NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ—The father of a murder victim is calling out the New Jersey Court system for the way it handled the case against a city resident accused of killing his son.
Jose Negron complained prosecutors handling the case were changed twice in the lead-up to the trial, and questioned why the a Superior Court Judge Barry Weisberg was put in charge of the murder trial, despite never handling a criminal case before.
"Something went extremely wrong in this case," Negron told New Brunswick Today.
"They gave [the defense] everything in they power to make it special for them," said Negron. "The court allowed them to take up to two years for them to bring this individual to court."
"Right before the trial begins, they change judges on us," Negron told New Brunswick Today.
"If that's not bad enough, you guys switched prosecutors on me. Not once, but twice," Negron said.
Originally, the case was handled by Assistant Prosecutor Christopher Schellhorn but he left for a job at the Morris County Prosecutor's Office. Then, Eric Snyder, another MCPO prosecutor left the job to serve in the military.
"Mr. Schellhorn is no longer employed by the Middlesex County Prosecutor’s Office," said James O'Neill, a spokesperson for the MCPO. "Mr. Snyder is currently employed by MCPO, and is currently out of the office on active military leave."
The original judge on the case had been transferred, and Weisberg took over the trial of Royjabar Nail, also known as Javar Nail, last year.
Negron emphasized that the case had an eyewitness to the shooting that had "a change of heart," recanting her statements, and he feels Nail should have been brought to justice sooner.
But he says it's not just about him. He wants to see court rules and procedures changed to ensure cases move quickly, and are not marred by last-minute personnel changes.
As we reported, Nail was found not guilty of murder, but still faced a charge for a gun found at the North Brunswick home he was staying in. The gun case is currently being appealed by the MCPO, leaving the defendant a free man.
Negron, a longtime New Brunswick resident who has previously been profiled for his work with city youth, complained to the Middlesex County Board of Chosen Freeholders that the legal system dropped the ball at their televised February 5 meeting.
"[Weisberg] made himself like he was more important than justice for Josh," said Negron, referring to his son who was shot dead at a candlelight vigil for another victim of violence on Hale Street in November 2012.
"Evidence that was within this case was withheld… and therefore, today, the murderer of my son is walking the streets a free man," he said passionately.
"From the beginning of the court sessions, it looked like my son Joshua, who was the victim in this case, somehow was on trial," said Negron.
Negron also pointed to Weisberg's reviews on the website RobeProbe.com, where Weisberg was rated "Very Bad" overall.
"Some of you guys dropped the ball. I dont know who, but somebody here dropped the ball," Negron told the Freeholders in closing.
The Freeholders voted to close the meeting immediately after Negron's remarks, without acknowledging them, but quickly thought better of their decision.
"The Freeholder Board has no jurisdiction over a prosecutor, how he prosecutes a case," Freeholder Director Ronald Rios said to Negron. "And we have no jurisdiction over how the judges run the court system."
"Thank you, that's all I can say to you."
At that point, Negron spoke up from his seat, but what he said is not intelligible in the video of the Freeholder meeting, available on the county website.
"We have no control over that," responded Rios. "Thank you, thank you, thank you. Is there a motion to close?" said Rios, before ending the meeting.
After the meeting, Freeholder James Polos, whose duties include supervising the MCPO, spoke with Negron.
Polos said that the Freeholders did not have the authority to do anything, but he suggested Negron reach out to Assignment Judge Travis Francis.
Negron told New Brunswick Today that he has reached out to Francis' office, but never heard back.
Negron's passionate remarks to the Freeholders, which implied the trial did not include the "top" lawyers and judges because Josh Negron was a poor, young soul from New Brunswick, appeared to leave an impact on almost everyone in the room.
Negron began by describing the unfortunate deaths of two young people on the same block in the days leading up to the fatal shooting that took his son's life.
"Two days later, my son was murdered at a candelight vigil in New Brunswick, New Jersey," he said.
"But with the help of some New Brunswick officers… someone was brought for that crime," Negron continued. "I'm more than convinced that this individual that they had in custody was the perpetrator, was responsible for my son's murder," he said.
Negron implied that classism and racism may have played a role in the murder case taking so long, and the verdict exonerating the alleged killer.
"That tells me that pretty much Latino kids' lives is not important in New Brunswick."
"I almost could guarantee you that if it was one of them kids from Rutgers University got slain in one of them streets, everything within they power, you guys power, would have been for that individual to see some time," Negron told the Freeholders.
Charlie is the founder and editor of New Brunswick Today, and the winner of the Awbrey Award for Community-Oriented Local Journalism. He is a proud Rutgers University journalism graduate and a community organizer, and an independent candidate for Mayor of New Brunswick.