Murder Conviction Upheld After Graphic Photos Were Shown To Jury
- February 16, 2015
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Darwin Rodriguez-Ferreira was convicted of knowing and purposeful murder (N.J.S.A. 2C:11-3a(1) and (2)); fourth-degree unlawful possession of a weapon (N.J.S.A. 2C:39-5d); and third-degree possession of a weapon for an unlawful purpose (N.J.S.A. 2C:39-4d). At sentencing the defendant received a thirty year prison sentence including a thirty year parole disqualifier and consecutive eighteen month sentence for unlawful possession of a weapon. Kendall was found lying in the street near his Jersey City home with multiple stab wounds. Multiple calls to and from “Darwin” were found in Kendall’s cell phone log and a bloody knife wrapped in boxer shorts was found nearby shortly thereafter. The blood contained Kendall’s DNA and the boxer shorts contained Darwin’s DNA. The defendant left the country with a one-way ticket the day after the murder and police found bloodstains with Kendall’s DNA on Darwin’s floor while searching Darwin’s residence. In State v. Rodriguez-Ferreira, the defendant appealed the convictions and sentence received in the Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Hudson County. At trial, over Darwin’s objection, four graphic photos of Kendall’s body depicting stab wounds to the neck and face, torso and forearm were presented to the jury. One photo, taken during the autopsy included stab wounds suffered by internal organs extracted from the body during the autopsy. N.J. Rule of Evidence 403 permits the inclusion of evidence if the probative value substantially outweighs the risk of prejudice to the jury through its revelation. In State v. Johnson, 120 N.J. 263 (1990), the NJ Supreme Court held that vivid and graphic details which may be difficult to look at do not necessarily call for exclusion of photographic evidence. State v. Sanchez, 244 N.J. Super. 231, 249-51 (App. Div. 1988) allows admission of murder victim photographs to prove the act was “purposeful and knowing.” N.J. Appellate Division affirmed the trial court’s decision to admit the photos. With regard to the sentence imposed, the trial court failed to consider the relevant factors under State v. Yarbough, 100 N.J. 627 (1985) and the matter was remanded by the Appellate Division for sentencing including an articulation of the how the Yarbough Factors apply to require a consecutive sentence for unlawful possession of a weapon. If you are facing murder charges, it is the state’s burden to prove your guilt and they must do so in a just and appropriate manner, without the admission of unduly prejudicial evidence or testimony. 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 homicide, assault, weapons charges or other serious criminal issues in New Jersey visit HeatherDarlingLawyer.com. This blog is for informational purposes only and not intended to replace the advice of an attorney.