Criminal justice reform in New Jersey is now two years old. As we gain more experience with the underlying rules and procedures, it is worth reviewing whether they are achieving their stated goals and the effect they are having on our criminal justice system. State v. Hyppolite, recently decided by the New Jersey Supreme Court, discusses the State’s discovery obligations prior to a detention hearing, and what happens when the prosecutor fails to meet it.
Hyppolite stemmed from a shooting and homicide in Jersey City. The police identified Michael Gregg as a witness and interviewed him on two separate occasions. Gregg gave his first statement shortly after the shooting, and said that he heard three to four shots but did not see the shooter. Some months later, he gave a second statement where he, among other things, identified the defendant as the shooter. The defendant was arrested and charged with murder and weapons offenses, and the probable cause affidavit submitted in support of the complaint stated that he was positively identified as the shooter by an eyewitness. The State moved for pretrial detention, and produced by way of discovery materials regarding Gregg’s second statement, but failed to provide any information concerning the first statement. The Court ordered the defendant to be detained.
The State subsequently produced additional discovery after the defendant was indicted, including materials concerning Gregg’s first statement, recordings of interviews of other alleged witnesses which contradicted Gregg’s version of events, and an application for a communications data warrant for Gregg’s phone. This was the first time defense counsel received this material. Counsel moved to re-open the detention hearing. The trial court denied the application, and the Appellate Division denied leave to appeal The Supreme Court, however, granted leave to appeal.