New Jersey

Husband Convicted of Pushing Wife Off New Jersey Cliff Loses Appeal

A New Jersey man convicted of killing his wife by pushing her off the Palisades cliffs more than 20 years ago doesn't deserve a new trial because of a judicial error, an appeals court ruled Friday.

Stephen Scharf had argued the trial judge should have told jurors they could convict on the lesser count of reckless manslaughter.

Friday's ruling was a second rejection of Scharf's attempt to get a new trial. In 2014, an appeals court threw out his conviction on the grounds that hearsay testimony from Jody Scharf's friends about her fear of her husband shouldn't have been allowed at trial.

In July, the state Supreme Court reversed that ruling and reinstated Scharf's conviction.

Jody Scharf's body was found at the bottom of a 120-foot cliff at Rockefeller Lookout in Palisades Park in Englewood Cliffs. Scharf told police he and his wife had been picnicking on a rock ledge, and his wife was drunk when she accidentally fell to her death while he went to get a blanket from their car.

Medical examiners initially concluded the cause of death could not be determined, but a re-examination of the case in 2004 yielded the conclusion that the cause was homicide, based on Jody Scharf's injuries and where her body was found.

Stephen Scharf was arrested in 2008 and convicted three years later. He is serving a life sentence.

In Friday's ruling, the appeals court wrote that neither theory presented at trial — that Jody Scharf was pushed off the cliffs or that she fell while drunk — required an instruction to the jury on reckless manslaughter.

The argument that she fell "shifted the event to the realm of innocent mishap, one in which if anyone was responsible for the fall, it was Scharf herself," they wrote. "The defense theory that this was one of many accidents which have occurred at the Cliffs simply did not allow for a lesser-included reckless manslaughter instruction."

An attorney representing Scharf didn't immediately return a message seeking comment Friday.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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