The Appellate Division held in July that the state could not appeal the dismissal of a Monmouth County juvenile sexual assault case. The state’s appeal was nothing more than an attempt to commence a second prosecution for the same offense, the court concluded, in violation of the Double Jeopardy clauses of the state and federal constitutions. State ex rel. J.T., No. A-0595-12T1 (Jul. 11, 2013).
The juvenile defendant was accused of performing acts of fellatio on another minor and was charged with the juvenile equivalents of first-degree aggravated sexual assault and third degree endangering the welfare of a child. The judge ruled, however, that one of the prosecution’s key pieces of evidence—a videotaped interview with an 11 year old child who knew about the incident—was inadmissible because it lacked trustworthiness. Without this evidence, the judge granted a directed verdict in the defense’s favor and dismissed the complaint. The prosecution appealed.
Double jeopardy prevents defendants from being retried for the same offense after being acquitted, but the prosecution argued that double jeopardy didn’t apply in this case because the dismissal was based on what should have been a pre-trial evidentiary ruling. The Appellate Division did not agree. As the court explained, the evidentiary ruling was decided during the trial and after jeopardy had attached. The trial judge, moreover, had indicated to the attorneys when the trial commenced that the evidentiary ruling would be made during the trial, not as a pre-trial procedure. The prosecution did not object to this framework, and having failed to do so then, it could not later attempt to fix its mistake by claiming that double jeopardy didn’t apply. For these reasons, the court rejected the prosecution’s appeal and affirmed the dismissal in favor of the juvenile defendant.
For more information about sexual assault charges in Monmouth County, call the Law Offices of Palumbo & Renaud at 908-337-0753 or visit the law firm website at www.palumbo-renaud.com.