In Gang Related Murder, Lawyer’s Failure To Call Alibi Witnesses May Be Ineffective Assistance
- March 21, 2014
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Fedner Pierre-Louis, allegedly of the Playboy Posse criminal gang, was convicted of first-degree aggravated manslaughter (N.J.S.A. 2C:11-4(a)(1)); first-degree robbery (N.J.S.A. 2C:15-1), first-degree felony murder (N.J.S.A. 2C:11-3(a)(3)), third degree unlawful possession of a firearm (N.J.S.A. 2C:39-5(b)) and second-degree possession of a firearm for an unlawful purpose (N.J.S.A. 2C:39-4(a)). The defendant, in State of NJ v. Fedner Pierre-Louis, was sentenced to 45 years in prison for this murder of an oncologist, Jeffrey Perchick, at a hotel in the Newark area. Pierre-Louis was charged when a gun used in another crime was traced to him. However, Pierre-Louis offered his defense attorney seven potential alibi witnesses, including family members and friends from his night-school classes, who were willing to testify on his behalf. Defense counsel employed a private investigator who spoke with the alibi witnesses and determined them to be unreliable. As a result of the private investigator’s assessment, defendant’s counsel made the decision not to present any of the alibi witnesses and Pierre-Louis was convicted. Upon a post-conviction relief filing by defendant, the trial judge, Union County Superior Court Judge John Triarsi vacated the guilty verdict then reversed himself after reviewing documents demonstrating defendant’s trial counsel knowingly made the decision not to present the alibi witnesses after interviews by the private investigator. The NJ Appellate Division affirmed the trial court’s ruling and the NJ Supreme Court granted the defendant’s petition for certification. The NJ Supreme Court considered whether the petition for post-conviction relief satisfied the test set forth by Strickland v. Washington, 466 U.S. 668, 104 S. Ct. 2052, 80 L. Ed.2d 674 (1984) and State v. Fritz, 105 N.J. 42 (1987). The Justices heard arguments from the prosecution and defense regarding the with whom the decision to produce witnesses lies, the standard of review the trial judge must undertake and at one point the Court has the authority to disturb the trial judge’s findings. Ultimately, the NJ Supreme Court held that the trial court’s findings were not sufficient with regard to either prong of the test and remanded the matter to the trial court for a new hearing including the presentation of the alibi witnesses for the purposes of determining credibility. If you are facing criminal charges in NJ, the consequences of a conviction can change your life. For more information about gang crimes, weapons charges, murder, manslaughter, robbery and other serious criminal charges in New Jersey visit HeatherDarlingLawyer.com. This blog is for informational purposes only and not intended to replace the advice of an attorney.