Friday, October 11, 2013

New Jersey Supreme Court Takes Step Backwards In Protection of the Accused Right to Effective Assistance of Counsel.

In State v. Miller, the New Jersey Supreme Court took a step backwards in defense of the accused right to effective assistance of counsel by affirming a conviction in which the public defender, on the day of trial, met the defendant-client.

The Supreme Court in a tortuous ruling held that because this was “a simple case”, for whatever that means, because no case in which the defendant is facing state prison sentence is simple, that it was not ineffective for the public defender not to have discussed the case prior to the trial date.  This decision is amazingly naive to the realities of a criminal trial.  How could a criminal defense attorney competently defend a defendant without knowing the facts of the case, as told by the defendant?  How would the attorney know which witnesses needed to be subpoaned?  How would the attorney know what strategy to use?  How would the attorney know what motions needed to be filed?  How would the attorney know anything about the client’s personal history, for example, possible affirmative defense, insanity, intoxication, self-defense, etc? 

In fact, this was not a simple case for the defendant because he was sentenced to 5-years in state prison after h is conviction.  In this decision, the Supreme Court affirmed the trial court’s decision to move the trial calendar at the expense of the defendant’s constitutional rights guaranteed under the Sixth Amendment of the United States Constitution.  Every defendant, rich or poor, is entitled to vigorous and competent legal representation.  This is a sad day for the rights of the accused in New Jersey.

Law Office of Vincent J. Sanzone,
Elizabeth, New Jersey
(908) 354-7006

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