Lodzinski Murder Conviction is Reversed by a 4-3 Supreme Court Vote

State v. Lodzinski, ___ N.J. ___ (2021). Today, the Supreme Court voted 4-3 to reverse the murder conviction of Michelle Lodzinski. Previously, as discussed here, the Court had split 3-3 (Chief Justice Rabner did not participate), with the result that the Appellate Division’s affirmance of the conviction was upheld. The Court then voted to grant reconsideration and to bring up Judge Fuentes, the senior judge of the Appellate Division, to provide a seventh vote, as discussed here.

The lineup of the Justices today was the same as in those previous appearances of this case before the Court. Justice Albin wrote the majority opinion, in which Justices LaVecchia and Pierre-Louis joined, along with Judge Fuentes, the deciding vote. Justice Patterson authored the dissent, joined, as before, by Justices Fernandez-Vina and Solomon.

The reasoning of the respective opinions was very similar to the analyses explicated in the Court’s prior rulings. In essence, the majority concluded that the evidence in support of conviction did not go beyond the speculative level, while the dissenters were deferential to the jury’s finding of guilt on that same evidence.

Today’s opinions, covering 89 pages, are well worth reading in full. They mark the end of a long, highly publicized, and closely watched saga.