Wednesday, May 25, 2011

United States Supreme Court affirms lower Courts Ruling that Prison Conditions in the California Penal System amounts to Cruel and Unusual Punishment in Violation of the Eighth Amendment to the United States Constitution.

On May 24, 2011, in a five to four split decision the United States Supreme Court, in an opinion written by Justice Anthony Kennedy, Brown v. Plata, held that because of the horrendous conditions at many of California’s prisons, especially facilities and units which house prisoners with mental disabilities, that California prison officials can no longer be trusted with policing themselves, and therefore, must reduce their prison population by federal court order.

In increasing numbers many enlightened and progressive jurist are now recognizing that because people sentenced to prison have no one to speak on their behalf, and that politicians caring only to be re-elected have no interest in protecting the rights and dignity of their prison population, that the judiciary is now forced to step in under the Eighth Amendment to United States Constitution to protect prisoners from cruel and unusual punishment.  The Constitution under the Eighth Amendment states that no one shall be subject to cruel and unusual punishment and the conditions of many of our nations jails are just that cruel and inhuman. 

Because all of the States have cut back on funds allocated to their prison systems, more and more prisoners are languishing under prison conditions which are inhuman and violate the Constitution.

As Justice Kennedy writing for the majority wrote, “A prison that deprives prisoners of basic sustenance, including adequate medical care, is incompatible with the concept of human dignity and has no place in civilized society.” 

If society expects and demands that a prisoner upon release live a good and law abiding life, society must treat the prisoner like a human being and afford that person every civil dignity possible under the conditions of incarceration.

As the Court noted, in California inmates were kept in man- sized cages until a bed became available or inmates with mental disorders standing “in a pool of his own urine, unresponsive and nearly catatonic.”

In 2007, here in New Jersey one very enlightened and progressive Federal District Court Judge, the Honorable Katherine S. Hayden, held that the conditions at the Passaic County Jail in which federal prisoners were being held awaiting trials or sentences, was “shameful”.  As Justice Hayden wrote in her written opinion, “...forces the question of how long we continue to turn a deaf ear, mine included.  It has become a tired fact of life in these courtrooms that Passaic County Jail is overcrowded, is breaking down, and is a very rough place to serve time.”

As noted, the Passaic County Jail was noted for severe overcrowding, with hundred of inmates packed into dorm like rooms, inches apart. The jail had infestations of rats, mice, and other assorted types of insects.  The jail was notorious for serving food not fit for human consumption, with dead insects and rat and mice dropping in the food.  Because of the food many inmates received little or no nourishment.

Because of the deplorable conditions of the jail Judge Hayden correctly reduced the jail sentence which she imposed upon a defendant who was incarcerated under these cruel and harsh conditions.

Because of Judge Hayden’s courageous decision, and the United States Attorneys concern that she would reduce other prison sentences with other defendants serving time at the Passaic County Jail, the United States Marshall Service pulled out all of the federal inmates from that facility.

It is time that more judges take into account in sentencing defendants the conditions that are being imposed in our local, county, state and federal jails, and act with courage and compassion for speaking out and protecting a segment of society that has no voice.

Law Office of Vincent J. Sanzone, Jr.

Dated: May 25, 2011, Elizabeth, N.J.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Police Dispatcher Misidentifying Detained Suspect Calls for the Suppression of Evidence from the Wrongly Arrested Suspect

On April 26, 2011 the New Jersey Supreme Court in State v. Handy suppressed narcotics seized from a defendant who was wrongly identified by a police dispatcher has having an open warrant.

The facts of the case were that a Millville Police Officer requested from the police dispatcher the confirmation of identities of a number of individuals detained and not possessing any identification.  The police dispatcher advised the officer that Mr. Handy had an open warrant and Mr. Handy was arrested.  A search incident to the arrest revealed that Mr. Handy was in possession of CDS and was charged with that offense.  The dispatcher advised the officer that Mr. Handy had a warrant notwithstanding that Mr. Handy had given the officer his date of birth which was different than the one listed on the warrant.

