State v. Harvey

Citation699 A.2d 596,151 N.J. 117
PartiesSTATE of New Jersey, Plaintiff-Respondent, v. Nathaniel HARVEY, Defendant-Appellant.
Decision Date30 July 1997
CourtUnited States State Supreme Court (New Jersey)

Page 117

151 N.J. 117
699 A.2d 596
STATE of New Jersey, Plaintiff-Respondent,
Nathaniel HARVEY, Defendant-Appellant.
Supreme Court of New Jersey.
Argued April 29, 1996.
Decided July 30, 1997.

Page 137

Michael B. Jones and Stephen A. Caruso, Assistant Deputies Public Defender, for defendant-appellant (Susan L. Reisner, Public Defender, attorney).

Nancy A. Hulett, Deputy Attorney General, for plaintiff-respondent (Deborah T. Poritz, Attorney General, attorney).

The opinion of the Court was delivered by


Defendant, Nathaniel Harvey, appeals directly from a judgment of conviction and sentence of death for the purposeful-or-knowing murder of Irene Schnaps. A jury originally convicted defendant of Schnaps's murder and sentenced him to death in October 1986. This Court reversed that conviction because of errors in the admission of defendant's confession and in the failure of the trial court to give a "Gerald charge." State v. Harvey, 121 N.J. 407, 581 A.2d 483 (1990) (Harvey I ), cert. denied, 499 U.S. 931, 111 S.Ct. 1336, 113 L.Ed.2d 268 (1991). The phrase "Gerald charge" refers to a charge that distinguishes murder when the defendant intended to kill from murder when the defendant intended only to cause serious bodily injury that resulted in death. State v. Gerald, 113 N.J. 40, 549 A.2d 792 (1988). Neither error occurred in the second trial.

In the absence of defendant's confession, the State relied substantially on DNA evidence to establish that defendant was Schnaps's killer. Again, a jury convicted defendant and imposed the death penalty. On this appeal, defendant raises numerous points, including challenges to the admission of the DNA evidence and to the jury charge. After careful review of all of defendant's arguments, we affirm his conviction and death sentence.

- I -

A. Discovery of the Body and the Crime Scene

Schnaps, age thirty-seven, lived alone in a ground-floor apartment at the Hunter's Glen complex in Plainsboro, New Jersey.

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After she failed to appear at work on June 17, 1985, a concerned coworker went to her apartment and entered through an unlocked doorway. On discovering Schnaps's lifeless body, he immediately called for assistance.

Investigating police detected no signs of forced entry. The bedroom, however, was a scene of obvious struggle. Blood stains were on the carpet and throughout the room. Schnaps's naked body lay face-up on the floor. She had sustained severe head and facial wounds. Despite the extensive head wounds, no bloodstains were present on Schnaps's chest and stomach.

The matting of several small hairs to the victim's body and the absence of blood on her torso suggested that someone had attempted to wipe the body clean. The carpeting around the body was wet from water. Schnaps's back was covered with blood.

A white pillowcase bore a bloody sneaker-print with a chevron pattern and the letters "PON." Although the bedding appeared clean, blood stained the mattress, the underlying box spring, a cardboard box that protruded from under the bed, and a towel.

The bedroom also included an empty Seiko-LaSalle watch box, an empty Olympus camera box, and an empty jewelry box. In the bathroom, the investigators found Schnaps's pocketbook. The pocketbook was open and did not contain any money.

[699 A.2d 606] B. The Autopsy

On June 18, 1985, Dr. Marvin Shuster, the Middlesex County medical examiner, conducted an autopsy. He determined that Schnaps had sustained approximately fifteen blows to the head. The largest wound, six inches long and one inch wide, extended from the front of her forehead to the top of her head. In general, the skull wounds were either curving or linear. The curving wounds were likely caused by hammer blows, and the linear wounds could have been caused by an item akin to a tire iron, a two-by-four, or a dull hatchet or axe. Some of the blows fractured Schnaps's skull and caused direct injury to the brain. Blows had

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been delivered from both the right and left sides, some from the front, but most from behind.

Triangular pressure marks appeared on both sides of the neck. Some of the victim's teeth were knocked out, and her jaw was broken. The right sides of the neck, jaw, cheek, and forehead were bruised, and she was cut behind one ear.

Unable to attribute death to any particular wound, Dr. Shuster concluded that the combination of the blows had killed Schnaps. Schnaps had bled profusely and died within a matter of minutes.

C. The Apprehension and Interrogation of Nathaniel Harvey

1. October 28, 1985

Throughout the summer and autumn of 1985, West Windsor police looked for the perpetrator of a series of unsolved burglaries and sexual assaults. Based on eyewitness descriptions, they believed that the perpetrator was a stocky black male, under five-feet three-and-a-half inches tall, who usually travelled on foot or by bicycle. The police also believed that the perpetrator of those other crimes might be responsible for Schnaps's murder. Defendant fit the physical description.

