State v. Savage

CourtUnited States State Supreme Court (New Jersey)
Citation120 N.J. 594,577 A.2d 455
PartiesSTATE of New Jersey, Plaintiff-Respondent, v. Roy SAVAGE, Defendant-Appellant.
Decision Date19 July 1990

M. Virginia Barta and Robert Seelenfreund, Asst. Deputy Public Defenders, for defendant-appellant (Alfred A. Slocum, Public Defender, attorney).

Robin Parker, Deputy Atty. Gen., for plaintiff-respondent (Peter N. Perretti, Jr., Atty. Gen., attorney).

The opinion of the Court was delivered by


A jury convicted defendant, Roy Savage, of the capital murder of Carolyn Hubbard and sentenced him to death. He appealed as of right. R. 2:2-1(a)(3). We find that defendant was denied effective assistance of counsel, in violation of the federal and state constitutions, and therefore reverse his murder conviction 1 and sentence of death. Consequently, we remand the case to the law division for a new trial.

In addition, we consider whether under our state constitution a defendant has a constitutional right to testify at trial and whether a trial court has the corollary duty to advise a defendant of that right. We also address certain collateral issues raised by defendant--many of which were resolved by our decisions in State v. Biegenwald, 106 N.J. 13, 524 A.2d 130 (1987), and State v. Ramseur, 106 N.J. 123, 524 A.2d 188 (1987)--that may arise in the event of a retrial.

I Facts
A. The Discovery of the Torso, the Investigation, and the Arrest

On Thursday, September 8, 1983, Margie King Guest, a seventh-floor resident of the Columbus Homes Project in Newark, ("Projects") was leaving her building to meet a girlfriend. On arriving in the lobby, she noticed an "awful" odor, and a man with a large suitcase. The odor was so strong that she covered her mouth and ran to her friend's apartment. A few minutes later, she saw the man she had seen in the lobby with the suitcase leave the building. She noticed that he wore glasses and a muslim cap and that he had a cloth around his arm, using it as a sling. He walked past her, and entered a small blue car driven by another male, accompanied by a female wearing a veil over her face. The car turned around and drove away.

The next night, Friday, September 9, 1983, Aleida Bonilla and Felix Figueroa, residents of the Projects, were in the lobby of their building awaiting the elevator when they detected a foul odor. It forced them outside for air. After they returned to the lobby, the elevator door opened and they saw a man inside with an approximately four-to-five feet wide by three-and- one-half feet high suitcase at his right-hand side. They described the suitcase as blue with a brownish substance underneath. Mr. Figueroa wrapped his scarf around his face and held his breath all the way to the ninth floor to escape the odor apparently emanating from the suitcase. Ms. Bonilla noticed that the man was wearing glasses and had a towel with what appeared to be dry blood wrapped around his hands. Ms. Bonilla and Mr. Figueroa left the elevator on the ninth floor; the man with the suitcase stayed on.

That same night, Douglas Robinson, another tenant of the Projects, saw a strange man standing in his hallway carrying a blue suitcase with red stains underneath. He noticed that the man wore a pair of tinted glasses. Mr. Robinson also noticed a "terrible smell" emanating from the suitcase. When he left his apartment about five minutes later, he saw the strange man standing near the back step close to the garbage dumpster.

The odor pervaded the hallways of the Projects during the week-end and even reached some apartments. On Monday, September 12, 1983, Augustine Arana, a porter at the Projects, was asked to investigate an odor on the twelfth floor. Arana found a large blue suitcase in the hallway, and with the help of another man carried it outside to the dumpster. When the porters threw the suitcase into the dumpster, it opened to reveal the headless torso of a black woman; the hands were missing, and the legs had been severed and were missing from below the mid-thigh. A single finger was later found in the suitcase. Aleida Bonilla, Felix Figueroa, Douglas Robinson and Margie King Guest later identified the man with the suitcase as defendant, Roy Savage.

The investigation triggered by the events at the Projects revealed that Roy Savage's appearance there with the large blue suitcase was but the last of a series of bizarre appearances by him that week in the Newark and New York City metropolitan areas. On Labor Day, Monday, September 5, 1983, Eugene Charles, the Engineer Superintendent at the Pavilion Apartments in Newark, saw a "Muslim woman" and a "man with a suitcase" get into a small car with New York license plates.

