PoliceOne Staff Report (HACKENSACK, N.J.) - New Jersey appeals court judges were told this week that the Attorney General's Office can't win in the court of public opinion in the controversial case of two troopers charged with the April 1998 shooting of four unarmed minority men on the New Jersey Turnpike.
In oral arguments before the Appellate Division of Superior Court, Assistant Attorney General Richard Berg said that state was, "damned if it did and damned if it didn't" in prosecuting troopers John Hogan and James Kenna.
The Attorney General's Office was under intense pressure. "The state had to deal with the racial profiling. 'It was in the public eye. . . . It was in the political eye," Berg was quoted in the Bergen Record as telling the judges.
While public opinion and pressure may have been swirling around the incident, the prosecution itself was based on sound legal and principles because the troopers used deadly force, recklessly firing 11 bullets when none were necessary, Berg said.
Berg's appearance before the three-judge panel may be the state's last change to revive the felony prosecution of the two men. Earlier, a Superior Court judge had thrown out the troopers' indictment, ruling that the indictment was spurred on by intense political pressure and flawed.
Judge Andrew Smithson, in his ruling, said the state made Hogan and Kenna into "the poster boys for racial profiling."
If the judges rule in the state's favor Hogan's aggravated assault and Kenna's aggravated assault and attempted murder charges would be reinstated.
A civil suit is pending in the matter and both troopers still face official misconduct charges.
A decision could be released as early as next week, the newspaper reported.