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NJ Supreme Court Remands State of New Jersey v. Garcia Over Suppressed Evidence

— November 11, 2021

A police detective testified that she had attempted to find witnesses, and couldn’t find any. The cell phone video evidence would have helped refute this.

The Supreme Court of New Jersey reversed and remanded a criminal conviction for aggravated assault. Remand means the Court returns the case to a lower-level court. The Court found that the trial court mistakenly suppressed key defense evidence, and the prosecutor made inappropriate comments during the summation argument resulting in the defendant not receiving a fair trial.

 The facts were in dispute in this case. Mr. Garcia cut Mr. Urbanski with a boxcutter; the dispute was whether it was self-defense or unprovoked. Mr. Urbanski was a neighbor of Mr. Garcia’s mother. Mr. Garcia had parked his car and blew his horn. Mr. Urbanski states that he merely asked Mr. Garcia to “keep it down” and Mr. Garcia cut his face and finger with a boxcutter. Mr. Garcia stated that he was chased by three people, one of whom had a bottle. His actions with the boxcutter were necessary for his protection – self-defense. 

Mr. Garcia’s mother, step-father and sister witnessed this incident. They maintain that they tried to talk to police when defendant was arrested, but the police would not listen. The family had a cell phone videotape of this. At trial, the judge would not allow this evidence to be considered.

Handcuffs and key sitting on fingerprint card; image by Bill Oxford, via
Image by Bill Oxford, via

This suppression of evidence was quite problematic. For example, a police detective testified that she had attempted to find witnesses, and couldn’t find any. The cell phone video evidence would have helped refute this. At trial, the family members testified that the police refused to allow them to give their statements. The consideration of the cell phone video would have verified their testimony. The strength of this testimony supported the defendant’s version of the events. Without it, the defendant was at a tremendous disadvantage. In addition, the prosecutor urged the jury to find defendant’s family testimony not credible. In the summary argument, the prosecutor mentioned that the family did not talk with police. This helped bolster the state’s case, resulting in a conviction. 

The Court found that the lower court erred in not allowing the cell phone video, and that the prosecutor’s comments were inappropriate.

This case is very important for defendant’s rights. Evidence which supports a defense witness’s testimony is vital to present an effective defense. Any exclusion of this type of evidence for the jury’s consideration should be reviewed carefully because it is likely highly prejudicial. Further, a prosecutor’s comments have to be appropriate at trial, and arguing an issue in this manner was prejudicial to the defense. Mr. Garcia will now have a chance to present his defense sufficiently at the trial court.

If you or someone you know is charged with a crime, it is essential to have a criminal defense attorney who is up to date on court decisions and who knows how to present a case at trial. Consultations on criminal defense cases are free at the Law Office of Eric M. Mark.

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