Jennie (halocentury) wrote in little_details,

Criminal charges in late 1950s New Jersey - manslaughter vs murder?

I had been searching for information concerning the US - New Jersey court system. As a Canadian I'm a bit out of the know. I managed to find parts of the information I wanted, as in which court this crime should've gone to, and the procedure of how it ought to go from police station to courts, but the events take place in the 1950s. I was hoping to get confirmation on whether I got my details correct or if the time of the story would alter the details in any way.

I also wanted to confirm whether the definition of manslaughter vs. murder would've been different in the 1950s compared to how it is labeled now. I was also trying to find out what would've been the sentencing for the crime in question, manslaughter or murder, and whether my character would've been apply to apply for probation and if he'd receive it. This section of information I was unable to find.

I did some research through Wikipedia (Manslaughter) but it didn't give a history of the sentencing. I searched "history of manslaughter in USA" on google but it gave me news stories rather than an actual history. "murder vs manslaughter US" didn't help me so much either since I'm looking for a label based on a particular set of actions.

My character in question is Nick. Nick's out at night, coming out from a club, a few drinks in his system, when he notices a fight taking place. The street is empty, people inside at either the club or another bar down the street. A woman is staggering away from the two men who are fighting, her dress ripped at the shoulder, the heel of her shoe broken and a bleeding knee, a bleeding lip and what ought to be a bad shiner. Two men are fighting on the ground, one guy (let's call him Bill) considerably outmatched and getting badly beaten. Nick jumps in on the other guy, eventually managing to wrestle him away so Bill can get free. The fight is now between Nick and the other guy and the other guy still is holding no bars, bringing out a knife that he hadn't been using previously. Nick's already bearing injuries, bruises and cuts from the other guys ring, but with the knife he gets stabbed in the arm. Fearing for his life Nick ups his game, eventually getting the upper hand, striking the man’s head to the ground repeatedly. It isn’t until Nick sees the blood that he stops. Nick checks for a pulse to realise he doesn’t have one.

The couple have run off, as by Nick’s order to “Get away!” a minute into the fight, so they are not seen by the police when they arrive at the scene, having been called in by people having heard the fight.

Nick pleads guilty to killing the man. He tells most of the story truthfully, except for the circumstances for the fight. He didn't know the victim (he claims they got into the fight after exchanging words), which is truthful, but he fails to mention the other people involved, Bill and his lady. The truth of the matter is that Nick knows Bill and doesn't want him involved in the crime.

Based on this particular setting, would this qualify as manslaughter or murder? Or would their be a more apt term based on the time frame of the late 1950s? What would be the length of Nick's sentencing?

How does applying for probation work? How long would he have to wait until he can apply for probation? And would Bill and his wife be able to assist with the probation by giving their side of the story/crime, however many years later?

At the stationInitial meeting in courtArraignmentHearing
Interview at the station to assist decision at initial meeting. He’s committed crimes previously (several B&Es, possession of stolen goods, a few bar fights, & several incidents of underage drinking)Judge decides if Nick is held in jail or released to home before arraignmentNick pleads GuiltySentencing / how many years & what sentence does he get?

Would the above be a somewhat accurate procedure of events after Nick's brought into the station? I'm not certain if I'll be including the exact details of each step in the story but I'd like to make sure that I'm proceeding correctly for him to proeceed to prison.

Tags: 1950-1959, usa: government: law enforcement (misc), usa: new jersey

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