State v. Satoris NJ Appellate Division September 14, 2019 Power of the Trial Court
State v. Satoris Appellate Division September 14, 2019 Appeal from Gloucester County Law Division
Appeal from a trial court determination —— Evidence dicition by the Trial Judge
Submitted by New Jersey Criminal Lawyer, Jeffrey Hark.
All trial courts are vested with broad discretion in determining whether proffered evidence is relevant, and if so, whether it should be excluded under N.J.R.E. 403 because its probative value is substantially outweighed by the risk of undue prejudice, confusion of issues, misleading the jury, or other considerations. State v. Cole, 229 N.J. 430, 449 (2017) (citing N.J.R.E. 403). For that reason, we review such decisions for abuse of discretion. Estate of Hanges v. Metro. Prop. & Cas. Ins. Co., 202 N.J. 369, 383-84 (2010). Here, by failing to object, defendant deprived the trial judge—the person best suited to consider defendant’s objections and balance the probative value of her statements against any potential for undue prejudice—of the opportunity to do so; and thus has deprived us of the benefit of the trial judge’s evaluation and of a proper record for appellate review.
Moreover, given defendant’s concession that her statement that the units were going to burn was both probative and admissible, trial counsel—different from appellate counsel—may have had a sound tactical reason for seeking to have her statements admitted in their entirety. Indeed, it is apparent from defense counsel’s cross-examination of defendant’s neighbor that counsel sought to demonstrate that none of defendant’s statements could be taken seriously in view of their bizarre nature.
The appellate division summarily dismisses this appeal because it found the trial court did not abuse its discretion in allowing the statement made by the defendant in at trial. The court also recognized that this defendant’s attorney did not object when the statement was being admitted at BOTH previous trials!
In any event, on the record before us we cannot conclude defendant’s statements about a conspiracy to kill her were clearly capable of producing an unjust result. R. 2:10-2. Defendant’s arguments are without sufficient merit to warrant further discussion. R. 2:11-3(e)(2). We thus affirm her conviction.