Appellate court overturns murder conviction, faults judge

November 25, 2019 GMT

CLIFFSIDE PARK, N.J. (AP) — A state appellate court has thrown out a New Jersey man’s murder and weapons convictions and granted him two new trials with a different judge.

In a ruling issued Monday, the court found Michael Sampson cases should have been handled separately. The panel also concluded that the judge showed bias when she suggested Sampson was responsible for a bomb threat that delayed his sentencing.

The 45-year-old Garfield man was convicted three years ago in the July 2012 shooting death of Hector “Tito” Zabala and was sentenced to 65 years in state prison.

The slaying occurred during a street argument in Cliffside Park in which Sampson said Zabala disrespected his wife. Sampson also claimed that he shot Zabala after the victim pulled a gun.