Judge closes court in high-profile murder case
NEW JERSEY–In mid-February, New Jersey Superior Court Judge Peter Giovine in Toms River ruled that the news media, public and victim’s family could not attend two pretrial motion hearings of accused murderer Sam Manzie.
On February 17, Giovine closed a hearing on Manzie’s lawyers’ request to withdraw as counsel. Giovine indicated that it would violate the attorney-client privilege to let the media hear and report the reasons behind the request to withdraw. According to Giovine, would-be jurors might see or read about the attorney-client split and be prejudiced against Manzie. Giovine stated that it was the first time he had ever barred the public from a pre-trial motion in a criminal matter. Giovine also sealed the motion and imposed a gag order barring either defense or prosecutors from discussing the case in public.
In addition, Giovine indicated that he would close a hearing to determine whether Manzie is competent to stand trial. However, Giovine delayed the competency hearing pending an appeal by the Asbury Park Press and the New Jersey Press Association. Giovine said he would wait until the Appellate Division ruled on the media organizations’ appeal before setting a date for the hearing.
The Associated Press reports that Manzie, 16, of Jackson Township, is accused of raping, robbing and killing 11-year-old Eddie Werner when the boy came to his house selling holiday items for the PTA in 1997. Manzie is to be tried as an adult and trial is set to being in mid-April. (New Jersey v. Manzie; Media Counsel: John Connell, Haddonfield and Thomas Cafferty, Somerset)