NEW BRUNSWICK — The New Jersey Supreme Court upheld a decision by the Middlesex County Prosecutor’s Office to waive from juvenile court two, 17-year-old boys and have them tried as adults on charges including murder, arising from the fatal shooting of a man and the wounding of a woman in Woodbridge in 2009, Middlesex County Prosecutor Bruce J. Kaplan announced Thursday.
The court’s decision clears the way for a trial in adult court of the two juveniles, who are expected to be charged with counts of murder, conspiracy to commit murder, attempted murder, aggravated assault, possession of a firearm for an unlawful propose, possession of a handgun without a permit and hindering apprehension.
The Supreme Court ruling upholds the May 9, 2011, decision by the Appellate Division, which overruled the decision of the Superior Court Judge Roger W. Daley of the Family Division, who denied the juvenile waivers sought by the Middlesex County Prosecutor’s Office on the ground that no probable cause had been established on any of the charged acts of delinquency.
In agreeing with the Appellate Division that the juveniles should be tried as adults because the state had established probable cause, the Supreme Court cited the Appellate Court’s ruling that while Judge Daley “correctly stated the legal principles guiding the waiver decision, he strayed from these core principles and disregarded the state’s theory of the case” in denying the waiver.
The Supreme Court also noted the legal errors in Judge Daley’s decision, which included his “failure to address the state’s contention that the juveniles were vicariously liable for reasonable foreseeable consequences of a plan to which they agreed.”
Additionally, the Supreme Court held that the judge gave improper weight to the juveniles’ defense of their conduct, and the assertion that they could not have anticipated the consequences of their conduct.
In light of the ruling, the next step in the process will be to formally charge the juveniles as adults and present the case to a grand jury in Middlesex County. The juveniles’ identities cannot be released until the criminal complaints are filed.
In reviewing the facts of the case, the Supreme Court reported that the juveniles, seeking revenge following a fistfight in Woodbridge on Aug. 18, 2009, solicited help from Angel Torres, also known as Angel Ramos, then 35, of Perth Amboy
Torres subsequently went to the home of a man in the Fords section of Woodbridge, allegedly to seek retribution.
Police subsequently charged the juveniles, and later Torres, with fatally shooting another man, Angel Vazquez, 29, of Keyport, and wounding his sister, Lourdes Diaz, 43. Neither had a role in the fistfight.
Torres since has been indicted on murder, aggravated assault and weapons offenses. He is awaiting trial. No trial date has been set.
As is the case with all criminal defendants, the charges against Torres are merely accusations and he is presumed innocent until proven guilty.
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