A man convicted of stabbing three people in an attack he said was part of a search for a "portal to hell" has been granted a new trial.

A state appellate court reversed the conviction of Morgan Mesz on Wednesday.

Mesz was convicted in 2016 of using a tomahawk and knife to attack two women in a backyard in Elizabeth, and attacking a neighbor who intervened. He was sentenced to a total of 36 years in prison.

Mesz claimed he was addicted to synthetic marijuana and didn't understand his actions.

The court ruled the trial judge should have instructed the jury about a video prosecutors played of Mesz's interview with a psychiatric expert.

"The prosecutor did not proffer a reason the jury needed to hear the tape," the judges said in their decision.

"The tape was damning evidence — defendant's statements rambled, sounded confused, and included, among other things, references to other bad acts, such as defendant's homicidal reaction to the sight of a five-year-old at a family party. If playing the tape had a purpose other than to prejudice the jury against defendant, we fail to see it."

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