State v. Williamson, A-65 September Term 2019

CourtUnited States State Supreme Court (New Jersey)
Writing for the CourtJUSTICE SOLOMON delivered the opinion of the Court.
Citation249 A.3d 478,246 N.J. 185
Parties STATE of New Jersey, Plaintiff-Respondent, v. Kanem WILLIAMSON, Defendant-Appellant.
Decision Date10 May 2021
Docket NumberA-65 September Term 2019,083979

246 N.J. 185
249 A.3d 478

STATE of New Jersey, Plaintiff-Respondent,
v.
Kanem WILLIAMSON, Defendant-Appellant.

A-65 September Term 2019
083979

Supreme Court of New Jersey.

Argued January 19, 2021
Decided May 10, 2021


Alison S. Perrone, First Assistant Deputy Public Defender, argued the cause for appellant (Joseph E. Krakora, Public Defender, attorney; Alison S. Perrone, of counsel and on the briefs, and Robert Carter Pierce, Designated Counsel, on the briefs).

Barbara A. Rosenkrans, Special Deputy Attorney General/Acting Assistant Prosecutor, argued the cause for respondent (Theodore N. Stevens, II, Acting Essex County Prosecutor, attorney; Barbara A. Rosenkrans, of counsel and on the briefs).

Matthew James Troiano argued the cause for amicus curiae Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers of New Jersey (Einhorn, Barbarito, Frost & Botwinick, attorneys; Matthew James Troiano, on the brief).

Jennifer E. Kmieciak, Deputy Attorney General, argued the cause for amicus curiae Attorney General of New Jersey (Gurbir S. Grewal, Attorney General, attorney; Jennifer E. Kmieciak, of counsel and on the brief).

JUSTICE SOLOMON delivered the opinion of the Court.

249 A.3d 480
246 N.J. 189

A.B. was shot five times while outside of an apartment complex. One of the shots entered her neck and severed her cervical spine, leaving her a quadriplegic. A.B.’s heart stopped, and her breathing was shallow and irregular when emergency medical technicians (EMTs) arrived. The EMTs restarted her heart, inserted a breathing tube, and took A.B. to the hospital where she remained comatose. A.B. awoke in the hospital about two hours after being shot but remained in critical condition and unable to breathe on her own. The treating emergency room doctor told A.B. that she had been shot several times, her heart had stopped, and an injury to her spine had left her a quadriplegic and unable to breathe on her own. She also told A.B. that she could die. Upon being informed of the gravity of her injuries, A.B. became visibly upset and started to cry.

Police investigating A.B.’s shooting were led to defendant's grandmother's home, where defendant's father told the police that defendant had admitted to shooting A.B. A police detective obtained a photograph of defendant and went to the hospital, where he videotaped his exchange with A.B., who nodded her head to

246 N.J. 190

show that she recognized the photograph as a picture of the person who shot her.

Police arrested and charged defendant with aggravated assault and weapons offenses. A.B. died eleven months later. The aggravated assault charge against defendant was then upgraded to first-degree murder.

Before defendant's jury trial, and after a two-day evidentiary hearing, the trial court found A.B.’s videotaped statement admissible as a nontestimonial dying declaration under N.J.R.E. 804(b)(2). Following trial, the jury convicted defendant of aggravated manslaughter -- a lesser-included offense of first-degree murder -- and various weapons offenses. The Appellate Division affirmed defendant's conviction.

This appeal calls upon the Court to answer the following two questions: (1) whether the trial court abused its discretion by admitting A.B.’s identification of defendant as a dying declaration; and (2) whether the admission of A.B.’s identification violated defendant's Sixth Amendment right to confrontation. We find that the trial court correctly admitted A.B.’s statement identifying defendant as her shooter as a dying declaration under N.J.R.E. 804(b)(2). We further conclude that the admission of A.B.’s statement as a dying declaration does not violate the Confrontation Clause of the Sixth Amendment to the United States Constitution or Article I, Paragraph 10 of the New Jersey Constitution, and we affirm the Appellate Division's judgment.

I.

A.

The trial and appellate records reveal that on a spring afternoon in 2014, emergency services personnel responded to a shooting in front of a housing complex in Newark, New Jersey. Upon arrival, police found A.B. lying face down in a pool of blood on the steps outside the complex. A.B. had no pulse and was unconscious, unresponsive, and breathing irregularly. Paramedics administered

246 N.J. 191

CPR and epinephrine

249 A.3d 481

to restart her heart, intubated A.B., and were able to revive her pulse. A.B. arrived at the hospital about twenty minutes later with a pulse, but comatose and unresponsive. At the hospital, doctors maintained A.B. on a breathing tube and gave her several medications that would not have affected her lucidity or consciousness levels.

About two hours after being shot, A.B. regained consciousness but was unable to speak because of the breathing tube. A.B.’s attending physician, Dr. Anastasia Kunac, told A.B. that she had been shot several times, her heart had stopped and been restarted, and an injury to her spine left her a quadriplegic and unable to breathe on her own. Dr. Kunac also told A.B. that she could die. Upon learning the nature and severity of her condition, A.B. became visibly upset and started to cry.

Detective Filiberto Padilla of the Newark Police Department arrived at the scene of A.B.’s shooting after her removal to the hospital, canvassed the area, and instructed other officers to recover evidence from the scene. Officers recovered a replica handgun, bloody clothing, a cell phone with a bullet hole, and eleven nine-millimeter shell casings. Although detectives did not find any witnesses to the shooting at that time, investigative leads directed them to the home of defendant's grandmother. While there, Detective Padilla and other officers spoke with Kanem Morris, defendant's father, who told police that defendant had admitted to shooting A.B. and left shortly before police arrived. Officers took statements from Morris and another witness, Kareem Brown, who also implicated defendant in A.B.’s shooting.

B.

Detective Padilla obtained defendant's mugshot photograph from a Newark Police Department "arrest and booking data sheet." Detective Padilla folded the photograph to show only defendant's face without any identifying marks. Six hours after the shooting and four hours after A.B. regained consciousness, Detective Padilla arrived at University Hospital to see A.B. Detective

246 N.J. 192

Padilla, in the presence of two other detectives, had a videotaped exchange with A.B. Because of the nature and severity of her injuries, A.B. could communicate only by nodding or shaking her head.

The following exchange took place between A.B. and Detective Padilla:

DETECTIVE PADILLA: Listen, if I showed you a picture of who did this, would you know who it is?

....

DETECTIVE PADILLA: Do you know who shot you? Just nod your head. Do you know who -- where you're at, at this present time? Yes? The person that did this to you, have you known him for a while? Is he from the complex?

Detective Padilla then showed A.B. defendant's photograph and asked:

[DETECTIVE PADILLA:] Just take a look at this picture, okay? And tell me if you recognize this person. You're saying, yes? -- is the person on this picture the person that shot you earlier today? Have any -- did you have any arguments with him earlier today in reference to anything? Yes, or no? No? And you -- you're sure that this is the person that shot you? Yes?"

A.B. nodded in the affirmative to all of the questions, except when asked whether she had an argument with the person she identified; in answer to that question, she shook her head in the negative. Because of A.B.’s paralysis, Detective Padilla signed the back of defendant's photograph after the identification.

249 A.3d 482

A.B. remained at University Hospital before being transferred to a long-term rehabilitative facility where she remained for six months. Thereafter, A.B. was transferred to another hospital, where she died eleven months after the shooting. The state medical examiner testified at trial that A.B.’s cause of death was "complications of multiple gunshot wounds" and that her manner of death was homicide.

II.

A.

An Essex County grand jury indicted defendant for the first-degree murder of A.B., N.J.S.A. 2C:11-3(a)(1), (2) ; second-degree

246 N.J. 193

unlawful possession of a weapon, N.J.S.A. 2C:39-5(b) ; and second-degree possession of a weapon for an unlawful purpose, N.J.S.A. 2C:39-4(a). Before trial, the State moved to admit into evidence, as a dying declaration under N.J.R.E. 804(b)(2), A.B.’s videotaped statement identifying defendant.

