Jersey City PATH train shooter will get new hearing to determine if counsel erred during summation

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A Jersey City PATH shooter that has been incarcerated since late 2015 won an appeal to get a new evidentiary hearing to determine if his counsel erred during the summation of a case where he shot two other train passengers back on August 25th, 2013.

Tari Turpin photo via New Jersey Department of Corrections. Inset PATH photo via Twitter.

By John Heinis/Hudson County View

” … We conclude defendant established a prima facie claim and remand for an evidentiary hearing to avoid an unjust result as to the aggravated assault of A.M.,” Superior Court of New Jersey Appellate Division Judges Thomas Sumners and Richard Geiger wrote their decision on Monday.

“The hearing shall address why counsel did not argue in summation that defendant’s conduct of bringing a loaded handgun onto a PATH train was not reckless and why counsel failed to request a jury charge regarding causation.”

In June 2015, a jury found Turpin guilty of two counts of aggravated assault, possession of a gun for an improper purpose, possession of a gun without a permit, making terroristic threats, possession of hollow point bullets, and creating a risk of widespread injury or damage.

He was initially handed a 30-year sentence, though it was later reduced to 20 years, according to the appellate court.

The New Jersey Department of Corrections lists Turpin as being an inmate at the East Jersey State Prison in Rahway since October 16th, 2015, with a max release date of March 25th, 2040, without any early parole eligibility.

The incident, which was captured on PATH station security cameras, shows Turpin’s gun going off, shooting himself in the leg and taking off the aggressor’s three fingers, after the attacker reached for his gun in the midst of a physical altercation.

Before fleeing the station, TurpinĀ  shot a second victim in the leg twice before leaving the gun on a PATH platform ledge.

The violent encounter was spurned by Turpin and his “female companion” getting into a verbal confrontation with another PATH rider. He tried to squash the situation by briefly pulling his gun out of his pants pocket, which only escalated the incident.

“The State argued defendant was reckless by merely bringing a loaded gun on a crowded PATH train. Defendant now argues counsel’s failure to address the mental state of recklessness left him defenseless to the State’s summation argument,” the appellate opinion explains.

“Defendant asserts this was compounded by counsel’s failure to seek a causation charge and failure to argue A.M. was shot due to his superseding conduct in reaching inside defendant’s pocket for the gun and causing it to fire. If the request had been made, defendant contends the trial court would have been obliged to grant it.”

Based on case law from the state Supreme Court, the appellate court rules that Turpin “has made a prima facie case of ineffective assistance of counsel.”

For this reason, a new evidentiary hearing by a post-conviction relief judge will determine if counsel for Turpin performed below professional norms, therefore impacting the jury’s guilty verdict on the aggravated assault claim.

“Defendant shall be permitted to supplement the record with any documentation and legal argument that would have been provided in his PCR petition. Of course, the State shall have the right to respond,” wrote Sumners and Geiger.

“The PCR judge shall conduct a case management conference within thirty days of this decision to schedule the remand submissions and hearing. We express no view on the
merits of defendant’s contentions.”

Additionally, Turpin’s appeals seeking post-conviction relief for counsel being ineffective in preventing him from testifying and for failing to impeach a key witness were both denied.

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