MAYS LANDING — Despite hours of video being destroyed, a murder indictment can stand against a Mays Landing man set to go on trial this week, Superior Court judge ruled Tuesday.
But, in order to “balance the scales of justice,” jurors will be instructed twice on how the state erasing more than 215 hours of video could give them a bad view of the state — and possible room for reasonable doubt, Judge Mark Sandson said.
Keshaun Earley told investigators he couldn’t have killed 25-year-old James Jordan near Atlantic City’s Carver Hall Apartments on Aug. 26, 2012, because he was miles away in his Oakcrest Estates neighborhood.
Investigators took 12 hours of surveillance video from each of the complex’s 18 cameras — a total of 216 hours — to check out the alibi.
Atlantic County Prosecutor’s Office Sgt. Lynn Dougherty testified Monday that she reviewed all of the video, but deemed only 30 minutes — 20 minutes on one camera and 10 on another — relevant to the case. She had that burned onto a DVD for public defender Eric Shenkus. The rest was then destroyed.
It’s “disappointing and unacceptable” that there seems to be no policy in place with the Prosecutor’s Office regarding maintenance of evidence, and who decides when something is not evidence and can be destroyed, Sandson said.
While he said dismissing the murder indictment — as Shenkus requested — was too extreme, the judge said he needed “to balance the scales of justice” in some way.
To do so, he will read jurors an instruction once during the trial and again before deliberations explaining that they may decide the state destroyed evidence and then, as a result, “you may draw an inference adverse to the state, which could provide reasonable doubt.”
In another heard motion Tuesday, Sandson ruled he will allow the photo identifications made by the three eyewitnesses. Although they were not shown a photo array, all three identified Earley by name — both as Keshaun and his nickname, “Buddha” — before being shown a photo to confirm that’s who they were talking about.
Jury selection is expected to begin this afternoon.
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