Tuesday, March 31, 2015

After a decade of appeals, the third time's a charm for Somerset Prosecutor.

In an unpublished opinion released today, March 31, 2015, the Appellate Division of the New Jersey Superior Court affirmed a conviction against Raymond R. Martin for selling a Somerset County Prosecutor's Office undercover detective $80 worth of crack cocaine on March 31, 2005 and another $200 worth of the same substance on April 19, 2005.  The opinion is on-line here and a November 1, 2007 Star Ledger article about the matter is on-line here.

According to the opinion and the news article, Martin's two crack cocaine sales occurred in the parking lot of the now closed Rhythm's of the Night restaurant and bar on South Main Street in Manville.  On October 31, 2007, the then 37-year old Martin was found guilty of the drug charges and a related resisting arrest charge after a four day trial before Somerset County Superior Court Judge Paul W. Armstrong. He was later sentenced to three years in prison.  On April 29, 2009, however, the Appellate Division reversed Martin's conviction finding that Armstrong "mistakenly exercised [his] discretion when [he] insisted at 4:00 p.m. that [Martin] could not ponder overnight whether to take the stand."

Martin's second trial, also before Judge Armstrong, ended with a deadlocked jury.  The third trial, against before Armstrong, resulted in a December 7, 2012 conviction and a three year prison term.

In his most recent appeal, Martin raised many objections, including Armstrong's removal of a Hispanic-American from the jury, Armstrong's "unmistakable" bias against and an "apparent animus" towards him, Armstong's alleged deprivation of his right to cross-examine the State's witnesses and Armstrong's "misstatement" to jurors that they "must" rather than "may" consider Martin's fleeing from police as an indication of proof of consciousness of guilt.

The Appellate Division panel found none of Martin's arguments compelling and affirmed his conviction and sentence.