Gang Murder Conviction Remanded
- April 28, 2014
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Quran Goodman, a member of the Bloods gang was convicted murdering (N.J.S.A. 2C:11-3(a)) Rashon Bryant, a member of the Crips gang; third-degree possession of a handgun (N.J.S.A. 2C:39-5(b)); and second-degree possession of a weapon for an unlawful purpose (N.J.S.A. 2C:39-4(a)). Goodman, a member of the “Crips” gang under the name of “Blak”, along with other Crips members from the Irvington area, attempted to convince Bryant to join the gang. Bryant was later incarcerated and joined the “Bloods” gang in prison. Upon leaving prison and later release from a half-way house, Bryant sought to meet Goodman at the corner in Irvington they frequently met at in the past, within Crip territory. Goodman shot Bryant in front of multiple eyewitnesses. Essex County Superior Court Judge John C. Kenney found evidence of gang membership to be admissible, in spite of any prejudice it may cause, as long as it is relevant and necessary for establishing motive. The judge considered testimony of Bryant’s girlfriend, the State’s main witness to the shooting, the fact that Bryant and Goodman were from rival gangs, that the shooting occurred on a Crip corner with Bryant being a Blood and that Goodman was unhappy Bryant became a Blood rather than a Crip. The Judge also refused to suppress a letter written from “Blak” to his cousin “Murda”, also incarcerated in Essex County Jail, seemingly seeking to have Bryant’s girlfriend, the state’s main witness, deterred from testifying. In making that decision, the judge cited State v. Rechtschaffer, 70 N.J. 395 (1976) wherein it was decided “declarations subsequent to the commission of the crime which indicate consciousness of guilt, or are inconsistent with the innocence or tend to establish intent are relevant and admissible.” After multiple witnesses from both sides offering conflicting testimony, the judge instructed the jury regarding admissibility. The judge refused to instruct the jury regarding the lesser-included offenses of aggravated manslaughter and reckless manslaughter as, pursuant to State v. Harris, 141 N.J. 525 (1995), State v. Biegenwald, 126 N.J. 1 (1991), State v. Hightower, 120 N.J. 378 (1990) and State v. Rose, 120 N.J. 61 (1990), there is no rational basis for instructing the jury on a lesser included offense when a close range shooting without any other motive presented than murder is in issue. Goodman appealed as to admissibility of multiple witness statements and the judges’ refusal to instruct on lesser included offenses and the appellate division affirmed. Goodman then filed a petition for postconviction relief (PCR) which was denied. In his appeal from the denial of his petition for PCR Goodman claimed he received ineffective assistance of counsel both at the trial and appellate levels. The trial judge, without oral argument, found Goodman’s petition for ineffective assistance was procedurally barred as it was not raised within his appeals. As there is a strong presumption in favor of oral argument, the appellate panel concluded that unless the presumption is overcome, which it was not in this case, denial of the PCR application without oral argument was inappropriate. The matter was reversed and remanded for reconsideration of Goodman’s PCR petition. If you are facing criminal charges it is the state’s burden to prove your guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. They must do so in a just and appropriate manner without false accusations, witness interference or prejudicial statements or testimony. If the state cannot prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, the judge or jury is required to find you innocent of the charges against you. It is critical you obtain experienced criminal defense counsel to ensure your rights are protected against prejudicial acts by the prosecution or the judge. For more information regarding gang crimes, homicide, assault, drug charges or other criminal issues in New Jersey visit DarlingFirm.com. This blog is for informational purposes only and not intended to replace the advice of an attorney.