A murder trial is scheduled to start this week in the Morris County Superior Court in Morristown, New Jersey where the defendant, Jose Feliciano, is charged with killing a Chatham priest in October 2009. According to the defendant, he stabbed the priest after the priest theatened to fire him for ending their four-year affair. As a result, it appears that the defendant is looking for manslaughter while the State is trying him on murder charges.
Before the trial begins, Judge Thomas Manahan, J.S.C. is scheduled to rule on a key evidence issue as to the admissibility of the testimony of a potential witness. According to the Star Ledger article entitled, “Nun emerges as surprise witness at Chatham murder trial”, Sister Catherine Morrisett is prepared to testify and contradict the defendant’s claim that he stabbed Reverend Edward Hinds to end an unwanted sexual affair. The issue that Judge Manahan has to decide is whether or not the communication between the defendant and the Sister was a privileged communication and therefore not admissible at trial. Certain privileges exist between a husband and wife, doctor and patient, and attorney and client which makes those communications “priviledged” and not admissible in court proceedings.
According to the article, it looks like the communication was priviledged as the Sister serves as a therapist and spiritual advisor for Grace Counseling Center in Madison. As a result, I expect Judge Manahan to rule that her testimony as to these communications is not admissible in the defendant’s upcoming murder trial. We will see.