A Kidnapping Sentencing Case for the Supreme Court

The Supreme Court announced that it has granted certification in State v. Paden-Battle. The question presented in that case, as phrased by the Supreme Court Clerk’s office, is “Did the jury’s verdict acquitting defendant of murder, conspiracy to commit murder, and weapons offenses preclude the sentencing court from finding that defendant ordered the victim’s execution?”

As the question presented implies, though the jury acquitted defendant on the murder and other listed charges, the trial judge enhanced defendant’s sentence on kidnapping charges of which she was convicted. The judge did so because he found that defendant had “ordered” the execution of the victim. In an opinion reported at 464 N.J. Super. 125 (App. Div. 2020), a three-judge Appellate Division panel affirmed the convictions, but remanded for resentencing, primarily because the trial judge sentenced defendant based on the facts as he found them, rather than on the facts found by the jury.