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STATE v. HENDRICKS — NEW JERSEY MURDER TRIAL — "NOT GUILTY" VERDICT

Mr. Tumelty represented Helena Hendricks, who was charged with first degree murder in Atlantic County Superior Court. The defendant faced a number of additional charges, including armed robbery, conspiracy and possession of a handgun for an unlawful purpose. At the conclusion of a jury trial that lasted three weeks, the defendant was found "not guilty" of all charges.

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New Jersey Supreme Court will consider standards for sentencing careless drivers to jail

The New Jersey Supreme Court has agreed to decide what standards should govern when deciding if a defendant convicted of careless driving should be given a jail sentence. The case pending before the Supreme Court involves an accident that occurred in February, 2010 when Dianna Palma stopped her SUV at a red light in Red Bank, New Jersey. Another driver signaled to her that she had just hit a pedestrian. The pedestrian became lodged under the car and was dragged down the road and she died two months later from her injuries.

Palma was charged with careless driving and failure to yield to a pedestrian. A blood test showed that Palma was not intoxicated, she was not using her cell phone and there was no evidence that she fell asleep while driving or violated any other motor vehicle law.

She pled guilty to careless driving and the municipal judge suspended her license for 90 days, imposed fines and gave her a 15-day jail sentence. The sentence was upheld on appeal to the law division. Palma filed an appeal to the appellate division of the Superior Court. The appeals court said that the death of the victim was not dispositive of whether a custodial sentence should be imposed. The appellate panel remanded to the law division to supplement the record and conduct a resentencing hearing. The state, however, appealed to the New Jersey Supreme Court which decided to hear the case.

The careless driving statute in New Jersey, N.J.S.A. 39:4-97, provides that a person who drives a vehicle carelessly or without due caution and circumspection in a manner so as to endanger or be likely to endanger, a person or property, shall be guilty of careless driving. A violation of the statute will result in two motor vehicle and insurance eligibility points.

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