Appeal rejected in murder-dismemberment of teenager

NEWARK, N.J. (AP) - A New Jersey man convicted with his brother of the murder and dismemberment of a 16-year-old neighbor didn't receive ineffective assistance at trial, a state appeals court has ruled.

Jonathan Zarate claimed his attorney should have pursued an insanity defense and should have tried to have key evidence excluded.

Zarate and younger brother, James, were convicted of beating, choking and stabbing Jennifer Parks in their father's Randolph home in 2005. Her body was dismembered and stuffed in a trunk.

A police officer came upon the brothers and a friend as they tried to dump the body into a river in Rutherford.

The appeals court's ruling Friday upheld a judge's ruling that Zarate's lawyer acted properly by pursuing a diminished capacity defense instead of an insanity defense. It noted that no experts supported an insanity defense.

Zarate also argued his attorney should have sought to have the discovery of Parks' body in the trunk excluded because it was made without a warrant.

The officer who noticed the three on the bridge noticed a foul smell coming from the trunk, the court wrote, and called a medical examiner who opened it and found the body.

"That the medical examiner opened the trunk without a warrant was objectively reasonable and the fulfillment of a statutory obligation," the court wrote. "Had a motion to suppress been filed, it would have failed."

Published: Tue, Aug 02, 2016

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