An appeals court in New Jersey has tossed out the convictions of a man sentenced to 55 years in prison after being tried as a teenager in the 2016 death of a girl who was shot in a minivan as she and other juveniles were riding around Trenton.
The court found a number of problems with the prosecution of the then-17-year-old suspect, including the testimony of a detective and the process by which the prosecution was moved to adult court, NJ.com reported. As a result, the court ordered prosecutors to start at the beginning and seek a new adult court waiver from family court.
Although the Mercer County prosecutor’s office publicly named the suspect after indicting him in 2017, the appeals court used a pseudonym for the defendant, who is now 25 and has been serving a 46-year mandatory minimum term, according to court records.
Prosecutors say Ciony Kirkman and six other teens were in the minivan in April 2016 in Trenton when authorities said the suspect shot at the vehicle. Kirkman, 16, was struck in the head and died a few days later. A jury convicted the defendant of murder, attempted murder and assault with a firearm after an eight-day trial in 2018.
The appeals court said numerous errors in the testimony of the lead detective deprived the defendant of a fair trial. The judges also expressed concerns about initial recordings of two witnesses identifying the shooter, saying one recording appears to indicate that another detective had spoken to them before the recording started.
The appeals court also said the defense at the waiver hearing didn’t submit evidence of disabilities that might have kept the case out of adult court.