NJ Appeals Court Reverses Convictions in State v. Coles Due to Invalid Jury Trial Waive

State v. Coles

Practice Area: CRIMINAL LAW

Date Filed: 2024-05-06

Court: Appellate Division

Judge(s): Per Curiam

Submitted by New Jersey Criminal Lawyer, Jeffrey Hark

Defendant appealed his convictions for first-degree murder and related weapons offenses after a bench trial. In August 2016, defendant killed his parents. He later admitted to the police that he had beaten them with his fists, a wooden chair, and a glass bowl. Charged with multiple offenses, including two counts of first-degree murder, defendant initially pursued an insanity defense. During pre-trial proceedings, the court informally agreed with counsel that defendant could waive his right to a jury trial without a written motion. At a subsequent hearing, without a detailed inquiry or a written waiver from defendant, the court accepted his waiver of a jury trial and scheduled a bench trial. The trial judge found defendant guilty, rejecting the insanity defense. On appeal, defendant argued that his waiver of the right to a jury trial was not made knowingly, voluntarily, and intelligently. The court agreed, reversing the convictions and remanding for a new trial. The court found that the trial court abused its discretion to ensure defendant’s waiver was informed and voluntary, noting the lack of a formal waiver process and detailed judicial inquiry into defendant’s understanding of his rights. The court highlighted the necessity of adhering to procedural safeguards when a defendant waives a jury trial in serious cases such as first-degree murder.

Criminal Civil Lawyer

Jeffrey Hark is a New Jersey Civil and Criminal Lawyer.

Leave a Comment