State v. Carter, A-4940-18

CourtNew Jersey Superior Court – Appellate Division
Writing for the CourtPER CURIAM
PartiesSTATE OF NEW JERSEY, Plaintiff-Respondent, v. GARRATT D. CARTER, a/k/a GARRETT DOUGLAS CARTER, GARY CARTER, GARRET CARTER, GARRETT CARTER, and GARRETT D. CARTER, Defendant-Appellant.
Docket NumberA-4940-18
Decision Date21 November 2022

STATE OF NEW JERSEY, Plaintiff-Respondent,
v.

GARRATT D. CARTER, a/k/a GARRETT DOUGLAS CARTER, GARY CARTER, GARRET CARTER, GARRETT CARTER, and GARRETT D. CARTER, Defendant-Appellant.

No. A-4940-18

Superior Court of New Jersey, Appellate Division

November 21, 2022


This opinion shall not "constitute precedent or be binding upon any court." Although it is posted on the internet, this opinion is binding only on the parties in the case and its use in other cases is limited. R. 1:36-3.

Argued November 3, 2021

On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Essex County, Indictment No. 18-02-0345.

Uri J. Roer (Uri J. Roer, LLC) argued the cause for appellant.

Lucille M. Rosano, Special Deputy Attorney General/Acting Assistant Prosecutor, argued the cause for respondent (Theodore N. Stephens II, Acting Essex

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County Prosecutor, attorney; Lucille M. Rosano, of counsel and on the brief).

Before Judges Fisher, DeAlmeida and Smith.

PER CURIAM

Defendant was driving west on Market Street in Newark on the evening of September 22, 2017, when his vehicle struck pedestrian Steven Dawkins in the roadway; at this location, Market Street consisted of four lanes, two in each direction. No one else saw the accident but several witnesses arrived shortly after it occurred. When officers arrived, they found an hysterical defendant leaning over Dawkins, attempting to give him CPR. The officers smelled alcohol on defendant who was swaying on his feet and slurring his words. Defendant was charged with one count of first-degree vehicular homicide, N.J.S.A. 2C:11-5b(3)(a).

Prior to trial, the State moved to exclude a toxicology report, which opined that Dawkins had a blood alcohol content that would have put him over the limit permitted by law if he was operating a motor vehicle; the report also stated Dawkins had PCP in his system. The judge granted the motion, finding the toxicology report was irrelevant and even if it was relevant, could not overcome the bar set by N.J.R.E. 403.

During the trial, a medical examiner testified about Dawkins' cause of death. Defendant again attempted to elicit the toxicology results, but the trial

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court again ruled that the results were irrelevant, and the information was more prejudicial than probative. At the trial's conclusion, the jury found defendant guilty as charged, and he was sentenced to an eighteen-year prison term subject to the No Early Release Act, N.J.S.A. 2C:43-7.2.

In appealing, defendant argues:

I. THE COURT COMMITTED REVERSIBLE ERROR WHEN IT PRECLUDED THE VICTIM'S TOXICOLOGY RESULTS FROM BEING INTRODUCED AND ADMITTED AT TRIAL THEREBY DENYING THE DEFENDANT A RIGHT TO A FAIR TRIAL
A. The court committed reversible error when it precluded the defense from introducing and admitting the victim's toxicology results showing a blood alcohol level of 0.206% g/dL and a PCP concentration of 0.109 mg/L since "but for" causation was an issue in this case and therefore the jury should have been allowed to consider the victim's toxicology results.
B. The court committed reversible error when it precluded the defense from introducing and admitting the victim's toxicology results showing a blood alcohol level of 0.206% g/dL and a PCP concentration of 0.109 mg/L since both prongs of causation were presented to the jury for consideration and therefore the victim's toxicology results were relevant under the second prong of causation.
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C. The court committed reversible error when it precluded the defense from introducing and admitting the victim's toxicology results showing a blood alcohol level of 0.206% g/dL and a PCP concentration of 0.109% mg/L after the State's witness referenced the victim's toxicology results.
II. THE COURT COMMITTED REVERSIBLE ERROR WHEN IT BARRED SGT. FONTANA FROM TESTIFYING REGARDING HIS CONCLUSIONS AS THE LEAD ACCIDENT INVESTIGATOR IN THIS CASE RESULTING IN THE DEFENDANT BEING DENIED A FAIR TRIAL.
III. THE COURT COMMITTED REVERSIBLE ERROR BY FAILING TO CHARGE THE JURY THAT THE MOTOR VEHICLE CODE REQUIRES PEDESTRIANS OUTSIDE A CROSSWALK TO Y[IE]LD TO VEHICLES IN THE ROADWAY.

We find insufficient merit in these arguments to warrant further discussion in a written opinion. R. 2:11-3(e)(2). We add only the following comments.

Defendant, who was operating his vehicle with a blood alcohol content well above the legal limit, N.J.S.A. 39:4-50, argues that the jury did not receive a full picture of what occurred when his vehicle collided with Dawkins, causing his death. The essence of defendant's three points presented in this appeal is that the jury should have been permitted to hear evidence that Dawkins was also intoxicated. We reject these arguments. It makes no difference whether Dawkins

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was intoxicated or merely a careless pedestrian. Moreover, the admission of proof that Dawkins was intoxicated would have been far more prejudicial to the State's case than relevant.

What was relevant to the defense was that: it was dark - the sun having set two hours earlier - the area illuminated only by artificial light; Dawkins was dressed in dark clothing; and Dawkins was attempting to cross the street in the middle of the block rather than at a crosswalk. But the fact that Dawkins may have been inebriated and under the influence of other substances is not relevant and clearly prejudicial.

Evidence rulings are subject only to limited appellate scrutiny; we seek only to determine whether there has been an abuse of discretion, State v. Buda, 195 N.J. 278, 294 (2008), and will reverse only when an erroneous evidence ruling "undermine[s] confidence in the validity of the conviction or misappl[ies] the law," State v. Weaver, 219 N.J. 131, 149 (2014). We do not substitute our judgment for that of the trial judge unless the ruling was "so wide of the mark that a manifest denial of...

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