After a trial which spanned 7 weeks, James Wronko’s client John, was acquitted of homicide and had all related weapons charges dismissed. The trial occurred in the Superior Court of New Jersey, Middlesex County.
It was alleged that on February 27, 2021, John shot the victim with a .40 caliber handgun while they were in the City of New Brunswick.
The State’s primary evidence was a motive, namely that the victim was a confidential informant for the Somerset County Prosecutor’s Office and had John arrested for a narcotic offense. Mr. Wronko was able to minimize this motive by demonstrating thru cross-examination that the deceased has been an informant for a year and half and that many drug dealers had the same or a greater motive as did John.
The State utilized a variety of forensic tools to convict John but were unable to demonstrate or prove that John was in the vicinity of the shooting at the time it occurred or that he was involved in it. Mr. Wronko was able to negate the evidence against John, and even show that the evidence, or lack thereof demonstrated that John was innocent.
The crime scene was littered with bullet casings that could have contained touch DNA. The forensic investigators conducted swabs on the spent shell casings to test with DNA Direct STR typing. They could have used the Bode X-Traction method if DNA was located. No evidence to link John to the shooting was obtained. In addition, no fingerprints were located on the casings.
The detectives also had John’s clothing and could test it, his hands and his vehicle’s steering wheel for gunshot or gun powder residue. They had available the GSR wipe test or the Modified Greiss test (GSPR) which uses a color chemistry reaction to determine the existence of gunshot residue. It could show that John had fired a weapon. No evidence against John was located.
The State also used a Query of license plate readers and located John’s car in Bridgewater Township and a section of New Brunswick not near the crime scene. This process involves the use and recording by date of a license plate capture camera or a license plate recognition camera. These automatic license plate readers (ALPRS) photograph thousands of license plates per minute and capture the plate number, dates and times and location of a vehicle. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has an excellent article on their website discussing the cameras and their use. Further information is also available at www.EFF.org. The State did not obtain any information to demonstrate that John’s vehicle was in the area of this homicide or that he was involved.
Finally, the State seized and obtained John’s access code to his iPhone mobile device. They used a Cellebrite Apple iPhone extraction program to obtain data from John’s phone including locations, calls and texts, the search history as well as photographs and videos. The Apple iPhone stores GPS location information and the phone records the first and last time the phone was at a particular location on a particular date. The police used a Cellebrite locator program to obtain the GPS coordinates and correlate it to a specific physical address. The iPhone used the ZRTlearnedlocation of interest or visited places and tracks them. Law enforcement can use a Hawk Analytic cell detail records (CDR) analysis and location mapping program to determine what address the phone visited. They can also use Google maps if the cellular phone allows it to track its location. Finally, T-mobile in this case, did provide law enforecment with John’s cell phone location on an exigent basis. Once, again this technology did not place John at the scene of the murder at the time of the shooting.
In addition, the State viewed and copied video’s from at least 19 surveillance cameras from business and residences in the area surrounding the crime scene. These cameras all failed to place John at the scene where the murder occurred.
The lack of physical or eyewitness evidence ultimately resulted in the dismissal of the homicide charges.