State v. Koedatich

Decision Date19 April 1990
Citation118 N.J. 513,572 A.2d 622
PartiesSTATE of New Jersey, Plaintiff-Appellant, v. James Jerold KOEDATICH, Defendant-Respondent.
CourtNew Jersey Supreme Court

Joseph Connor, Jr., and Thomas J. Critchley, Jr., Asst. Prosecutors, for plaintiff-appellant (Lee S. Trumbull, Morris County Prosecutor, attorney).

David A. Ruhnke, Designated Counsel, West Orange, for defendant-respondent (Alfred A. Slocum, Public Defender, attorney).

The opinion of the Court was delivered by


In State v. Koedatich, 112 N.J. 225, 548 A.2d 939 (1988), cert. denied, ---U.S. ----, 109 S.Ct. 813, 102 L.Ed.2d 803 (1989), we affirmed defendant's conviction for the murder of Amie Hoffman but vacated his death sentence and remanded for a new penalty-phase hearing. The issue on this appeal is whether the State can offer evidence at the resentencing hearing of aggravating factors that were charged but that the jury in the first proceeding did not unanimously find to exist. The trial court concluded the State was barred from resubmitting those aggravating factors. We granted the State's motion for leave to appeal that ruling and now reverse.


On November 23, 1982, eighteen-year-old Amie Hoffman was abducted from the Morris County Mall where she worked part-time. Two days later, police discovered her body in a water-retention tank located in a secluded area of Randolph Township. Medical evidence revealed that she had been sexually assaulted and then stabbed to death. The resulting police investigation culminated in the arrest of James Jerold Koedatich. In October 1984, a Morris County jury convicted Koedatich of several offenses including murder and sentenced him to death. 1

At the penalty phase of the trial, the State charged four aggravating factors: (1) that defendant had previously been convicted of murder, N.J.S.A. 2C:11-3c(4)(a) (defendant had been convicted of second-degree murder in Florida in 1971); (2) that the murder was committed while defendant was engaged in the commission of or flight from the commission of a sexual assault and kidnapping, N.J.S.A. 2C:11-3c(4)(g); (3) that the murder was committed for the purpose of escaping detection, N.J.S.A. 2C:11-3c(4)(f); and (4) that the murder was outrageously and wantonly vile, N.J.S.A. 2C:11-3c(4)(c).

The jury unanimously found that defendant had a prior murder conviction and that he killed Amie Hoffman in the course of a sexual assault and kidnapping. The jury was unable to agree unanimously with respect to the other two aggravating factors. The Penalty Phase Special Verdict Form revealed that eleven of the twelve jurors determined that the murder was "outrageously and wantonly vile," and eight determined that the murder was committed "to escape detection."

Defendant subsequently appealed both the conviction and the death sentence. Although this Court affirmed the underlying conviction, we vacated defendant's death sentence, finding reversible error in the penalty phase. 112 N.J. at 340, 548 A.2d 939. Specifically, we held that the trial court had erroneously charged the jury that the mitigating factors must outweigh the aggravating factors in order for the court to impose a sentence other than death. Id. at 325, 548 A.2d 939. Further, we held that the trial court had erred by requiring that the jury unanimously find the existence of mitigating factors. Id. at 326-27, 548 A.2d 939. Accordingly, we remanded the matter for a new penalty-phase hearing.

In September 1988, the State filed a Notice of Intention to Seek the Death Penalty at Resentencing, in which it relied on the same four aggravating factors charged in the initial sentencing proceeding. Defendant argued at resentencing that this Court's decisions in State v. Biegenwald, 106 N.J. 13, 524 A.2d 130 (1987) (Biegenwald II), and State v. Biegenwald, 110 N.J. 521, 542 A.2d 442 (1988) (Biegenwald III), preclude the State from resubmitting both the "outrageously wanton and vile" and the murder "to escape detection" factors. 2 The trial court agreed, holding that those death-penalty decisions barred the State from charging any aggravating factors at resentencing that the jury in the first penalty phase did not unanimously find to exist.


We note that the Capital Punishment Act, N.J.S.A. 2C:11-3 (the Act), offers no specific guidance on the question whether aggravating factors not unanimously found to exist by the jury at the initial sentencing proceeding can be presented at resentencing following a remand. Nor have our prior decisions concerning the presentation of aggravating factors at resentencing dealt specifically with the issue raised by this appeal.

In Biegenwald II, supra, 106 N.J. 13, 524 A.2d 130, we affirmed defendant's conviction for the murder of Anne Olesiewicz, but reversed his death sentence because the trial court had improperly instructed the jury in the penalty phase. Accordingly, we remanded the case for a new sentencing proceeding, observing that "[r]esentencing cannot be considered double-jeopardy where the first sentence was a death sentence and the evidence was sufficient." Id. at 68, 524 A.2d 130.

At the initial penalty-phase proceeding in Biegenwald II, the jury unanimously found the existence of two aggravating factors: (1) that defendant had previously been convicted of murder, N.J.S.A. 2C:11-3c(4)(a); and (2) that "the murder was outrageously or wantonly vile, horrible or inhuman in that it involved torture, depravity of mind, or an aggravated battery to the victim." N.J.S.A. 2C:11-3c(4)(c) ("c(4)(c)"). We held that principles of double jeopardy barred the State from proving the existence of the "aggravated battery" or "torture" components of the c(4)(c) aggravating circumstance at resentencing because there was insufficient evidence in the record to support those components. 106 N.J. at 51, 524 A.2d 130. We noted, however, that the State would not be barred from offering evidence of "depravity of mind" to establish aggravating factor c(4)(c). Id. at 52, 524 A.2d 130.

