UNION TOWNSHIP (Union) — An inmate at East Jersey State Prison will not have to serve his 22-year sentence for the beating death of a Maplewood man after a Fourth of July party after an appellate panel ruled police bungled the case.
Prosecutors later said they had DNA evidence implicating Marcellus in the deadly attack and an admission that he was at the house.
But an appellate panel ruled Wednesday that police obtained key evidence in a way that violated Marcellus's privacy rights. The pieces of evidence were clothes and muddy shoes in a garbage bag.
Court records show Marcellus occasionally slept in the shed in the backyard of his aunt's house. His mother also lived in the house, but Marcellus was not allowed inside as he had "disrespected" his aunt.
As part of their investigation, detectives went to Marcellus's aunt's home. As the homeowner, she consented to a search without a warrant.
The garbage bag with Marcellus's belongings was in his mother's room. She handed the bag over to the police voluntarily. Officers looked inside and found the clothes and muddy shoes.
However, the appeals panel ruled that because the bag was Marcellus's property, the aunt and mother could not consent to the search.
“It would not have been objectively reasonable for police to believe that either defendant's aunt or defendant's mother, neither of whom ever claimed ownership of the bag, the shoebox or their contents, had the authority to permit a search into them,” the court wrote.
Wednesday's decision overturns Marcellus's sentence and allows him to withdraw his guilty plea. However, Marcellus will not be released as a result of the ruling, the state public defender’s office told the Associated Press.
New Jersey 101.5 reached out to the Union County Prosecutor's Office for comment.
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A trip to New Jersey doesn't have to be all about the beach. Our state has some incredible trails, waterfalls, and lakes to enjoy.
From the Pine Barrens to the Appalachian Trail to the hidden gems of New Jersey, you have plenty of options for a great hike. Hiking is such a great way to spend time outdoors and enjoy nature, plus it's a great workout.
Before you go out on the trails and explore some of our listeners' suggestions, I have some tips on hiking etiquette from the American Hiking Society.
If you are going downhill and run into an uphill hiker, step to the side and give the uphill hiker space. A hiker going uphill has the right of way unless they stop to catch their breath.
Always stay on the trail, you may see side paths, unless they are marked as an official trail, steer clear of them. By going off-trail you may cause damage to the ecosystems around the trail, the plants, and wildlife that live there.
You also do not want to disturb the wildlife you encounter, just keep your distance from the wildlife and continue hiking.
Bicyclists should yield to hikers and horses. Hikers should also yield to horses, but I’m not sure how many horses you will encounter on the trails in New Jersey.
If you are thinking of bringing your dog on your hike, they should be leashed, and make sure to clean up all pet waste.
Lastly, be mindful of the weather, if the trail is too muddy, it's probably best to save your hike for another day.
I asked our listeners for their suggestions of the best hiking spots in New Jersey, check out their suggestions: