Defense Counsel’s disqualification by the court causes conviction to be overturned.
State v. Jackson, N.J. Super. App. Div. May 9, 2019 (Not Appoved for Publication)
Submitted by New Jersey Drug Crime Lawyer, Jeffrey Hark
Defendant appealed from his conviction on drug and weapons charges. Police had attempted to conduct a traffic stop of a vehicle operated by defendant for failure to wear seatbelts. Defendant led officers on a “very low speed pursuit” that lasted approximately 12 minutes, during which officers observed defendant toss a “golf ball sized white object in a plastic bag”. Defendant eventually pulled over and was promptly arrested, with $1480 in cash seized from his person. Officers retrieved the discarded object, which tested positive for cocaine. At trial, the state conceded that the dash cam video had been inadvertently recorded over in the normal course of business because there had been no request for its preservation. State experts confirmed that the drug discarded by defendant was cocaine and opined that it was consistent with drug trafficking. Following a guilty verdict by the jury, the trial court granted the state’s motion for imposition of a mandatory extended term. On appeal, defendant argued that he was deprived of his right to counsel when his privately retained counsel was disqualified. Defendant argued that the trial court abused its discretion in disqualifying his counsel without conducting a conflict analysis or giving defendant opportunity to waive any conflict. The record revealed that defense counsel had determined that another of his clients was a confidential informant who made a controlled purchase from defendant in a federal case. After defense counsel was disqualified, defendant was assigned a public defender, who represented defendant in his second trial following a mistrial in the first trial. The court reversed defendant’s conviction and remanded for a new trial, agreeing that the trial court erred by disqualifying defendant’s privately retained counsel without conducting a review and determining whether counsel’s concurrent representation of defendant and an adverse CI in a federal case created an actual conflict of interest in the state case.