A man charged with aggravated manslaughter for allegedly beating a former football player to death in Vernon New Jersey secured his release from prison in advance of a highly publicized retrial.
The 34-year-old suspect has been accused of killing the 36-year-old victim during a fight outside of the Legends Resort hotel in Vernon, NJ in August 2008.
The suspect and the victim were in Vernon because they both worked for a pipeline project in the area.
According to witnesses, the victim harassed the suspect and started the fight. As a result of the physical altercation, the victim suffered fatal brain trauma.
The suspect was arrested and charged with aggravated manslaughter and endangering the welfare of a victim.
At the conclusion of a 2011 trial, a Sussex County Superior Court jury convicted the suspect of aggravated manslaughter. The suspect was later sentenced to 30 years in New Jersey State Prison.
However, a New Jersey state appeals court reviewed the case and overturned the conviction earlier this year because the jury was improperly charged by the trial court judge who failed to provide instructions for the jury to consider a justification of self-defense.
Additionally, said the appeals court, the prosecutor improperly cross-examined the suspect about a hearsay statement that his brother allegedly made to law enforcement about the fight. The suspect’s brother later pleaded guilty to charges of endangering an injured victim because he failed to call for help before leaving the victim behind.
Now that the appeals court has tossed the earlier conviction, the suspect faces a new trial. Jury selection was scheduled to begin in May. However, a Sussex County Superior Court judge granted a defense request to allow additional time for the suspect to undergo a psychiatric evaluation.
If the suspect is ultimately convicted on the first degree aggravated manslaughter charges, he could still be sentenced to up to 30 years in NJ State Prison.
In advance of the new trial, the suspect will be free. The suspect’s family secured his release from prison by posting a $275,000 bail amount.
To learn more about this case, read the NJ.com article entitled “Man Accused of Fatal Beating in Vernon Released on Bail, Report Says.”