Life in prison for burning rapper’s body: Con has shot at freedom
A man serving a life sentence in the 2011 murder of an aspiring rapper, who was shot dead and set ablaze, will get a new trial after judges ruled Wednesday that he did not get a fair trial.
Randy K. Manning, now 37, was convicted in 2014 of shooting Rhian Stoute, 33, in an empty house in Englewood. Prosecutors say Manning set Stoute’s body on fire, then placed the corpse in an SUV, leaving it on a residential street in Paramus.
Prosecutors say Manning resented Stoute’s success.
Manning’s girlfriend and friend were charged with covering up for Manning. But the girlfriend, Natuchka Etienne, was admitted into a pretrial intervention program to avoid a criminal record, and a jury acquitted Delroy E. Clarke in 2014.
An appellate panel on Wednesday ordered a new trial for Manning because police did not have a search warrant before obtaining Manning’s cell phone records.
On the day of the slaying, a detective with the Bergen County Prosecutor’s Office requested that AT&T provide two days of call records with precision location for Manning. The detective said on the application form that the “suspect is armed an considered extremely dangerous. Poses a threat to law enforcement.”
The state Supreme Court has long held that police need to obtain warrants unless a person’s life is in danger. In 2016, the court ruled that seizing records without warrants “can pose significant dangers to political liberty.”
The trial judge who allowed the phone records to be admitted as evidence said that when the detective applied for the records from the utility, “the situation was extremely tense and dangerous” and the suspect could be considered “armed and dangerous.”
But in Wednesday's decision, the appellate judges found no emergency situation that would allow the detective to obtain the records without first getting a court order.
His appeal also argued that the judge should have instructed the jury to consider convicting him of lesser-included offenses to murder — aggravated manslaughter or reckless manslaughter — because he argued at trial that he did not mean to shoot Stoute.
Manning was convicted of murder, weapons offenses, arson, desecration and disturbance of human remains, concealing evidence, and unlawful operation of a motor vehicle.
The three-judge panel agreed with Manning, saying it should be up to a jury to weigh the evidence and decide whether they believe Manning.
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