Ocean County Drug Case Ruling Headed for NJ Supreme Court
A ruling to protect phone interaction by a married couple facing drug charges in Ocean County by virtue of marital communication privileges appears headed for the New Jersey Supreme Court.
Teron Savoy and Yolanda Terry are being tried for what prosecutors say are leading roles in a drug-distribution network that blanketed Ocean and Monmouth Counties.
Calls between the two had been ruled admissible by the trial judge, but an appellate panel reversed the decision on grounds that communication between husbands and wives is privileged and inadmissible as evidence.
Prosecutors contend that the calls contributed to the continuation of the alleged crimes. But the appeals court ruled that there are no exceptions to the marital privilege clause.
Ocean County Prosecutor Joseph Coronato has ordered a petition to be filed with the state’s high court.
“The marital communications privilege suppresses relevant evidence so as to protect the tranquility of a marriage,” he said in a prepared statement, “but where evidence of crimes is withheld from a jury, there is an obvious detriment to the public.”
“The Supreme Court should decide whether the privilege applied in this case, and if so, whether a crime or fraud exception to the privilege would better serve the public’s welfare,” Coronato concluded.