The Supreme Court reversed the conviction holding that the Appellate Division erred in holding that the officer acted reasonably and good faith.  This case by the Supreme Court for the first time holds that a police dispatcher is an integral part of law enforcement and that errors made by a police dispatcher either intentionally or negligently will be visited upon the police officer relying on such erroneous information.  Accordingly, such an arrest is an illegal arrest and any evidence seized by such erroneous information, leading to an illegal arrest, will be suppressed.

For more information regarding the suppression of contraband in any criminal case in New Jersey you are invited to consult the Law Office of Vincent J. Sanzone, Jr., at

Vincent J. Sanzone, Jr., Esq.
(908) 354-7006

Dated: May 24, 2011

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

When is a Criminal Defense Attorney Considered Incompetent to the Level of Ineffective Assistance of Counsel?

In 1996 Richard Rosario was convicted of murder in Bronx County New York. The only evidence against Rosario was the testimony of two witnesses whom picked his photo out of a book of police photos. There was no motive for the crime, since Rosario did not know the victim, or the two witnesses.

For the defense of this murder Rosario had the powerful and persuasive evidence that for the entire month June, 1996, Rosario was living in the State of Florida, and had 12 alibi witnesses whom were willing to testify to that fact.

Unfortunately his court appointed lawyer only called two of those witnesses to testify. The prosecutor was able to convince the jury during his summations that those two witnesses were close friends of Rosario and lied on his behalf.

The Federal Second Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in denying Rosario a new trial even though his court appointed lawyer performance was a “colossal failure”, involving “uncommonly bad mistake.” Fortunately for Rosario Chief Judge Jacobs dissented with the majority decision, and the matter is now before the United States Supreme Court, which will decide next week whether to take the case.

Hopefully the United States Supreme Court will get it right next week and agree to hear the case and grant a new trial for Mr. Rosario who has been incarcerated since 1996.

More often than we might think decisions that are made by defense counsel can sometimes be classified as ineffective, thus denying the defendant his constitutional right as guaranteed by the Sixth and Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution. During every criminal trial every decision made by defense counsel has enormous consequences for the defendant, and every decision made must be made with the out-most competency expected of competent legal counsel, which can only come from experience and knowledge of the law.

In New Jersey every defendant convicted of a crime has up to five years to file a petition for post conviction relief requesting the trial court and than the appellate court if necessary, grant a new trial based on ineffective assistance of counsel. Although rarely granted, in some cases the performance of trial counsel was so deficient as to warrant a new trial.

Attorney Sanzone has 21 years of experience in defending individuals charged with Federal and State crimes, and has dedicated his practice to giving competent and vigorous representation to each and every one of his clients.

Vincent J. Sanzone, Jr., Esq.

Law Office of Vincent J. Sanzone, Jr.

Elizabeth, New Jersey

(908) 354-7007

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

New Tool By Law Enforcement to Avoid Obtaining a Search Warrant and Abrogate the Fourth Amendment in Searching a Home.

On May 16, 2011, the United Supreme Court held in Kentucky v. King, that police officers arriving at a home, and suspecting that evidence is being destroyed can bust down the door and proceed to search the house if they believe that evidence is being destroyed. This rule only applies if the police first knock and announce their presence and did not create the exigent circumstances.

In the Kentucky v. King case police officers in Lexington, Kentucky, suspecting what they believed to be a hand to hand drug transaction in a parking lot, rushed into an apartment complex to arrest the suspect. However, while in the apartment they smelled the odor of burnt marijuana coming from one of the apartments. Suspecting that evidence was being destroyed, they knocked down the door and searched the apartment finding cocaine and marijuana. It was later learned that the apartment which they entered was the wrong apartment.

The lower court suppressed the evidence citing the Fourth Amendment and search warrant requirement to enter a home in the absence of exigent circumstances.

As Justice Samuel A. Alito, Jr., writing the majority opinion wrote. “... the exigent circumstances rule should not apply where the police, without a warrant or any legally sound basis for a warrantless entry, threaten that they will enter without permission unless admitted.”

