Saturday, July 13, 2013

Belleville New Jersey Cops Acted With Excessive Force in Firing 30 Shots at Dante Cespedes for Allegedly Lunging with Knifes

In what appears to be another insistence of excessive force and poorly trained police officers, three Belleville Township police officers gunned down a man with a knife.  The police officers allege that the Cespedes a chef at a New York City hotel lunged at them with two knifes, when they entered the house to execute an arrest based on a municipal court complaint by his wife.

The question is why did they fire 30 rounds of bullets at Cespedes at close range, in which 24 rounds were pumped into his body?  Why didn’t the three police officers attempt to disarm him and dislodge the weapon first with a night stick, by hitting his arms or hand with the night stick or mental flash light?  Why didn’t they attempt to stop him by firing non-lethal shots to the legs or arms?  Why did they find it necessary to pump 30 bullets into his body and in essence execute this man on the spot?  Why didn’t they first attempt to retreat before they decided to use deadly force?   Why didn’t they attempt to teaser him or mace him first?  Why did they enter the house knowing he was armed without first ordering him to throw down the knifes and come out peacefully?   Did the police even have the authority to enter the home based on a disorderly person’s complaint filed by his wife?  This is of great significance because no one was at the home but Mr. Cespedes, and there appeared to be no emergency for them to enter the house.  Further, if the wife had informed the police that her husband was intoxicated why were the officers not prepared to deal with an intoxicated individual, bring to the scene non-lethal disarming devices?  It appears from the evidence presented thus far that they acted with deliberate indifference and excessive force.   

There are many questions that must be honestly investigated and answered by the Essex County Prosecutor’s Office in this case before these three police officers should continue to hold a badge and firearm.  Unfortunately, the evidence presented thus far shows that these three police officers were trigger happy and not competent to carry a deadly firearm.

And up-date to this blog on December 11, 2013 the Star Ledger published that the wife of the slain victim Dante Cespedes filed a wrongful death suit against the Belleville Police Department and police officers, Angelo Quinn, Charles Mollineaux, Matthew Dox and Jack Baumgartner.  The law suit claims that Quinn and Molineaux each fired 14 times, while Dox fired twice.
It is amazing that 30 shots were fired at this distraught man, with no indictments of the cops.  

Law Office of Vincent J. Sanzone, Jr.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Criminal Defense Attorney Vincent J. Sanzone, Jr., Predicts a Not Guilty Verdict on All Counts for George Zimmerman.

Although mentioned rarely by the legal commentators in the Zimmerman trial, the affirmative defense of self-defense is a complete defense and the State must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant, Mr. Zimmerman did not act in self-defense.  The burden to disprove self-defense rests squarely on the shoulders of the State, the defense has no burden to prove self-defense.  However, in the Zimmerman trial not only did the State of Florida fail to disprove this affirmative defense, but the Defendant, although not required to do so, actually presented overwhelming evidence that George Zimmerman acted in self-defense.

Although it is a tragedy when life is taken regardless of the circumstances, reasonable men and women have the right to protect themselves and others, even to the point of using deadly force under the right circumstances and when such force is reasonable. 

The State in the Zimmerman had little to work with; they substituted real evidence with speculation, conjecture and an emotional appeal.  This was typified in their closing arguments which were weak and often times came off silly and fake. Although defense counsel’s summation was to long, verbose and not to the point, he had much more to work with and, hence, at the end was more effective.

Hopefully, the jury will see through this prosecutorial charade and find Mr. Zimmerman not guilty as to all counts, which I predict they will do in this case.

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

Dated: July 12, 2013, 5:19 P.M. Eastern Time

“If you want Peace Work for Justice.” Pope John Paul, I

Clawans Charge the Need to Challenge the State When They Fail To Call a Material Witness

In the New Jersey seminal case State v. Clawans, 38 N.J. 162, 170 (1962), the court held that a defendant is entitled to an adverse jury instruction when the state fails to call a material and corroborating witness in the case.   Specifically, when this occurs the jury is entitled to be given an adverse jury charge that the testimony would be unfavorable to the State.   A failure to call a cooperating witness by the State often occurs when multiple witnesses arrive at a crime scene or allegedly witnessed a crime committed by a defendant when one of the testifying witnesses (usually the complaining police officer), is known to be less than completely credible.  In these cases the prosecutor will not risk having the truthful officer testify and contradict the lying officer.