On October 28, 1985, police investigating three burglaries arrested defendant after he was sighted standing with his bicycle at the edge of a soybean field in West Windsor. One of the burglary victims identified defendant at a subsequent "show-up."

During questioning by West Windsor police on October 28, defendant confessed to committing a number of burglaries in West Windsor, as well as a sexual assault. Defendant also agreed to accompany the police on a car tour to point out the locations of his crimes.

2. October 29, 1985

At 10:00 a.m. on the following morning, defendant accompanied two detectives on a car tour of West Windsor. At 1:15 p.m., defendant consented to a search of his car and his Jamesburg apartment for evidence related to an unrelated sexual assault.

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Although defendant gave as his address his father's apartment in Jamesburg, he lived with his estranged wife in West Windsor. Apparently, defendant feared that his wife would lose her welfare benefits if he revealed that he lived with her. After defendant signed the consent form, police transferred him to the Mercer County Detention Center.

While searching defendant's car, the officers discovered two watches, including a Seiko-LaSalle like the one missing from Schnaps's apartment. They notified the Plainsboro Police Department. After obtaining a search warrant, a Plainsboro officer seized the watch. The search of Harvey's Jamesburg apartment did not yield any evidence.

3. October 30, 1985

Following defendant's arraignment for the murder of Schnaps, investigating officers resumed questioning him. At one point, defendant said that "he would tell [them] about the murder but first wanted to speak to his father." After defendant spoke with his father, police failed to administer new Miranda warnings. Shortly thereafter, defendant confessed to murdering Schnaps.

D. The First Trial

On November 19, 1985, a Middlesex County grand jury returned a three-count indictment charging defendant with the purposeful-or-knowing murder of Schnaps, contrary to N.J.S.A. 2C:11-3 (count one), second-degree[699 A.2d 607] robbery, contrary to N.J.S.A. 2C:15-1 (count two), and second-degree burglary, contrary to N.J.S.A. 2C:18-2 (count three). Two days later, on November 21, 1985, the Middlesex County Prosecutor filed a Notice of Aggravating Factors pursuant to Rule 3:13-4(a) and N.J.S.A. 2C:11-3c(2), making defendant's case a capital prosecution. The State alleged the following aggravating factors:

1. The murder was outrageously or wantonly vile, horrible or inhuman in that it involved an aggravated battery to the victim

N.J.S.A. 2C:11-3c(4)(c).

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2. The murder was committed for the purpose of escaping detection, apprehension, trial, imprisonment or confinement for robbery and burglary committed by the defendant

N.J.S.A. 2C:11-3c(4)(f).

3. The murder was committed while the defendant was engaged in the commission of or an attempt to commit, or flight after committing robbery and burglary

N.J.S.A. 2C:11-3c(4)(g).

The prosecution relied heavily on defendant's confession. Harvey I, supra, 121 N.J. at 415-17, 581 A.2d 483. The jury found defendant guilty of purposeful-or-knowing murder, first-degree robbery, second-degree burglary, and felony murder, for which he had not been indicted. At a penalty-phase hearing, the same jury found the presence of all three alleged aggravating factors and returned a sentence of death.

E. Harvey I

On direct appeal, this Court reversed defendant's conviction and remanded for a new trial. The Court held that the trial court's jury instructions on murder did not comport with Gerald, supra, 113 N.J. 40, 549 A.2d 792, which required that a jury must be instructed separately on the crimes of intentional murder and serious-bodily-injury murder (SBI murder). At the time of Harvey's trial, a conviction for SBI murder did not render a defendant death-eligible. In his confession, Harvey claimed that the victim struck him and that he then struck her only once. Relying in part on statements in his confession, the Court concluded that the evidence provided a rational basis for a jury to have concluded that defendant intended only to injure Schnaps. Harvey I, supra, 121 N.J. at 413, 581 A.2d 483.

The Court further held that Harvey's confession had been procured in violation of State v. Hartley, 103 N.J. 252, 511 A.2d 80 (1986). Hartley provides that after invoking the right to silence, a defendant must receive new Miranda warnings before interrogation can resume. The Court ruled that, by asking to speak with his father, Harvey had invoked his right to silence. Harvey I, supra, 121 N.J. at 418-20, 581 A.2d 483. Consequently, the police

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should have advised him again of his constitutional rights before resuming interrogation. The failure of the police to abide by that bright-line test rendered defendant's confession inadmissible. Id. at 422, 581 A.2d...

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