In Biegenwald III, supra, 110 N.J. 521, 542 A.2d 442, the issue was whether the State could introduce as an aggravating factor at the resentencing hearing defendant's conviction for the murder of William Ward, which was obtained after the Olesiewicz conviction. We held that admission of the Ward conviction at resentencing complied with the double-jeopardy clauses of both the federal and state constitutions and with principles of fundamental fairness. Id. at 540-41, 542 A.2d 442. As dictum in that opinion, we offered this guideline:

If the sentencing jury in the first trial specifically rejects an aggravating factor or an appellate court finds that the State failed to establish by sufficient evidence the existence of an aggravating factor at the original trial, the aggravating factor[,] or that part of the aggravating factor rejected by the jury, cannot be used at the resentencing proceeding. [Id. at 542, 542 A.2d 442.]

Neither Biegenwald II nor Biegenwald III, however, is dispositive of the issue before us. Therefore, we begin our analysis by considering the question in the context of double-jeopardy jurisprudence. Because we have held the double-jeopardy clauses of the state and federal constitutions to be substantially coextensive, State v. DeLuca, 108 N.J. 98, 102, 527 A.2d 1355 (1987); State v. Dively, 92 N.J. 573, 578, 458 A.2d 502 (1983); State v. Barnes, 84 N.J. 362, 370, 420 A.2d 303 (1980), we proceed with an overview of federal double-jeopardy law pertaining to sentencing issues.

The Supreme Court has recognized that the double-jeopardy clause of the fifth amendment embodies three distinct protections for criminal defendants It protects against a second prosecution for the same offense after acquittal. It protects against a second prosecution for the same offense after conviction. And it protects against multiple punishments for the same offense. [North Carolina v. Pearce, 395 U.S. 711, 717, 89 S.Ct. 2072, 2076, 23 L.Ed.2d 656, 664-65 (1965) (footnotes omitted).]

Constitutional protections against double jeopardy clearly preclude the retrial of a defendant who has been acquitted of the offenses with which he was charged. As the Court observed in Green v. United States, 355 U.S. 184, 187-88, 78 S.Ct. 221, 223, 2 L.Ed.2d 199, 204 (1957):

[T]he State with all its resources and power should not be allowed to make repeated attempts to convict an individual for an alleged offense, thereby subjecting him to embarrassment, expense and ordeal and compelling him to live in a continuing state of anxiety and insecurity, as well as enhancing the possibility that even though innocent he may be found guilty.

Nevertheless, it is consistent with the guarantee against double jeopardy to retry a defendant who has succeeded in obtaining reversal of his conviction based on trial errors:

It would be a high price indeed for society to pay were every accused granted immunity from punishment because of any defect sufficient to constitute reversible error in the proceedings leading to conviction. [United States v. Tateo, 377 U.S. 463, 466, 84 S.Ct. 1587, 1589, 12 L.Ed.2d 448, 451 (1964).]

Where a defendant's conviction has been overturned due to insufficient evidence, however, principles of double jeopardy prohibit retrial. Burks v. United States, 437 U.S. 1, 98 S.Ct. 2141, 57 L.Ed.2d 1 (1978).

Defendants have sought to extend the significance accorded acquittal of a criminal offense to the imposition of a particular sentence. In North Carolina v. Pearce, supra, 395 U.S. 711, 89 S.Ct. 2072, 23 L.Ed.2d 656, the Court considered whether the imposition of a greater sentence, after conviction on retrial, was barred on double-jeopardy grounds. Reasoning that the "power to impose whatever sentence may be legally authorized" was a "corollary of the power" to retry a defendant whose conviction was set aside on appeal, the Court held that the prohibition against double jeopardy did...

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  • State v. Black
    • United States
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    ...v. Womack, 145 N.J. 576, 582, 679 A.2d 606, cert. denied, --- U.S. 517, 117 S.Ct. 517, 136 L. Ed.2d 405 (1996); State v. Koedatich, 118 N.J. 513, 518, 572 A.2d 622 (1990). The Double Jeopardy Clause's prohibition against multiple punishments clearly protects against a second criminal penalt......
  • State v. Dunns
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    • July 7, 1993
    ...protections provided in the State and federal constitutions are essentially coextensive in application. State v. Koedatich, 118 N.J. 513, 518, 572 A.2d 622 (1990); State v. Dively, 92 N.J. 573, 578, 458 A.2d 502 (1983); State v. Rechtschaffer, 70 N.J. 395, 404, 360 A.2d 362 (1976); State v.......
  • State v. Baker
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    ...even "when the scope of a particular constitutional protection has not been extended to protect a defendant." State v. Koedatich, 118 N.J. 513, 528, 572 A.2d 622 (1990) (quoting State v. Yoskowitz, 116 N.J. 679, 705, 563 A.2d 1 (1989)). However sparing its application should be, see Yoskowi......
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    ...and as such is not binding on that court or precedent for any other court. In fact, the New Jersey Supreme Court, in State v. Koedatich, 118 N.J. 513, 572 A.2d. 622 (1990), retreated from its Biegenwald language and held that the State may, at resentencing, rely upon aggravating circumstanc......
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