A jailed New York City man is getting a retrial about two-and-a-half years after being sentenced to 14 years in prison for allegedly using a stun gun on his baby’s mother inside her North Bergen apartment, the Superior Court of New Jersey Appellate Division ruled.
By John Heinis/Hudson County View
“There are no facts in the record to indicate that Det. [Hector] Botello had any familiarity with defendant prior to or during his investigation into G.J.’s attack enabling him to identify defendant from a still photograph of the video,” Appellate Court Judges Jack Sabatino and Thomas Sumners ruled today.
“The detective neither witnessed the crime nor knew defendant prior to the incident; apparently relying solely on the descriptions provided by G.J. and other witnesses regarding defendant’s clothing and physical build. He seemingly had no more insight into the suspect’s identity then (sic) members of the jury.”
Jarrell Sweet, 32, has been incarcerated since April 28th, 2017, the day he was sentenced – according to the state Department of Corrections – for allegedly using a stun gun on his baby’s mother after breaking into her North Bergen apartment on June 16th, 2016.
His appeal focused around the fact that Botello testified that a still shot from surveillance footage was “absolutely” Sweet, noting that this misled the jury since Botello had no previous interactions or connections with the defendant.
“The inadmissibility of Det. Botello’s testimony is compounded by the jury not receiving any instructions on how it should evaluate identification testimony. Despite our state’s absence of any model jury charge on evaluating lay witness opinion testimony, it is incumbent upon the trial court to fashion charges that address the law and facts of a particular case,” the opinion says.
“The court should have developed charges by examining our model jury charges, and possibly considered adapting related jury charges from other jurisdictions that were in
place at time of trial.”
The woman in the matter, identified as G.J., testified that Sweet was her attacker, but other witnesses including a neighbor and cab driver gave conflicting testimony of who they saw that day.
Further complicating the situation is the fact that the assailant was dressed in all black and had his face covered as well.
“Identification of G.J’s assailant was the only trial issue and given the limited evidence against defendant, the combination of these two errors were capable of producing an unjust result. Accordingly, we reverse his convictions and remand for retrial,” the ruling states.
According to court documents, the couple was said to have met while working at JP Morgan in Jersey City in 2013 and the woman became pregnant after they had a one-night stand.