State v. Budis

CourtNew Jersey Superior Court – Appellate Division
Citation243 N.J.Super. 498,580 A.2d 283
PartiesSTATE of New Jersey, Plaintiff-Respondent, v. James G. BUDIS, Defendant-Appellant.
Decision Date14 September 1990

Dennis M. Mahoney, for appellant (Mahoney & Mahoney, Westfield, attorneys).

Timothy Van Hise, Asst. Pros., for respondent (Nicholas L. Bissell, Jr., Somerset County Prosecutor, attorney).

John Kennedy, Deputy Atty. Gen., for amicus curiae (Peter N. Perretti, Atty. Gen., attorney).

Before Judges PRESSLER, LONG and LANDAU.

The opinion of the court was delivered by


After a jury trial, defendant James G. Budis was convicted of two counts of sexual penetration on T.D., a child of less than thirteen years of age, contrary to N.J.S.A. 2C:14-2(a)(1). He was sentenced to concurrent custodial terms of fifteen years on each conviction. An appropriate Violent Crimes Compensation Board penalty was also imposed. Defendant appeals, claiming that the following errors warrant reversal:











We have carefully reviewed this record in light of the claims advanced by defendant and conclude that defendant was denied a fair trial because of an interpretation of N.J.S.A. 2C:14-7 which precluded admission of crucial defense evidence. Accordingly, we reverse and remand for a new trial. This ruling renders moot the remaining issues raised in defendant's brief.

In May 1988, T.D., who was then 10 years old, was playing a Nintendo game with a relative. The game featured two characters boxing. While playing the game, T.D. commented that it looked like one of the characters "was sucking the other guy off." This comment was reported to her father, who confronted T.D. in order to discover where she had heard of such a thing. In response, T.D. mentioned the names of her former stepfather, H.D., and the defendant. The father, in turn, made a report to the Division of Youth and Family Services, which contacted the Somerset County Prosecutor.

An investigation was conducted by a detective from the Somerset County Prosecutor's Office, who met with T.D. and taped two statements. In the first statement, T.D. said that defendant, who is her father's cousin, was visiting on an evening in July 1987, when the family went swimming in the apartment complex pool at night. According to T.D., defendant took her back into the apartment to get changed, and once inside he placed his erect penis in her mouth and her vagina, but that nothing came out of his penis. She said that a few days later the family went to Dorney Park for her brother's birthday. Defendant went with them and slept over. During the night, he came into her bedroom and once again placed his erect penis in her mouth and her vagina.

The second statement referred to T.D.'s former stepfather, H.D. In her statement, T.D. said that on five or six occasions during the fall of 1986 while they were living in the same household, H.D. took her into his bedroom at night and placed his erect penis in her mouth and her vagina. She said that he did this for about an hour at a time, but that nothing came out of his penis. Upon questioning, H.D. admitted to three sexual encounters with T.D. He was indicted and subsequently pled guilty to one count of sexual assault and one count of aggravated sexual assault. He has since been sentenced.

On May 25, 1988, the detective sought to question the defendant about T.D.'s allegations. Defendant acknowledged that two sexual encounters with T.D. occurred during the previous summer but differed with T.D.'s description of the events. Defendant said that on the occasion of T.D.'s brother's birthday, he slept on the couch. Shortly after he went to sleep, he awoke to find that T.D. had taken his penis "out through the side of my shorts and was jerking me off and then started licking and kissing" it; he pushed her away after "maybe five minutes at the most." Defendant said that on the other occasion, when he visited the apartment complex to go swimming, he went into the apartment by himself to get changed. When he had "stripped down", defendant noticed T.D. was behind him; she grabbed his penis and testicles and began to stroke and kiss them for about a minute. Defendant said that "[a]t that point, it felt good." On both occasions, defendant had an erection but did not ejaculate. Defendant said that he warned T.D. not to do anything like this again or he would have to tell her father. Defendant subsequently was arrested and indicted on two counts of sexual penetration in violation of N.J.S.A. 2C:14-2a(1).

At trial, the testimony of T.D. was essentially the same as her prior statements to the police. When defendant was confronted on cross-examination with his prior inculpatory answers, he gave these explanations. He said that his statement that what T.D. did to him after they went swimming "felt good" meant that "it didn't hurt." He also said that his description of what T.D. did when he woke up on the couch as lasting "maybe five minutes" was a figure of speech; it actually was only a few seconds before he pushed her away.

During discussions outside the presence of the jury, defense counsel indicated that he needed to elicit testimony as to the prior sexual abuse to which T.D. had been subjected by her stepfather in order to show sexual knowledge for the purpose of preventing the jury from dismissing outright defendant's testimony that a child would be inclined to initiate sexual contact. The trial judge ruled that the rape shield statute ( N.J.S.A. 2C:14-7) precluded the admission of the evidence:

First of all I--I do not agree with the contention of defense counsel that you can show as to a child that which you couldn't show as to an adult woman. That to me is absolutely beyond belief. If an adult engaged in each of these alleged acts with an adult male, you could not show it in a charge of aggravated sexual assault involving another and distinct different, different person. You would not be permitted. And it's urged to me that you should be permitted to do it with a child.

