Cases the NJ Supreme Court will hear today (5/1)
Monday, May 1 2006


Supreme Court action
Here are summaries of the cases the New Jersey Supreme Court is scheduled to hear today:

State v. Justin Bealor

Most people could spot a drunk, but could they recognize someone who is stoned? That is the question this case presents.

Two state troopers patrolling in Sea Isle stopped Justin Bealor's car after they saw it swerving. His eyes were red; his speech was slurred. Under questioning, he admitted he had smoked marijuana that morning. He was convicted of driving under its influence.

A state appeals court reversed on the ground the state failed to prove the marijuana had affected Bealor's driving. In rejecting the arresting officer's conclusion that Bealor was stoned, the court cited a 1971 state Supreme Court ruling that marijuana intoxication, unlike drunkenness, “is not a matter of common knowledge.”

The case requires the justices to decide whether that 35-year-old ruling is still good law.

State v. Afrim Marke

Like the Bealor case, this one involves a charge of driving while drugged.

After his car went off the road in the early evening and ran into a tree, Afrim Marke appeared “very lethargic, somewhat dazed” to the Mountainside police officer who responded. That might have been because Marke had just sustained an injury to his tongue that took more than 30 stitches to repair. Or it might have been the methadone found in his blood.

At trial, he admitted he had been taking prescribed methadone for more than two years for chronic knee pain but insisted he had taken none the day of the accident. His last dose, he said, was the night before to help him sleep.

He was convicted of driving under the influence of a narcotic based on the testimony of the arresting officer, who had had some training in regard to drugs. The justices agreed to determine whether the state proved its case.

State v. Lewis B. Morrison

Daniel Shore was in cardiac arrest when rescue workers and police responded to the call from Lewis Morrison's home. Shore was pronounced dead at the hospital.

Raritan Township Detective Benedict Donaruma suspected drug use and questioned Morrison about it. A grand jury heard testimony that the night before Shore died, he and Morrison pooled their money to buy heroin, which they shared. It indicted Morrison under a section that makes drug dealers automatically responsible if someone dies taking their drugs and carries 10 to 20 years in prison.

A judge threw out that charge, reasoning Shore and Morrison jointly possessed the heroin and could not distribute it to each other.

A state appeals court disagreed. It said although they divided the heroin equally, Shore chipped in $30 while Morrison contributed only $10. It said jurors could conclude Morrison got paid for “finding the drug seller and making the purchase,” and that was enough evidence to make him stand trial for fatally distributing drugs.

The justices agreed to determine if it is.

Mount Laurel Township v. MiPro Homes, LLC

Developer Michael Procacci Jr. had all the approvals he needed to build 23 single-family houses when Mount Laurel Township seized his 16 acres to preserve them as open space. It offered him $2.1 million as just compensation.

The justices took the case to determine whether preserving open space is a proper use of the government's power to take property through eminent domain. A Burlington County judge ruled it is not; a state appeals court ruled it is.

The case has drawn national attention from builders who fear it will give governments a new tool to halt development and conservationists who hope it will do just that.

It also is being followed by critics of last year's ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court giving local governments wide latitude to condemn homes and businesses to foster private economic development. They are watching for signals that the New Jersey justices will put tighter limits on the use of eminent domain than the nation's highest court did.

Source - Star Ledger Blog


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