Monday, February 8, 2016

Stalemate in High-Profile Manslaughter Case

A judge pushes for a plea agreement to resolve a manslaughter sentence overturned by the NJ Supreme Court - but the talks fall short

Stalemate in High-Profile Manslaughter Case

Marie Hess, at her sentencing
Marie Hess, at her sentencing SARAH J. GLOVER / Staff Photographer

A Burlington County judge is pushing for a plea agreement to resolve a high-profile 12-year-old manslaughter case.  But so far, the talks have come up short.

In July, the NJ Supreme Court overturned the 30-year sentence of Marie Hess, a Burlington Township woman who admitted she shot her sleeping husband to death in August 1999.  While she was in prison, she was diagnosed with Battered Wife Syndrome and appealed her sentence.   

At a hearing on Monday, Judge Jeanne T. Covert learned of the stalemate between the prosecutor and the public defender who are now involved in negotiating Hess' fate. 

The Supreme Court said that Hess' rights were violated when her defense lawyer failed to argue for leniency even after an emotional, potentially prejudicial victim-impact video was played at her sentencing hearing.

Hess, a former Burlington-Bristol Bridge toll-taker, was brought to Monday's hearing in handcuffs and shackles, but said nothing.  Seated in the spectator section were four or five of her friends, along with the parents, siblings and friends of the victim, James Hess, a Burlington Township patrolman.

The judge gave the attorneys one month to come up a resolution "if that's possible."

Read about the Supreme Court's decision in the Hess case here:

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Written by Inquirer staff writer Jan Hefler, the Burlco Buzz blog covers breaking news in the the county, as well as its quirky characters, crime cases, politics, outdoor recreation and environment. Contact Jan at

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