rogers, 19 N.J. 218 (1955). Conviction for aggravated assault requires proof by the prosecution that each defendant acted with the requisite state of mind or, under circumstances manifesting extreme indifference to human life, acted recklessly in an attempt to cause or did cause such bodily injury pursuant to N.J.S.A. 2C:12-1(b)(1). State v. Mingo, 263 N.J. Super. 296 (App. Div. 1992), rev’d. 132 N.J. 75 (1993). This requires proof of the defendant’s mental state at the time of the assault. The State’s appeal centered on the fact that the defendants were advised that R.L. was pregnant yet continued with their assault which included kicking and punching R.L. in the abdomen. In its decision to reverse in part and affirm in part, the N.J. Appellate Division determined that the statements regarding R.L.’s pregnancy were highly relevant to the issue of the defendants’ mental state but that the testimony regarding the miscarriage was overly prejudicial. Aggravated assault charges are very serious and bear severe consequences including 5 to 10 years in prison, with an 85% parole disqualifier under the No Early Release Act (NERA), and fines of up to $150,000. If you are facing assault charges, you should obtain experienced criminal defense counsel immediately to insure your rights are protected. For more information about assault, robbery, burglary, theft or other serious criminal charges in New Jersey, visit DarlingFirm.com. This blog is for informational purposes only and not intended to replace the advice of an attorney.