New Jersey Supreme Court Orders Trial Court to Impose New Sentence in Randolph Township Murder Case
A man who murdered and then dismembered a teen girl in Randolph Township in 2005 will now be eligible for release from prison at some point. The NJ Supreme Court recently ordered a Morris County trial court to resentence James Zarate in the homicide case. In January, the New Jersey Supreme Court ruled that juvenile defendants, or defendants who were minors at the time of their offenses, can’t be sentenced to life imprisonment. In this case, Zarate received a sentenced that called for him to serve 64 years in New Jersey State Prison before becoming eligible for parole. The state supreme court held that this kind of lengthy prison sentence was essentially the same as a sentence of life in prison.
The ruling in this case meant that the trial court, the Morris County Superior Court in Morristown, had to resentence Zarate and reduce his original sentence to 50 years in state prison. As a result, Zarate could now be released on parole when he turns 57. (Prior to the NJ Supreme Court ruling, Zarate was not going to become eligible for parole until turning 78.)
Randolph Township Brothers Killed Teenage Girl
James Zarate was 14 years old when he murdered a 16-year-old girl who lived in a house next door to Zarate’s father in Randolph, NJ. Zarate and his older brother, Jonathan Zarate, reportedly went after the girl as revenge for her reporting James as a bully at high school. A witness later testified in court that James participated in the homicide because Jonathan taunted him.
Randolph Township cops connected the Zarate brothers to the killing when they tried to throw a trunk containing the victim’s body into a river on July 31, 2005. This was just one day after they used knives to stab the victim to death outside her home in Randolph, New Jersey.
During trial in Morris County Superior Court, James Zarate’s defense team argued that he did not take part in the killing. Zarate said that he merely helped his brother to dispose of the victim’s body after the homicide. However, forensic experts countered that blood stains on James Zarate’s clothes proved that he was responsible for the violent crime.
At the end of the trial, a jury agreed with prosecutors and found James Zarate guilty of first degree murder. (Jonathan Zarate was convicted by a jury in a different trial in Morris County Superior Court.) Zarate later filed an appeal of the sentence, which led to the recent ruling by the New Jersey Supreme Court.
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