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State v. Lodzinki

New Jersey Supreme Court

December 28, 2021

The New Jersey Supreme Court vacated the defendant’s twenty-five-year-old murder conviction. A jury convicted the defendant of murdering a young boy. The Appellate Division affirmed. In a three-three split, the Supreme Court affirmed. However, all six Justices participating in the case disapproved of the Appellate Division’s position “that evidence presented by the defendant is irrelevant to the court’s consideration when it reviews a post-trial motion for a judgment of acquittal notwithstanding the verdict under Rule 3:18-2.” The defendant then filed a motion for reconsideration. The Court granted reconsideration on the ground that the three-three split left in place a constitutionally defective Appellate Division judgment that had reviewed the sufficiency of the evidence under a standard that violated federal and state law. On reconsideration, the Court held that no reasonable jury could find beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant purposefully or knowingly caused the boy’s death. Even if the evidence suggested that he did not die by accident, no testimony or evidence was offered to distinguish whether he died by someone’s negligent, reckless, or purposeful or knowing acts, even if that person were the defendant.

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