A federal appeals court granted the assignment of a new judge in all future proceedings in a murder plot case against Paul Bergrin, a prominent New Jersey defense lawyer and former federal prosecutor.
The three-judge panel on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit ruled on Friday that District Judge William J. Martini should be removed from the proceedings, in addition to finding that the judge improperly excluded prosecutors’ evidence that shed light on Bergrin’s role in the case.
The New Jersey U.S. Attorney’s Office contends that Bergrin in 2004 orchestrated the murder of a confidential witness in a federal drug case against one of his clients. Bergrin also faces additional racketeering charges in the federal indictment. Bergrin was tried on the murder and murder conspiracy charges last fall, but a mistrial was declared after the jury could not reach a verdict.
The government argued in the appeal that Martini hampered the prosecution from handling the case in the way it desired and improperly barred evidence.
“Although reassignment is an extraordinary remedy that should seldom be employed … we conclude that it is appropriate in this case despite our sincere respect for the District Judge who has presided to this point,” the panel wrote in its opinion.
Bergrin served as an assistant U.S. attorney from 1985 to 1990.