An accused Christmas Day murderess was animated in her disagreement with a New Jersey judge during a Tuesday morning hearing as she was denied bail for the second time in two months.
Marylue Wigglesworth, 51, admittedly shot and killed her husband, a local Republican Party activist and onetime candidate for local office, late last year, but says that she “feared for her life” on Dec. 25, 2022, and acted in self-defense. Attorneys Melissa Rosenblum and Jonathan Diego insist their client has been “overcharged” for the death of 57-year-old David B. Wigglesworth.
Wigglesworth was given a second chance at bail after a recent appellate court ruling chastised Atlantic County Superior Court Judge Patricia M. Wild for “a mistaken abuse of discretion not to consider defendant’s evidence of self-defense” when the lower court denied Wigglesworth’s bail in early January. At the initial detention hearing, Wild ruled that Wigglesworth’s affirmative defense was “a trial issue” but “not a pretrial detention hearing issue.”
On Tuesday morning, Wild attempted to rectify the court’s prior procedural defects but the outcome was no different.
“In the narrative of its order, the appellate division found that this court abused its discretion in not considering the defendant’s proffered evidence of self-defense to the murder charge,” the judge explained. “Further, the order instructs this court to give reasons for finding defendant is a flight risk or would attempt to obstruct or obstruct the criminal justice process.”
In New Jersey, there is no monetary bail system. For lesser criminal charges, there is a presumption in favor of pretrial release. For more serious charges, like murder, the presumption is for detention.
“The posture of this remand comes down to this: did the defense present sufficient evidence to overcome the presumption of detention?” Wild clarified. “At the initial detention hearing, this court answered, ‘no,’ and ordered detention of [the] defendant.”
The judge said she was now tasked by the appeals court to decide whether the self-defense evidence presented by Wigglesworth’s attorneys is enough to rebut the presumption that accused murderers stay behind bars in the Garden State. The standard, the judge explained, was a preponderance of evidence standard, which is historically the burden of proof used to determine claims in civil trials in the United States. The standard is met when one party can show there is a greater than 50% chance that the claim is true.
Wild went on to explain that “aside from the affidavits, character letters, and photographs submitted” by the defense, “most of the facts which the court was asked to consider were by proffer.”
Prosecutors, the judge said, relied on an affidavit of probable cause filed in the case as well as the “warrant package” for Wigglesworth’s arrest. The court summarized that evidence by reciting the basic facts of the case as previously reported by Law&Crime.
On Christmas night last year, Wigglesworth was the person who dialed 911. She described the situation as an “altercation” and Hamilton Township Police Department officers responded to the emergency call. Upon arrival, the defendant was discovered in the couple’s bedroom, along with her husband, who was found dead.
“Marylue advised the officers that she had shot her husband,” the judge said, reading directly from the affidavit of probable cause. “A handgun was located in the bedroom where David was located.”
Wild said that “nowhere in that affidavit is there an assertion by the defendant of self-defense” or a police report that contains self-defense claims. The judge said that defense attorneys argued during the initial detention hearing that their client told police “at least six times” that there was “a fight and an altercation” that night. But the judge chided Wigglesworth for not elaborating to responding officers about what the alleged fight and altercation entailed.
“If she did so, this court was not provided with that information at the detention hearing,” the judge mused.
The judge also said that while the court would accept photographs of the defendant’s bruised body, there was “no way of knowing how and when those bruises occurred.” As the judge remarked about the bruising, the defendant consistently shook her head in disagreement.
“Further, the court was asked to accept that they are bruises indicating a necessity for self-defense,” the judge said. “Without medical testimony or other such support, the court would be speculating as to the defensive nature of the bruises.”
The 14 offered character letters didn’t help much either.
“Most of them only speak to defendant’s reputation as a good person in the community,” the judge observed. “None of them speaks to what happened between the parties on December 25th.”
The court did note, however, that the defendant’s son wrote about physical violence between his mother and father. Wild said that wasn’t enough because the son did not “recount what specifically happened between his parents” on the night in question.
“Thus the court finds that neither the letters nor the affidavits contribute toward the evidence of self-defense,” the judge determined – resulting in what appeared to be a long, chest-filled sigh from Marylue Wigglesworth as she sat masked in jail.
The determinative factor, the judge said, again reading from the affidavit, was that “the defendant stated that she went and got the gun and then came back and shot him,” prompting another quick, disapproving head shake from Wigglesworth.
“Also, the state asserts that the victim was naked in bed watching television at the time he was shot,” the judge said – resulting in a sustained head shake of disapproval from the defendant. “To this court, an assertion of self-defense rings hollow in this circumstance.”
The judge determined that Wigglesworth had “time to cool off and choose a different path of behavior” instead of “leaving the room, retrieving a gun, returning to the bedroom, and shooting her husband.”
Again, Wigglesworth shook her head to lodge her informal objection.
“This court finds that the evidence which defense has presented as to self-defense does not overcome the presumption of detention by a preponderance of the evidence,” Wild ruled. “Further, even if this court found that the presumption was overcome, this court would detain defendant on the basis of the victim-slash-community safety prong of the criminal justice reform triad.”
The judge did say there was no evidence to support that Wigglesworth was a flight risk or that she would attempt to obstruct justice.
“But the community safety issue carries heavy weight with this court,” the judge explained. “She is no longer a threat to the deceased victim but this court is concerned that a person who would mortally shoot a person lying in bed naked would have no compunction in behaving in an anti-social and criminal manner in the community at large.”
At that description of the alleged crime – with the court seemingly endorsing law enforcement’s understanding of when and how the shooting occurred – the defendant vigorously shook her head in disagreement before dropping her head in apparent disappointment, her hair falling in front of her face as she sat silently upon hearing the news that she would remain in jail pending trial.
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