State v. Toscano, 74 N.J. 421 (1977)

Case Name: State v. Toscano
Citation: 74 N.J. 421 (1977)

Facts: Toscano was charged with conspiracy to obtain money by false pretenses (through insurance fraud). At trial, Toscano testified that he was under duress after Leonardo, the conspiracy organizer, made threats to Toscano and his wife. The trial judge did not allow the jury to consider the Toscano’s evidence of duress.

State’s argument: Toscano was not under duress because there was not a threat of impending death or serious bodily harm that was imminent, present, and pending. Toscano could have sought police protection and help.

Defendant’s argument: The trial court should have allowed Toscano’s evidence of duress because it was because of the threats to him and his wife that he was involved in the conspiracy to begin with.

Holding: Remanded for new trial.

Reasoning: Toscano provided a factual basis that he and his wife were threatened with physical violence if he refused to assist in the fraudulent scheme. A jury may have found that the threats induced a reasonable fear.

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