Prosecutor’s Inexcusable Delay in Turning Over Discovery Leads to Judge’s Decision Reversal
State v. Danron Morrisey
State v. Marcus Morrisey
State v. Louis Sloan
Appellate Docket No.: A-2659-21
Decided June 6, 2022
Submitted by New Jersey Criminal Lawyer, Jeffrey Hark
In a recent consolidated unpublished opinion, the Appellate Division of New Jersey reversed a Judge’s decision to extend defendant’s pretrial detention 60 days beyond the 180 day speedy trial requirement of the Criminal Justice Reform Act (CJRA) because of the prosecutor’s inexcusable delay in turning over discovery.
In State v. Morrisey, Randolph Goodman was shot and killed near his apartment in Neptune on November 10, 2018. The joint investigation conducted by the Monmouth County Prosecutor’s Office and Neptune Police Department eventually led to the arrests of Marcus Morrisey, his brother Danron, and Sloan, who the State contended drove the brothers to and from the shooting.
On December 6, 2018, the court granted the State’s motion to detain Marcus. Although the Public Safety Assessment (PSA) forms for all defendants are not in the record, it is undisputed that Marcus scored six in both the failure to appear (FTA) and new criminal activity (NCA) categories, and the PSA included a “red flag” for new violent criminal activity (NVCA). The court’s detention order indicates Marcus consented to pretrial detention.
On January 2, 2019, the court granted the State’s motion to detain Sloan. We are advised that Sloan’s PSA assigned him an FTA score of four, and a NCA score of three; Pretrial Services recommended against release, based on those scores and the statutory presumption of detention applicable to eligible defendants charged with murder, N.J.S.A. 2A:162-19(b)(1).
On January 18, 2019, the court granted the State’s motion to detain Danron, whose PSA scores were FTA – six; NCA – four; and an NVCA “red flag.” The court’s order reflects Danron “stipulated to probable cause and consented to pretrial detention.”
A Monmouth County grand jury returned an indictment on February 25, 2019, charging defendants as follows: First Count — first-degree murder (N.J.S.A. 2C:11-3(a)(1) and (2)) with a firearm sentencing enhancer; Second Count — first-degree armed robbery (N.J.S.A. 2C:15-1) with a firearm sentencing enhancer; Third Count — first-degree felony murder (N.J.S.A. 2C:11-3(a)(3)) with a firearm sentencing enhancer; Fourth Count — second-degree unlawful possession of a handgun (N.J.S.A. 2C:39-5(b)); Fifth Count — second-degree possession of a handgun for an unlawful purpose (N.J.S.A. 2C:39-4(a)(1)); Sixth Count — fourth-degree possession of a prohibited weapon (i.e., a stun gun); and Seventh Count — possession of a stun gun for an unlawful purpose (N.J.S.A. 2C:39-4(d)).
Although the State produced some discovery, it ignored other explicit discovery requests from defense counsel. When the State finally responded to those request in early 2022, it became apparent the State had utterly failed in its obligation to furnish defendants with all discovery, some of which was undisputedly in the State’s possession since defendants’ arraignments in 2019.
The plea cutoff date of February 18, 2022, was converted to a conference to address the discovery issues; the State in the interim had begun producing thousands of pages of discovery, including discs containing records extracted via Communications Data Warrants issued for the Morrisey defendants, the victim, and others; ballistics and DNA lab reports; more than 30,000 pages of cellphone extraction reports; and copies of recorded calls defendants allegedly made from jail.
Defense counsel filed a motion to release the defendants, as the 180 day trial period had expired for no fault of defendants. The trial court agreed that it was solely the State’s fault, but issued an order detaining defendants an additional 60 days because the judge believed they were a threat to society still.
Defendants appealed and the Appellate Division reversed the ruling, finding that the State’s failure to turn over discovery is not one to allow excludable time and that the Court abused its discretion by extending the 180 day trial period.
This case is important to understand that incarcerated defendants must be given a trial within 180 days from the date of indictment under the speedy trial provision of CJRA. COVID and other delays have caused this not to occur exactly as planned, and there have been many reasons for giving defendants excludable time. However, the delays are beginning the lessen and issues like this will begin to occur more frequently once the Courts get back on track.
If you or someone you know have been charged with any indictable offense or disorderly persons, contact the experienced attorney at Hark & Hark to ensure you are adequately defended.
At Hark & Hark, we represent clients in Superior Court for criminal matters like the present case. We vigorously defend our clients by fighting to uphold their constitutional rights, and ensure law enforcement follow proper procedures to legally make an arrest.
We offer payment plan options to clients financially incapable of providing full payment upfront. If you are facing criminal charges similar to this circumstance, please call us to discuss the matter. At Hark & Hark, we represent clients for any case in any county in New Jersey including Atlantic County, Bergen County, Burlington County, Camden County, Cape May County, Cumberland County, Essex County, Gloucester County, Hudson County, Hunterdon County, Mercer County, Middlesex County, Monmouth County, Morris County, Ocean County, Passaic County, Salem County, Somerset County, Sussex County, Union County, and Warren County and any town including Audubon, Gloucester City, Oaklyn, Audubon Park, Gloucester Township, Pennsauken, Barrington ,Haddon Heights ,Pine Hill ,Bellmawr ,Haddon Township , Pine Valley, Berlin Borough, Haddonfield, Runnemede, Berlin Township, Hi-Nella, Somerdale, Brooklawn, Laurel Springs, Stratford, Camden, Lawnside, Voorhees, Cherry Hill, Lindenwold, Waterford, Chesilhurst, Magnolia, Winslow, Clementon, Merchantville, Woodlynne, Collingswood, Mt. Ephraim, and Gibbsboro.