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State v. Williams

877 A.2d 1258 (2005)

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State v. Williams

New Jersey Supreme Court

877 A.2d 1258 (2005)

Facts

Brahima Bocoum was the brother-in-law of Carl Williams (defendant). Bocoum called Williams and left several taunting voicemails. This led to a face-to-face argument that escalated into a physical altercation. Williams claimed Bocoum hit him on the shoulder with a large construction shovel. Bocoum claimed that Williams took a machete out of the trunk of Williams’s car and cut Bocoum’s wrist and foot with it. Police apprehended Williams in his apartment and discovered the machete there. Williams was arrested and subsequently filed a municipal-court complaint against Bocoum, alleging that the taunting voicemails constituted harassment. The court appointed a mediator to resolve the dispute. The mediation was unsuccessful. The state of New Jersey (plaintiff) prosecuted Williams, and a grand jury later indicted Williams for aggravated assault and two charges of possession of a weapon. Williams asserted self-defense and proffered the mediator as a witness. All other witnesses were partisans of either Williams or Bocoum and related by blood or marriage. The mediator’s description of the session gave the impression that it was chaotic, and it was difficult to attribute specific statements to individual speakers. The court excluded the mediator’s testimony, and Williams was convicted. Williams appealed and contended that the trial court deprived him of his right to fully present a defense because the mediator’s testimony may have been exculpatory. The court of appeals upheld the trial court’s exclusion of the mediator’s testimony and affirmed Williams’s conviction. Williams appealed once more.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Zazzali, J.)

Dissent (Long, J.)

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