First of all, I will not permit any examination of this child with respect to any sexual activity other than the sexual activity charged in this indictment. Either by direct examination or cross-examination.

I will permit the examination of the detective within the limited area, to wit, did he investigate allegations of sexual abuse by her stepfather. And I will not permit the details of those--that alleged sexual abuse to be brought before this jury.

Defense counsel cross-examined T.D. on how she responded to her father's inquiry as to where she learned about sex:

Q. And then you finally said [the defendant] Uncle Jimmy, right?

A. Yes.

Q. Did you say anything else?

A. And Bud [her step-father].

Q. (Indicating not hearing.)

A. And Bud.

Q. And Bud?

A. Yes.

Q. That would be your stepfather?

A. He was, but he is not anymore.

Defense counsel also cross-examined the detective on his investigation:

Q. She related these incidents about Mr. Budis in 1987.

A. Yes.

Q. And she also related something about some incident in 1986 concerning somebody other than Mr. Budis; isn't that so?

MR. VAN HISE: Objection, your Honor.

THE COURT: I'll permit that.

A. Yes, sir.

Q. Involving her stepfather. Isn't that so?

MR. VAN HISE: Objection.

THE COURT: This will be the end of it. I will permit that question and the answer.

A. Yes, sir.

Q. And there's was--

THE COURT: Obviously, ladies and gentlemen, any prior incidents are not before you for your determination in the course of this trial.

Q. And there was an investigation by you into that as well.

A. Yes.

Q. Okay.

Although the testimonial portion of the trial only lasted two days, the jury deliberated for one full day and for a portion of a second day before reaching a verdict.

The Sixth Amendment to the United States Constitution guarantees the right of the accused in a criminal prosecution "to be confronted with the witnesses against him." This right has been extended by the Fourteenth Amendment to protect the accused in state proceedings. Pointer v. Texas, 380 U.S. 400, 85 S.Ct. 1065, 13 L.Ed.2d 923 (1965); State v. Williams, 182 N.J.Super. 427, 434, 442 A.2d 620 (App.Div.1982). Art. 1, par. 10 of the New Jersey Constitution (1947) concomitantly provides that "in all criminal prosecutions the accused shall have the right ... to be confronted with the witnesses against him...." Confrontation means more than merely being allowed to address a witness physically. A primary interest secured by confrontation is the right to meaningful cross-examination. Davis v. Alaska, 415 U.S. 308, 315, 94 S.Ct. 1105, 1110, 39 L.Ed.2d 347, 353 (1974) (citing Douglas v. Alabama, 380 U.S. 415, 418, 85 S.Ct. 1074, 1076, 13 L.Ed.2d 934, 937 (1965)). "Cross examination is the principal means by which the believability of a witness and the truth of his testimony are tested." Id. at 316, 94 S.Ct. at 1110, 39 L.Ed.2d at 353. The right to confront and cross examine witnesses is crucial to due process. In re Oliver, 333 U.S. 257, 68 S.Ct. 499, 92 L.Ed. 682 (1948). It is not, however, without limitation and may, "in appropriate cases, bow to accommodate other legitimate interests in the criminal trial process." Chambers v. Mississippi, 410 U.S. 284, 295, 93 S.Ct. 1038, 1046, 35 L.Ed.2d 297, 308 (1973) (citing Mancusi v. Shibbs, 408 U.S. 204, 92 S.Ct. 2308, 33 L.Ed.2d 293 (1972)). See State v. Crandall, 120 N.J. 649, 577 A.2d 483 (1990)....

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11 cases
  • State v. Budis
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court (New Jersey)
    • August 6, 1991
    ...and of the ensuing police investigation, but excluded the details of the stepfather's abuse. The Appellate Division reversed. 243 N.J.Super. 498, 580 A.2d 283 (1990). We granted the State's petition for certification, --- N.J. ---- (1990), and now Page 525 I On May 22, 1988, T.D. was stayin......
  • State v. Scherzer
    • United States
    • New Jersey Superior Court – Appellate Division
    • May 20, 1997
    ...his right to a fair opportunity for cross-examination." Ross, supra, 249 N.J.Super. at 251, 592 A.2d 291. Thus, in State v. Budis, 243 N.J.Super. 498, 513, 580 A.2d 283 (App.Div.1990), aff'd, 125 N.J. 519, 593 A.2d 784 (1991), we held that the defendant's Sixth Amendment rights outweighed t......
  • Butterfield v. Cook, 910130-CA
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of Utah
    • August 2, 1991
    ...completely excluded. See, e.g., Summitt, 101 Nev. at 159, 697 P.2d at 1374; Howard, 121 N.H. at 53, 426 A.2d at 462; State v. Budis, 243 N.J.Super. 498, 580 A.2d 283 (1990). Where the relevant evidence came in through other means, the refusal to allow questions on the complainant's prior se......
  • State v. Townsend, CR 05-1263.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Arkansas
    • April 13, 2006
    ...760 P.2d 1071 (1988); State v. Jacques, 558 A.2d 706 (Me.1989); Summitt v. State, 101 Nev. 159, 697 P.2d 1374 (1985); State v. Budis, 243 N.J.Super. 498, 233 S.W.3d 685 580 A.2d 283 (1990). Some of the states admitting evidence of prior sexual encounters in these situations have adopted var......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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