Man to be Retried in Bergen County After Murder Conviction Overturned
An Englewood Cliffs man who has been serving time in New Jersey State Prison since 2008 in connection with the murder of his wife, will now receive a new trial in Bergen County Superior Court. A New Jersey Appellate Panel overturned his previous conviction, deeming a new trial necessary, after finding fault with the former Superior Court Judge who presided over the case.
According to the three-judge panel that reviewed the case of Englewood Cliffs resident Stephen Scharf, retired Superior Court Judge Patrick J. Roma allowed the State’s witnesses to give prejudicial testimony during the trial. This testimony, as well as reported hearsay which was admitted to the record, may have influenced the jury that convicted Scharf for the alleged 1992 murder.
The original charges were related to the death of Jody Ann Scharf, whom her husband was accused of pushing over the Palisades cliffs on September 20, 1992. Mr. Scharf claimed that the two had been drinking alcohol before his wife fell from a rock on the edge of Rockefeller Lookout. The defendant said that his wife’s death was accidental, as she had fallen forward in an attempt to stand up, and investigators initially agreed upon review of the evidence.
However, the Bergen County Prosecutor’s Office reopened the case in 2008, conducting a new analysis of the evidence and subsequently determining that Jody Ann’s death was, in fact, a homicide. During Scharf’s trial, testimony was given with regard to his wife’s state of mind, as numerous witnesses testified that she was fearful of her husband and would not have agreed to be alone with him. The couple’s son refuted these statements, claiming that his parents were spending time together prior to his mother’s death.
Overall, the appellate panel ruled that Judge Roma should not have allowed the statements regarding Mrs. Scharf’s fear of her husband to be admitted to the record, as her state of mind had no bearing on the probability of the occurrence of her accidental death while on a Cliffside consuming alcohol.
In order to ensure the provision of justice in this case, Stephen Scharf will be retried in Bergen County Superior Court on the aforementioned charges. This new trial could spell significant implications for his future, as Mr. Scharf could be granted his freedom or spend the remainder of his life in prison, depending on the outcome.
For more information pertaining to this case, access the following article: Appellate panel overturns conviction of Stephen Scharf, accused of pushing wife over Palisades cliffs