In prosecuting cases the State will often fail to call corroborating police witnesses in their case-in-chief.   This occurs most often in motions to suppress, in which the Clawans charge is technically inapplicable with pretrial motions because there are no jury charges in matters decided by the judge pretrial.  Nonetheless, a criminal defense attorney arguing the case before the motion judge can argue a Clawans inference to the judge as to why the State has failed to call this witness. 

However, in jury trials before the judge will give this charge under Clawans only if four factors are met.  (1) Whether the missing witness  was peculiarly within the party’s control (this factor is usually easy to meet with police witnesses); (2) Whether the witness was available, both practically and physically; (3) Whether the uncalled witness’s testimony appears to be superior to that already utilized regarding a fact to be proved or disproved.  State v. Hill, 199 N.J. 545, 561 (2009)

Criminal defense attorneys ( must be aware of this charge and press to court to use it under the right circumstances.  If defense counsel intends in asking for this charge, best practices is that defense counsel notify the court of its intention after the close of the State’s case in-chief.

This is blog is presented as a public service and for general criminal legal information by the Law Office of Vincent J. Sanzone, Jr., Esq.

Law Office of Vincent J. Sanzone, Jr., Esq.
277 North Broad Street
P.O. Box 261
Elizabeth, New Jersey
Telephone No. (908) 354-7006; Cell No. (201) 240-5716

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Newark’s New Internal Affairs Policy Regarding Stop-and Frisk Interaction is Only a Start in Reforming the Police Department’s Inept Internal Affairs Unit

Although Newark’s Police Department will post on its website statistics (every 15th day of each month) regarding police initiated encounters with citizens, the new policy does not go far enough.  Under the proposed new rules the Police Department still refuses to post the names of the police officers.  The only way the police department can be transparent and the public knowing whether the internal affairs unit is finally do its job is for the department to post the names of each officer engaged in the encounter.  This is the only way for the public to know whether there is a pattern of unconstitutional random profiling without reasonable suspicion or probable cause by errant officers.

Under the new policy (General Order No. 2013-03) the Newark Police Department has agreed to require that its officers document every stop-and-frisk interaction and to report statistics monthly on its police web site.

The data is to be maintained by the Office of Professional Standards (OPS), which monitors officers' behavior, conducts audits and investigates complaints, officer firearm discharges, vehicle pursuits and corruption allegations.

The data include:

• The stop's date, time and location.
• The reason for the stop.
• Whether the subject was patted down and what the legal justification for the frisk was.
• Whether the subject was searched (more intrusive than a frisk), the scope of the search and why it occurred.
• The subject's apparent race, gender an age (though officers are prohibited from asking for this information in most cases).
• Whether the stop resulted in a warning, summons or arrest, and what the charges were.
• Whether force was used, and how.
• Names and badge numbers for all involved officers, from any jurisdiction.

Finally, the raw data is to be broken down by date; police unit; reason for the stop; number of stops that yielded contraband; and race, gender, age and English proficiency of the subject.  In addition, the department must note whether an interpreter was provided, to measure the impact of stop-and-frisk practices on immigrant communities.

In the final analysis in order for this new policy to bring any real change, the police department must have the honesty and integrity to use the data to root out corrupt and errant police officers in its department with the following steps. 

First, Newark’s police department must make a real effort to insure that the internal affairs’ unit actually uses the data to root out errant officers, which to date has not been the case.  In the past the internal affairs unit had similar data, but whitewashed it by covering up the actions of known errant and corrupt police officers. 

Second, the officers making these encounters must accurately and honestly report the data after each encounter.  As it stands now there is nothing in the new order which makes it unlawful or against department policy for failing to accurately obtain this information by the police officers on the street.

If any of the foregoing is not followed, this new policy is nothing more than another P.R. moment and publicity stunt by Cory Booker.  

This blog has been provided as a public service by the Law Office of Vincent J. Sanzone, Jr.,