Supreme Court Reverses Conviction of Man Serving 20 Year Sentence

January 13, 2016

In July of 2009, Julius Smith was arrested in Jersey City, New Jersey and charged with an armed robbery. Mr. Smith maintained his innocence and proceeded to trial. The State's evidence was far from overwhelming. On the second day of trial, Mr. Smith and his attorney learned for the first time that another individual matching the description of the assailant was arrested and found to be in possession of the proceeds of the robbery, including the victim's cell phone. The defense moved for a mistrial, citing the denial of access to important evidence. The trial court denied defendant's request. He was subsequently convicted of the armed robbery and sentenced to a period of twenty (20) years incarceration in New Jersey State Prison, 85% of which must be served without parole.

Mr. Smith retained the Law Office of Kevin G. Roe to prosecute his appeal. Firm associate Kevin W. Roe successfully petitioned the New Jersey Supreme Court and presented oral argument on April 27, 2015.

On January 13, 2016, the Supreme Court of New Jersey issued a unanimous written opinion reversing Mr. Smith's conviction in the matter of State of New Jersey v. Julius Smith. The Supreme Court found that the trial judge abused his discretion by failing to grant defendant's mistrial based on crucial newly discovered evidence. The Court re-affirmed that the Federal and New Jersey Constitutions guarantee criminal defendants a meaningful opportunity to present a complete defense. In assessing the importance of the discovery of new evidence -- the victim's phone -- Chief Justice Rabner wrote:

"The evidence went to the heart of the defense. Defendant maintained at trial that someone else committed the robbery. The fact that law enforcement found the victim's stolen cell phone when they arrested someone other than the defendant is directly related to the defense of third party guilt." 

For these reasons, the Court ordered a new trial.

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To read the full opinion in State v. Julius Smith, click here.