PLAINFIELD — A man convicted for the execution-style murder of a young woman will get a new trial due to jury intimidation.
City man Anthony Baines, 24, received a 58-year prison sentence for the June 2016 killing of Neelega Perry. She was shot once in the back of her head.
Union County prosecutors presented DNA evidence, the murder weapon, and testimony from multiple witnesses at Baines’s trial in 2019.
But an appellate panel ruled Thursday to overturn Baines’s conviction and grant him a new trial. The superior judges wrote that they were “constrained” to issue the decision because of a dramatic outburst from a single witness.
“Exceptional situations can arise in which, through no fault of counsel or the trial judge, an unexpected inflammatory event occurs during a case that makes it impossible, realistically, to have confidence that an untainted verdict will be rendered,” the decision states.
Witness Tracey Coles made the outburst while leaving the courthouse after she had testified. In front of more than half of the jury, she went on a “loud and angry diatribe” to a friend about how she had not said anything that would place blame on Baines.
After Coles ranted to her friend about the trial, “both of them stared back towards the jurors in what was perceived to be an intimidating manner.”
Seven jurors who observed the outburst were excused. While the other five insisted they could remain impartial, two of the remaining jurors admitted that it had made them “uncomfortable or nervous.”
According to a summary from the trial judge, Baines at some point had threatened Coles to stay silent about Perry’s killing. Baines had also threatened two other women, including his then-girlfriend.
Perry was found dead in the backyard of a home on Spruce Street. The revolver used to kill her was also located lying next to her body.
Two other men were also charged with Perry’s murder. Raequon Segers and Gquan Johnson pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit aggravated assault and testified against Baines at his trial.
Union County prosecutors said the home where Perry was killed was known as a “trap house,” a place where people buy and sell drugs. Authorities believe the three men conspired to kill her because she knew too much about their illegal activities.
Rick Rickman is a reporter for New Jersey 101.5. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org
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