On March 5, 2003 a criminal jury in the Superior Court, Monmouth County, convicted alleged racketeer, Ray Cagno. Cagno was found guilty of conspiracy to commit racketeering and the murders of victims Angellino and Randazzo. The first trial (2002) ended in a mistrial when the witness for the State, Salvatore Lombardino refused to testify against Cagno. However, the State alleged that while leaving the courtroom at the first trial, Lombardino gave Cagno a “thumbs up sign”, and stated to Cagno, “hang in there kid.” At the second trial Lombardino was not called as a witness, but two detectives for the New Jersey State Police testified as to their observations of Lombardino at the first trial. In summations the prosecutor asked the jury to infer that the witness’ silence; and his prior in-court conduct constituted evidence of Cagno’s guilt of the conspiracy between them. The case went all the way to the New Jersey Supreme Court which affirmed the conviction with one justice dissenting, Justice Albin.
In Cagno v. Warren (N.J. District Court, 2014) the federal district court for the District of New Jersey, Judge Thompson, granted the habeas relief holding that Cagno’s Fourteenth Amendment due process rights were violated when he was convicted of conspiracy to commit racketeering at Petitioner’s second trial because the state should not have been allowed to present evidence of Salvatore Lombardino’s refusal to testify at Petitioner’s first trial. Hence, Cagno’s Sixth Amendment right to confront all witnesses against him was violated. Citing, Douglas v. Alabama, 380 U.S. 415 (1965). In New Jersey the statute of limitations is an absolute bar to the prosecution of the offense. State v. Short, 131 N.J. 47, 55 (1993)
Further, because the State offered no other evidence to support a finding that the racketeering conspiracy continued beyond the statute of limitations period, which was five-years, the conviction could not stand. Jackson v. Virginia, 443 U.S. 307 (1979); In re Winship, 397 U.S. 358 (1970). Both of those cases standing for the well settled proposition, that it is a violation of a defendant’s due process rights, for a conviction to be entered unless the state proves its case beyond a reasonable doubt, as to each and every element of the crime.
Although federal courts rarely grant a Writ of Habeas Corpus, this case is a good example in which the federal district court exercised its authority and granted such a motion. The Writ of Habeas Corpus is usually the last line of defense to an unlawful conviction, unless the defendant is lucky enough to discover newly discovered evidence which would have proved his or her innocence if had been discovered at trial. In that case, the defendant can reopen the process up again at the state court level, starting with the trial court.
Thoughts on Truth: Veritas Quo, “Where truth is found.”
A moral wrong can never be a civil right.
The further society deviates from the truth the more a society will hate that truth.
Law Office of Vincent J. Sanzone, Jr.
Tel. No. (908) 354-7006
Dated: September 11, 2014
Post-Conviction Relief, Writ of Habeas Corpus, Union Essex, Hudson, Morris, Bergen, Middlesex, Ocean, Monmouth, County Criminal Defense Attorney, Jersey City, Newark, Elizabeth, New Brunswick, Freehold, Toms River.