During a two-day evidentiary hearing on the State's motion, the trial court heard testimony from John Cronin, one of the paramedics who responded to the scene of A.B.’s shooting, Dr. Kunac, and Detective Padilla. The trial court found all three to be credible, stating they appeared "calm and composed" with "knowledge of the facts to which they...

To continue reading

Request your trial
6 practice notes
  • State v. Sims, A-53 September Term 2020
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court (New Jersey)
    • March 16, 2022
    ...the truth of the matter asserted in the statement." "Hearsay is generally inadmissible unless an exception applies." State v. Williamson, 246 N.J. 185, 199, 249 A.3d 478 (2021) ; accord N.J.R.E. 802.Subject to the notice requirements of N.J.R.E. 807, N.J.R.E. 804(b)(1)(A) authorizes the adm......
  • B.L.D. v. C.M.C., A-0700-20
    • United States
    • New Jersey Superior Court – Appellate Division
    • January 21, 2022
    ...202 N.J. 369, 383-84 (2010)). We review "a trial court's evidentiary ruling only for a 'clear error in judgment, '" State v. Williamson, 246 N.J. 185, 199 (2021) (quoting State v. Medina, 242 N.J. 397, 412 (2020)), and set aside a ruling only where, we are "convinced that 'the trial court's......
  • State v. Cruz-Mallqui, A-3207-18
    • United States
    • New Jersey Superior Court – Appellate Division
    • January 12, 2022
    ...its genesis, the decision to admit or exclude evidence is one firmly entrusted to the trial court's discretion.'" State v. Williamson, 246 N.J. 185, 198-99 (2021) (quoting State v. Prall, 231 N.J. 567, 580 (2018)). We only reverse those rulings that "undermine confidence in the validity of ......
  • State v. Brown, A-0876-18
    • United States
    • Superior Court of New Jersey
    • October 8, 2021
    ...its genesis, the decision to admit or exclude evidence is one firmly entrusted to the trial court's discretion.'" State v. Williamson, 246 N.J. 185, 198-99 (2021) (quoting State v. Prall, 231 N.J. 567, 580 (2018)). N.J.R.E. 803(a)(1)(A) provides that prior inconsistent statements may be adm......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
6 cases
  • State v. Sims, A-53 September Term 2020
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court (New Jersey)
    • March 16, 2022
    ...the truth of the matter asserted in the statement." "Hearsay is generally inadmissible unless an exception applies." State v. Williamson, 246 N.J. 185, 199, 249 A.3d 478 (2021) ; accord N.J.R.E. 802.Subject to the notice requirements of N.J.R.E. 807, N.J.R.E. 804(b)(1)(A) authorizes the adm......
  • B.L.D. v. C.M.C., A-0700-20
    • United States
    • New Jersey Superior Court – Appellate Division
    • January 21, 2022
    ...202 N.J. 369, 383-84 (2010)). We review "a trial court's evidentiary ruling only for a 'clear error in judgment, '" State v. Williamson, 246 N.J. 185, 199 (2021) (quoting State v. Medina, 242 N.J. 397, 412 (2020)), and set aside a ruling only where, we are "convinced that 'the trial court's......
  • State v. Cruz-Mallqui, A-3207-18
    • United States
    • New Jersey Superior Court – Appellate Division
    • January 12, 2022
    ...its genesis, the decision to admit or exclude evidence is one firmly entrusted to the trial court's discretion.'" State v. Williamson, 246 N.J. 185, 198-99 (2021) (quoting State v. Prall, 231 N.J. 567, 580 (2018)). We only reverse those rulings that "undermine confidence in the validity of ......
  • State v. Brown, A-0876-18
    • United States
    • Superior Court of New Jersey
    • October 8, 2021
    ...its genesis, the decision to admit or exclude evidence is one firmly entrusted to the trial court's discretion.'" State v. Williamson, 246 N.J. 185, 198-99 (2021) (quoting State v. Prall, 231 N.J. 567, 580 (2018)). N.J.R.E. 803(a)(1)(A) provides that prior inconsistent statements may be adm......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT