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State v. Lawton

Superior Court of New Jersey, Appellate Division
298 N.J. Super. 27 (1997)


Facts

William Lawton (defendant) was badly beaten in a bar by as many as eight to ten people. After the beating, Lawton’s face was swollen and appeared deformed and one eye was swollen shut. Lawton left the bar, went home, got a handgun, and returned to the bar about ten minutes after he left. Lawton then shot and killed a person he believed to be one of the people who beat him. The State of New Jersey (plaintiff) charged Lawton with first-degree murder. The trial court instructed the jury on the charge of manslaughter as well as murder. The jury instruction did not make clear that the state had the burden of proving, beyond a reasonable doubt, that Lawton did not act with passion or provocation. The jury convicted Lawton. After an unsuccessful appeal, Lawton moved the trial court for post-conviction relief, and the trial court denied the motion. Lawton appealed.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Humphreys, J.)

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