State v. McDougald

CourtUnited States State Supreme Court (New Jersey)
Citation577 A.2d 419,120 N.J. 523
PartiesSTATE of New Jersey, Plaintiff-Respondent, v. Anthony Tyrone McDOUGALD, Defendant-Appellant.
Decision Date12 July 1990

Tina R. Boyer and Claudia Van Wyk, Asst. Deputy Public Defenders, for defendant-appellant (Alfred A. Slocum, Public Defender, attorney; Tina R. Boyer, Claudia Van Wyk, and Mark H. Friedman, Asst. Deputy Public Defender, on the briefs).

Marijean Raffetto Stevens, Deputy Atty. Gen., for plaintiff-respondent (Peter N. Perretti, Jr., Atty. Gen., attorney).

The opinion of the Court was delivered by


Defendant, Anthony McDougald, was convicted by a jury of the brutal murders of Walter Bass and his wife, Maria Bass, and sentenced to death. He appeals directly to this Court as of right. R. 2:2-1(a)(3). We affirm defendant's convictions for murder. We set aside the death penalty, however, based on an erroneous charge regarding N.J.S.A. 2C:11-3c(4)(c), and remand the matter to the trial court for a new sentencing proceeding.


Anthony McDougald faced trial, pursuant to a thirteen-count indictment, for the murders of Walter Bass and Maria Bass, and related crimes. The jury found McDougald guilty on all counts, and sentenced him to death. McDougald does not dispute his participation in the murders. Following is an account of the essentially undisputed facts surrounding this case.

A. Events Preceding the Murders

Walter and Maria Bass resided in Newark with Maria's natural daughter and Walter's stepdaughter, Antoinette James. The family first met and befriended Anthony McDougald sometime between 1982 and 1983 at the home of their then-downstairs neighbor and mutual friend, Arlene Euggey. The family continued its friendly relationship with McDougald even after it moved to 14 Bedford Street in Newark in the early months of 1984. Antoinette became romantically involved with McDougald shortly thereafter. Antoinette was thirteen years of age, and McDougald was twenty-seven. They began having sexual relations in February of 1984.

During this time, McDougald was living in an apartment at 69 Somerset Street in Newark with Bernice Simmons. He had married Bernice in January of 1983, apparently without first having divorced his prior wife. In addition, McDougald was also romantically involved with a woman named Marilyn Howard, whom he also had met through Arlene Euggey. During the early months of 1984, defendant was often away from home on weekends. He explained to Bernice that he was drinking with the Basses during these absences.

In April of 1984, Antoinette James informed her mother and McDougald that she believed she was pregnant with McDougald's child. When a subsequent pregnancy test proved negative Antoinette was too embarrassed to admit her mistake. Instead, she told McDougald she had had an abortion. She never gave her parents any explanation. Presumably the Basses continued to believe that until the date of their deaths she was pregnant.

The relationship between defendant and the Basses turned hostile once they discovered that McDougald was having sexual relations with their daughter. Mrs. Bass forbade her daughter from seeing McDougald. Nevertheless, Antoinette defied her mother and continued her sexual relationship with McDougald. Maria Bass then apparently threatened McDougald with filing statutory-rape charges against him. He responded by telling Antoinette he would "get" her parents "one way or the other."

Defendant indicated his concern regarding the possibility of the Basses filing rape charges against him to two persons during that spring and early summer. In May of 1984, he told Bernice Simmons that Antoinette was pregnant with his baby and that "the Basses had threatened to press charges against him for statutory rape." He also told Marilyn Howard, sometime during June or July, that Maria Bass had pressed charges against him for having engaged in sexual relations with her daughter.

In May Bernice Simmons gave birth prematurely to the couple's child, a boy. Apparently McDougald was very attentive to the child. He visited the hospital frequently, purchased supplies for the baby, and acted as a reliable phone contact for the hospital.

There were several altercations between defendant and the Basses during that late spring and early summer. On two such occasions Maria Bass called the police. On the evening of June 10th, defendant went to the Basses' home to see Antoinette. When they refused to allow him in, he kicked in the front door. Maria Bass called the police, and Officer Henry Moore responded. By this time defendant had left, but the officer took a report on the incident from Maria Bass.

