Ten years after his original conviction, Askia Nash has been given a second chance to defend his innocence. Nash, a former librarian at Morton Street Elementary in Newark, was convicted in 2002 of sexually assaulting a student, and was sentenced to 22 years in prison. But after serving a decade of his sentence, the New Jersey Supreme Court recently granted Nash a retrial in light of evidence that had been omitted from the original proceedings. Had the evidence been admitted during the trial, the court said, it would have strengthened "the defense of impossibility of commission of the crime."
In the 2002 trial, and in the years since, Nash and his New Jersey criminal lawyers have argued that the crime lacked a timeframe. The alleged victim J.B., a 12-year-old special-needs student, was accompanied by a personal aide, Chrystal St. Louis, during the school day. Nash was never alone with J.B. St. Louis said in a certification that she spent the majority of the school day—except her lunch break—with J.B., and that the student never displayed any signs of sexual abuse. However, when Nash's attorneys initially attempted to interview St. Louis about the case, she threatened to come to trial under a subpoena with "things about [Nash] that [were] not going to be helpful at all." On consideration, she was dropped from the defense's witness list.
The testimony of the school's principal, Carl Gregory, was also misleading and damaging for Nash. Gregory, who is now deceased, testified that J.B. did not have a personal aide, but identified St. Louis as a teacher's aide who accompanied J.B. during school hours. He was not cross-examined on this point. J.B.'s mother later brought a civil suit against the Newark school district, in which she indicated that Nash's lawyers should have pressed the issue of the aide with Gregory during trial, and that St. Louis should have testified for the defense.
J.B.'s teacher, Saundra Sharp-Conte, also testified that St. Louis accompanied J.B. all day, except for a half-hour lunch period, during which Sharp-Conte supervised J.B. herself. This constant supervision left no time for Nash to assault J.B. Nevertheless, Gregory's testimony, combined with St. Louis' absence at trial and a "gag order" that Gregory issued instructing the other witnesses not to talk to Nash's lawyers, did not convince the jury of Nash's innocence.
Nash filed several petitions for post-conviction relief in the ten years since the original sentencing, but was repeatedly rejected because his evidence was not considered compelling enough. But in State v. Nash, Justice Barry Albin approved the retrial, saying that the omitted evidence "supports Nash's overall credibility," and deserves to be fully disclosed at a new trial. Nash's criminal attorney "welcomed" the ruling, and gave credit to the New Jersey Post Conviction Relief system for finally paying off for his client.
If Nash is found not guilty at his new trial, his reputation and record will be restored. Although he can never regain the years he spent imprisoned, he has a chance at rejoining society and starting fresh. At Helmer, Conley, and Kasselman, PA, our New Jersey criminal lawyers can help you if you believe false testimony or omitted evidence led to your conviction. Contact one of our attorneys for a consultation today.