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Defendant's Right to Testify - Conviction Overturned

State v. Rodney Cullen, ? N.J. Super. ?, 2012 N.J. Super. LEXIS ? (September 18, 2012) – Conviction reversed, case remanded.  

“Defendant appeals his burglary conviction, arguing the trial judge erred in refusing to reopen the record to permit him to testify.  Defendant initially waived his right to testify but, prior to summations and the jury charge, changed his mind; the judge denied defendant's request to testify.  

Because the judge mistakenly gave greater weight to expediency than defendant's constitutional right to testify, we reverse….  Here, no concerns about prejudice or confusion were urged in opposition to defendant's late request. When asked at trial for the State's position, the prosecutor did not claim the State would be prejudiced if the record was reopened and only urged a view, endorsed by the judge, that having once announced he had rested, defendant was barred from presenting additional evidence….  

The judge did not suggest the presence of prejudice or confusion in denying the request.  Instead, the judge erroneously gave greater weight to expedience and the brief delay that would result than he gave to defendant's constitutional right to testify.  

These ephemeral grounds pale in comparison to defendant's constitutional right to testify on his own behalf.” 

Jason Charles Matey, Esq. 
(Jay L. Wilensky, A.D.P.D.)J

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