State v. James Comer, 249 N.J. 359 (2022); State v. James C. Zarate, 249 N.J. 359 (2022)


Pashman Stein represented amicus curiae ACDL-NJ in two separate cases consolidated by the New Jersey Supreme Court. In a 4-3 decision, the Court reversed the sentences of defendants Comer and Zarate who were convicted of purposeful murder committed at the time they were juveniles and were sentenced to the practical equivalent of life without parole. The majority imposed a new “lookback period,” by which convicted juvenile offenders may petition for a review of their sentence after they have served 20 years in prison. At such a hearing, the trial court must renew its consideration of factors designed to address the mitigating qualities of youth and account for not whether, but how “children are different from adults,” established by the Supreme Court of the United States in a landmark decision, Miller v. Alabama.

During the lookback period, trial courts will be able to assess whether the offender still fails to appreciate risks and consequences, or has sufficiently matured or been rehabilitated, including the offender’s behavior in prison since being incarcerated. Because defendant Comer has been in prison for 20 years, he was entitled to a resentencing hearing pursuant to the lookback petitioning process. Zarate had not yet served 20 years of his sentence but was entitled to immediate resentencing given the trial court’s misapplication of the Miller factors, in which the full Court, including those Justices in dissent, agreed with arguments advanced by the defendant, and joined in by our client the ACDL-NJ, that Zarate’s intelligence was improperly conflated with his maturity. Darcy Baboulis-Gyscek wrote the brief in Zarate and Rachel Simon argued it. Dillon McGuire argued and briefed Comer.

Our firm is proud of the results it has achieved for clients, some of which are noted here.  Of course, each legal matter is unique on many levels, and past successes are not a guarantee of results in any other pending or future matters.


Jump to Page

By using this site, you agree to our updated Privacy Policy and our Terms of Use