STATE OF NEW JERSEY VS. JACOB R. GENTRY A-2481-11T4Defendant was acquitted of murder but convicted of aggravated manslaughter and endangering an injured victim. We reversed the conviction and remanded for retrial due to several trial errors. We found plain error, where the trial judge failed to instruct the jury that self-defense applied to manslaughter as well as murder, and the evidence, viewed favorably to the defense, would support a claim of self-defense. In the course of our discussion, we addressed the issue of self- defense in the context of mutual combat. During mutual combat, a defendant may use deadly force in self-defense, when he has not previously used or threatened deadly force against his opponent but the opponent begins using deadly force, defendant cannot safely retreat, and defendant reasonably believes he needs to use deadly force to save himself from death or serious bodily injury.
We also found reversible error where the prosecutor improperly cross-examined defendant about a statement made by an absent co-defendant. When defense counsel attempted, in his closing argument, to mitigate the prejudicial impact of that cross-examination, the trial judge erroneously permitted the prosecutor to tell the jury, in summation, that the court had precluded the co-defendant's statement from being admitted in evidence.