On the evening of June 17, 1984, Maria Bass granted Antoinette permission to go out to the movies with McDougald, instructing her to be home by 10:30 p.m. After the movie, McDougald and Antoinette engaged in sexual relations. Antoinette did not return home until 2:30 a.m. After he took Antoinette home, defendant heard Mrs. Bass, from outside the apartment, scold and slap Antoinette. He again kicked in the front door. On this occasion he pushed Maria, hit Walter, and took Antoinette to the home of her natural father. Again Maria called the police, and this time Officer Ralph Boswell responded and took a report.

After this last incident, defendant arrived at the home he shared with Bernice in the early morning hours of June 18th. Later that morning, he explained to Bernice that he had had a fight with the Basses. He expressed anxiety about their pressing rape and burglary charges against him. He told her he believed that the police were looking for him in relation to the incident.

In July, McDougald's baby was discharged from the hospital. Bernice took him to South Carolina. She told McDougald that she was only visiting relatives. In reality, Bernice had moved to South Carolina with the intention of remaining there permanently, thus severing her relationship to McDougald.

B. The Murders

McDougald was the source for many of the details surrounding the crimes. His statements and admissions were virtually uncontested at trial. The series of events that culminated in the murders began on the evening of August 18th sometime before 11:30 o'clock. McDougald started a fire on his bed in his apartment. He purportedly wanted to obliterate the bad memories he associated with the premises. McDougald was distraught over his failed marriage to Bernice. He enlisted Michelene ("Kisha") Williams, a thirteen-year-old girl, with whom he apparently was romantically involved, to help burn the bed. He then called his mother at her residence in the Newark YMCA and, along with Kisha, told her of having set the bed on fire.

Later, at approximately 2:00 o'clock on the morning of August 19th, defendant and Kisha Williams arrived at the home of the Basses. McDougald, by his own admission, was armed with a knife and may also have been carrying a baseball bat. Although McDougald claimed to have found the baseball bat in the home, Antoinette testified that the family did not possess such a bat. McDougald kicked open the front door and entered the bedroom where the couple was sleeping with Arlene Euggy's two-year-old son whom they were watching.

Defendant awakened Walter Bass and ordered him to come into the other room. Walter requested time to put on his pants, but defendant refused to allow him to do so. Defendant then asked where Antoinette was, and Walter responded truthfully that she was staying at a cousin's home that night. The three of them then proceeded into Antoinette's bedroom, where Mr. McDougald repeatedly asked "why was they trying to hurt [him], why?", saying "I never did anything to hurt you" and "I only tried to help you." Walter Bass responded "I'm sorry," at which point, defendant described the incident as follows:

I then cut him across his throat with a knife and he told me: "Tony, don't." Then I stabbed him in the chest. I was holding his neck with my hand. Then I think I stabbed him again two times. He fell on the floor. I told Kisha to watch him.

Defendant proceeded into the bedroom where Maria Bass and the infant were sleeping. Kisha called him back, however, because Walter had begun crawling from the back bedroom toward the kitchen. This is when Mr. McDougald claims to have found a bat in the apartment, which he used to "hit Walter Bass on the head * * *. He was on his knees and he fell back to the floor." Returning to Maria's room, defendant heard Walter moaning, and heard Kisha saying to Mr. Bass, "What did you do to Tony?" McDougald then heard Kisha hit Walter three more times with the bat.

Kisha then went into the room where defendant was standing over the sleeping Maria and the baby. McDougald asked her if Walter was dead, and she answered affirmatively. McDougald claims that Kisha then stated she "wanted to help with Maria." McDougald sent Kisha back to get the bat. He asked her if she was sure she wanted to participate, and then moved the baby away from the bed and instructed Kisha to hit Maria with the bat. Maria moved to get up. Defendant described his subsequent actions:

I went and got a cinderblock that was in the house and I hit her in the head with it. Maria moved again. Then I hit her with the bat once. Then I took the knife out of Kisha's hand and cut Maria's throat.

Defendant then sliced the bra Maria Bass was wearing in half with the knife, pulled her underpants down onto one ankle, and inserted the bat approximately three inches into her vagina, saying, "That's for having Antoinette." McDougald and Kisha then left the Basses' apartment.

McDougald called his mother again. This time he informed her that he had killed two persons. He also asked her if he could borrow forty dollars to get a place to stay. Ms. McDougald told him to come over.

Kisha Williams accompanied McDougald to the YMCA. Ms. McDougald came out, and the group sat on the stoop of a nearby church...

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