Justice Alito also wrote that if the defendant Hollis D. King had opened the door and refused admittance to the officers the officers would have needed a search warrant, because at the stage he was not destroying evidence. However, defendant King decided to ignore the knocks by the officers and engaged in destruction of evidence. Thus the Court in essence affirmed New Jersey case law which holds that police officers cannot enter a home under the basis of the “plain smell” rule without a search warrant.

It is unlikely that this decision will have much effect in New Jersey in State criminal prosecutions because our New Jersey Supreme Court has continually ruled that the application of the Fourth Amendment in home searches is more protective than federal law.

A motion to suppress is a key tool by every defendant charged with processing contraband in any criminal case. If you are charged with such a crime and for more information regarding your rights you are urged to seek the legal advise of an experienced New Jersey criminal defense lawyer, Vincent J. Sanzone, Jr., an attorney who has represented and been successfully in suppressing evidence seized by police without a search warrant for many of his clients.

Law Office of Vincent J. Sanzone, Jr.

P.O. Box 261, 277 North Broad Street, Elizabeth
, N.J.
(908) 354-7006

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Star Ledger Feature Story on the “Teflon Tenant”, Mark Newton

May 15, 2011, the Star Ledger did their Sunday first page cover story on the non-attorney, Mark Newton, of Newark, New Jersey, who pro se, has waged hundreds of court battles against landlords and others over the last 19 years. Mr. Newton has availed himself to every legal procedure and technique to avoid paying rent, and has costs landlords through Essex County hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal fees trying to defend themselves against these frivolous lawsuits and complaints.
Attorney Sanzone successfully defended one landlord in Newark Municipal Court who was falsely charged by Newton. As Attorney Sanzone was quoted in the Star Ledger today:
“He’ll use every legal maneuver that he can possibly think of to try and tie up a case until the litigants that are against him give up … Vincent Sanzone who faced Newton in a case involving a landlord. He has a lot of time and resources to tie people up … This guy is the Teflon tenant, said Sanzone the Attorney who represented Young on the criminal charges.”
For a full text of the interesting article go to:
If you are faced with criminal charges and want further information regarding the legal services of Vincent J. Sanzone, Jr., go to
Law Office of Vincent J. Sanzone, Jr.
277 North Broad Street
Elizabeth, N.J. 07207
(908) 354-7006

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

New Jersey State Police Get Caught in Another Police Cover-Up.

The State Troopers who were involved in the investigation of one of their fellow Troopers, Sgt. William Billingham, who was caught driving recklessly and intoxicated when Mr. Billingham rear-ended and nearly cost the life of an innocent Black motorist, Clayton Tanksley.

Instead of arresting Trooper Billingham and firing him from the force, his supervisors covered up Trooper Billingham’s criminal actions, and instead arrested the innocent Black motorist, Mr. Tanksley.

The New Jersey State Police claim the Motto of “Honor, Duty and Fidelity.” Taxpayers of this State support this State agency and we deserve more than more cover-ups from incompetent, dishonest and corrupt Troopers. It is clear that the Troopers continue to protect their own, as they did with Trooper Sheila McKaig who was caught three times driving while intoxicated and did not receive one ticket.

The actions of the State Police Supervisors who protected Trooper Billingham bring no Honor to the State Police or this State, are not performing their “Duty”, and demonstrate by their actions only “Fidelity” to each other.

The police officers of the New Jersey State Police our not above the law, and if they are to be respected they most first respect themselves and follow the Motto of “Honor, Duty or Fidelity.”

If the New Jersey State Police are serious about reforming themselves, there must be swift and serious discipline for Mr. Billingham and the Troopers who conspired, aided and abetted Billingham’s criminal actions.

Because it is clear that the New Jersey State Police cannot reform themselves it is time that the United States Attorney General or the State Attorney General’s Office, again intervene to investigate and prosecute this matter. Clearly the Troopers involved have committed a violation of federal law under the applicable federal criminal rights statutes. (18 U.S.C. Section 241; 18 U.S.C. Sections 242, 245)

May 11, 2011

Law Office of Vincent J. Sanzone, Jr., Esq.

P.O. Box 261

277 North Broad Street

Elizabeth, N.J. 07207

Tel: (908) 354-7006

Cell: (201) 240-5716