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Re: NJ State Supreme Court rules in favor of self-defense
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good news

Posted on: 2008/6/11 23:56
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Re: NJ State Supreme Court rules in favor of self-defense
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No, it doesn't go without saying in the Peoples Republic of New Jersey.

Posted on: 2008/6/10 21:30
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Re: NJ State Supreme Court rules in favor of self-defense
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is it just me, or is this one of those laws where you say "well duh, doesn't that go without saying?"

Posted on: 2008/6/10 19:21
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NJ State Supreme Court rules in favor of self-defense
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http://www.nj.com/news/ledger/jersey/ ... 13072640175250.xml&coll=1



Reckless manslaughter conviction tossed out

Tuesday, June 10, 2008
BY TOM HESTER

Star-Ledger Staff

The state Supreme Court ruled yesterday that a defendant who has a valid claim of self-defense cannot be convicted of reckless manslaughter for killing an attacker.

Ruling in the case of a Jersey City man sentenced to 15 years for a fatal stabbing, the court said the judge in the case wrongly told the jury that self-defense did not apply to the reckless manslaughter charge.

The 6-0 decision granting a new trial said state law makes clear that "a person who kills in the honest and reasonable belief that the protection of his own life requires the use of deadly force does not kill recklessly."

The case stems from an incident in Jersey City' Greenville neighborhood in 2003 when Wilberto Rodriguez, 41, fatally stabbed Anthony Hobbs, 23, of Jersey City with a small pocket knife after he was threatened and physically assaulted by Hobbs.

According to the court, Rodriguez was in the W.L. Mini-Market attempting to sell car radios to people in the store, when Hobbs, a store customer, asked about the price. Words were exchanged, and Hobbs threatened Rodriguez and said he would be waiting for him outside. Minutes later, Hobbs re-entered the store and attacked Rodriguez. Rodriguez responded by stabbing Hobbs in the heart. He died shortly after.

Rodriguez said he acted in self-defense. At Rodriguez's 2004 trial in Jersey City, Superior Court Judge Kevin G. Callahan's instructions to the jury about the self-defense claim "were, at best, confusing," the high court said yesterday.

The judge told the jurors to weigh Rodriguez's self-defense claim when deliberating whether to convict him of murder, aggravated manslaughter or manslaughter -- but not when considering the charge of reckless manslaughter.

The jury acquitted him of the more serious charges but found him guilty of the reckless manslaughter count, and he was sentenced as a repeat offender to 15 years in prison.
Yesterday's decision, written by Justice Barry T. Albin, cited an earlier case in which the Supreme Court found that the Legislature's intent "was that self-defense based on a reasonable belief in the need for deadly force would constitute justification -- a complete defense -- to the charge of reckless manslaughter."

The court sent the case back to Superior Court for a new trial on the reckless manslaughter and related weapons charges.

Assistant Deputy Public Defender Michael B. Jones, who represented Rodriguez in the appeal, said his office believes there are other cases in which defendants were convicted of reckless manslaughter because a jury was not permitted to consider a self-defense argument. Jones said the Public Defender's office will look for those cases and review them.

Hudson County Assistant Prosecutor Lisa M. DeMartini argued the appeal for the prosecution.

Tom Hester may be reached at thester@starledger.com or at (609) 292-0557.

Posted on: 2008/6/10 18:17
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