Defendant also resided periodically at Apartment 12A, 37 W. 138th Street, in New York City. Several neighbors of the West 138th Street apartment also saw defendant that week. On or about September 9, 1983, Margaret Cooper, who lived next door to Savage on the fourth floor, spotted him standing naked in the street. Ms. Cooper also noticed an unusual smell emanating from the apartment next door that pervaded her apartment as well as the common areas.

A subsequent investigation revealed that Roy Savage had been taken on September 9, 1983, to Harlem Hospital. When hospital security saw him in the lobby of Harlem Hospital dressed in a paper gown, Savage ran out of the hospital lobby in the direction of 138th Street. During the chase, Savage's gown came off, and he continued running nude through the streets with an IV bottle and tube attached to his arm.

During that week, Emma Hubbard, a neighbor at 37 W. 138th Street, was standing on the stoop in front of the building, when she saw Roy Savage, luggage in hand and fully dressed, leave the building. She, too, noticed an unusual odor emanating from the suitcase as he passed.

Christopher Gadson, the superintendent of the building at 37 W. 138th Street, received complaints from residents regarding a terrible odor. Gadson noticed a strong, foul odor and saw a trail of fluid leading from the fourth floor, where Savage often stayed with the Muslim women, down the stairs and into the street.

On Saturday, September 10, 1983, New York City Police executed a search warrant at the 37 W. 138th Street apartment. They found the apartment in "disarray," and pervaded by the odor of decaying flesh. There were blood splatterings around the apartment and a pool of blood on the floor of a closet near the kitchen.

One week later, on September 17, 1983, Newark police executed a search warrant at apartment # 305, 351 Broad Street, the apartment occupied by Roy Savage and several Muslim women and children. When police knocked, a woman who identified herself as Cheryl Hubbard opened the door. At that point, according to police, Roy Savage, who was in the apartment when the police arrived, indicated that he knew about the suitcase. The police then read Savage his Miranda rights, and took Savage and Cheryl Hubbard to the police station for questioning.

At the station, Savage gave the police a written statement. He gave his full name as Roy D. Savage but indicated that he also answered to Hashim Abdul Muhammed. He gave his main address as 273 W. 131st Street in New York, but stated that he often stayed at 351 Broad Street in Newark with Carolyn Hubbard, her sister Cheryl Hubbard, and Tammy Cherry, described by Savage as his "companions" or "associates." All were adherents of the Muslim faith and members of the Muslim Ansaaru sect. Savage lived with his legal wife, Fay Vonder Savage, and his two children at the W. 131st Street address; he also admitted that he had sometimes stayed at 37 W. 138th Street with another Muslim woman, Jackie Cobb.

In his September 17, 1983, statement defendant contended that while waiting for a bus on Thursday, September 8, he was hit from behind and knocked unconscious, and that he awoke the next day in Harlem Hospital. A black girl with long braids came to his bedside, told him to go to the apartment on 138th Street and move the suitcase to New Jersey. She threatened to kill him if he did not comply. He related that she placed a pistol at his head, pulled the trigger on a blank, and told him: "They could have killed you a long time ago, don't think that we are joking now." Savage then described how he immediately ran out of the hospital, dressed only in his hospital gown, chased by security guards until he reached the 138th Street address. After dressing, he went to the 131st Street address, and then returned to 138th Street with Fay Vonder and Carl Gamble to pick up the blue suitcase. Driving in Gamble's grey Toyota, the three took the suitcase to the Projects, and left it on the twelfth floor. Savage related that he did not know the contents of the suitcase at that time, and took it to Newark because he had been instructed to do so by the girl with the gun. He made the statement "because I am trying to protect my people who are in danger (because) the girl with the gun stated that she could have killed me already."

Cheryl Hubbard gave a statement to the police on September 20, 1983. In her statement--the first of four, including her trial testimony, that Ms. Hubbard was to give--Ms. Hubbard identified Roy Savage as the father of her two youngest children and as her "mate." According to Cheryl Hubbard, Savage had four other "mates": Carolyn Hubbard, Cheryl's sister; Jackie Cobb; Tammy Cherry; and Fay Vonder Savage. Cheryl Hubbard stated that she had last seen her sister Carolyn on the morning of September 4, 1983, sweeping the floor in the 351 Broad Street apartment. Cheryl had left to go to the store, and when she returned, Roy sent her to the Lincoln Motel with her two children. According to her statement, Cheryl stayed at the Lincoln Motel until Monday, September 5, when she returned to 351 Broad Street. She admitted that when she returned, there was a foul odor in the apartment. She also recalled seeing Roy...

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