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Murder Conviction Cannot Stand on Cumulative Trial Errors

Murder Conviction Cannot Stand on Cumulative Trial Errors

Jahnell Weaver and Khalil Bryant were in attendance at a graduation party in Camden, NJ where someone pulled a gun and fired 5 shots killing Edward Williams and wounding Amyr Hill. Although only one individual could have fired the gun, both Hill and Weaver were implicated by others at the party. Jahnell Weaver and Khalil Bryant were juveniles but both were charged as adults with first-degree murder (N.J.S.A. 2C:11-3(a)(1)(2)); first-degree attempted murder (N.J.S.A. 2C:5-1 and 2C:11-3); second-degree aggravated assault (N.J.S.A. 2C:12-1(b)(1)); third-degree assault with a deadly weapon (N.J.S.A. 2C:12-1(b)(2)); second-degree possession of a weapon for an unlawful purpose (N.J.S.A. 2C:39-4(a)); third-degree unlawful possession of a weapon (N.J.S.A. 2C:39-5(b)); and third-degree endangering an injured victim (N.J.S.A. 2C:12-1.2). At trial, the only significant dispute was weather Weaver or Bryant was the shooter. Both Weaver and Bryant were seen with guns at the party. Hill identified Bryant as the shooter then changed his testimony while other witnesses offered conflicting testimony. Weaver offered that Bryant later used the same weapon in a shooting as a defense and Weaver moved for a separate trial. The court denied Weaver’s application to admit other crimes evidence regarding Bryant’s shooting of another individual shortly after the incident in question due to the substantial prejudice it would cause against Bryant as well as denying Weaver’s request for a separate trial. The State was able to admit Bryant’s statement that he received the gun immediately after the shooting in question. However, because Bryant did not testify, Weaver did not have the opportunity to cross-examine him with regard to the statement. Lamike Goffney, an eyewitness, saw one of the men fleeing the scene hand the gun to another man fleeing the scene and other evidence in the trial led the jury to the conclusion that Bryant then received the weapon from Weaver. Weaver was ultimately convicted and appealed. After the NJ Appellate Division upheld the decision of the trial court, State v. Weaver was heard by the NJ Supreme Court. The NJ Supreme Court reversed the decision of the Appellate Division and remanded the matter for a new trial based on the potential prejudice to Weaver as a result of the cumulative errors in denying his request for a separate trial, refusing to allow other crimes evidence and allowing Bryant’s statement to enter without cross-examination. The penalty for murder is severe including 30 years to life in prison. If you are facing homicide charges, you need experienced criminal defense counsel to protect your rights. For more information about murder, homicide, unlawful possession of a weapon, possession of a weapon for an unlawful purpose, assault, assault with a deadly weapon or other serious crimes in New Jersey visit HeatherDarlingLawyer.com. This blog is for informational purposes only and not intended to replace the advice of an attorney.

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