Two New Criminal Cases for the Supreme Court

The Supreme Court announced that it has granted review in two new cases. Both are criminal matters.

The first new matter actually comprises two appeals, State v. Nieves and State v. Cifelli. The Supreme Court granted certification and leave to appeal. The question presented in those appeals, as phrased by the Supreme Court Clerk’s office, is “Is the diagnosis of abusive head trauma, commonly known as shaken baby syndrome, scientifically reliable?” In both cases, the Law Division determined that expert testimony of abusive head trauma resulting from shaking only was not scientifically reliable. In an opinion reported at 476 N.J. Super. 609 (App. Div. 2023), and discussed here, the Appellate Division affirmed those rulings.

The other appeal is State v. C.P. That case presents this question: “Are extraordinary aggravating factors present such that C.P.’s petition for compassionate release under the Compassionate Release Act, N.J.S.A. 30:4-123.51e, should be denied?” The Law Division denied compassionate release to defendant, who had pled guilty in 1997 to two murders and to an attempted murder of a third person and had served 28 years of a life sentence. The Appellate Division, noting that C.P. “currently suffers from a combination of debilitating medical conditions including, hypertension, hyperlipidemia, chronic kidney disease, diabetes mellitus, chronic renal insufficiency requiring dialysis, and gangrene in her right foot,” had her left leg amputated below the knee, and suffered a recent heart attack, reversed the denial of compassionate release. The unpublished per curiam decision of the two-judge panel held that the Law Division had misapplied State v. A.M., 252 N.J. 432 (2023), in finding aggravating factors.