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NEWARK – A more procedural tone overtook the trial of an Essex County man accused of aiding in the carjacking and murder of a Hoboken lawyer at the Mall at Short Hills in 2013 on Thursday – a stark contrast to the raw emotion that permeated the courtroom a day before.
Several law enforcement members testified in front of a jury explaining the aftermath of the killing of Dustin Friedland, who was returning to his car in the mall’s parking lot with his wife when he was fatally shot in December 2013.
The defendant, Basim Henry, 36, of South Orange, is one of four people who were arrested in connection with Friedland’s slaying. Authorities allege that Friedland was shot in the head and his car was stolen from the mall’s parking deck.
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First, the jury heard testimony from Robert Kaiser, a Millburn police officer, who responded to the scene. Kaiser said he had seen Friedland lying in a pool of blood with his wife cradling his head.
Kaiser said there also appeared to be skull fragments and brain matter around Friedland’s head. Kaiser – who is also trained in emergency medical procedures – performed rescue breathing on Friedland, he said.
The defense did not cross-examine him.
Next, Lt. Thomas Sheehan, of the Essex County Prosecutor’s Office Crime Scene Unit, told the jury that he had photographed a pool of blood, medical items and a black-and-white bag from Sephora – which Friedland’s wife testified on Wednesday that the couple had carried to the car from the store.
The makeup Jamie Friedland spoke about buying on what she said Wednesday started as “a good day,” was shown as evidence Thursday by Sheehan.
He returned to the Short Hills mall later that night to collect additional evidence. A plastic bag containing a bottle of New Amsterdam vodka and two bottle caps was found in a parking lot adjacent to the garage. Sheehan said no fingerprints had been found after the defense cross-examined him.
James Felzenberg, a superintendent for the mall and EMT, also responded to the scene. Felzenberg told the jury that he had obtained video from the mall’s security feed and had seen two cars – including the Range Rover owned by the Friedlands – speeding out of the parking garage. Felzenberg said the cars had ignored traffic signs and sped past people in a reckless manner.
Henry is believed to have driven the suspects to the scene and to have have driven the car scene with the stolen Range Rover exiting the parking deck.
Sheehan testified that he also executed a search warrant to Henry’s residence in South Orange on the morning of Dec. 21, where he spoke with a woman, who he said identified herself as Henry’s mother.
The victim’s family did not return to the courtroom after the lunch break. The first witness after reconvening was New Jersey State Medical Examiner Andrew Falzon, who gave details of the autopsy. He noted that Dustin Friedland’s cause of the death was a gunshot wound to the top of this head and was ruled a homicide.
Today’s developments come on the heels of emotional testimony Wednesday from the victim’s wife.
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Jamie Friedland, who was with her husband when he was killed, was the first witness called to testify in the case.
The testimony began Wednesday with Friedland telling the jury how she and her husband had been celebrating their wedding anniversary just before the attack occurred.
Two men surrounded Friedland’s husband and put a gun to his head when the couple returned to their car after shopping at Short Hills mall, she said.
She told the jury she heard a “bang, bang” and glass shattering before one of the carjackers pointed a gun at her and took the car.
Friedland, who broke down and wiped away tears while on the stand, recalled the horror she witnessed seconds after the car was stolen.
“I turned around and saw Dustin laying there in a pool of blood,” Jamie Friedland said, her voice breaking several times. “I ran over to him, and I was screaming. I was screaming ‘Stay with me.’ I saw him gasping for breath and his eyes looking at me.”
An ambulance was unable to enter the parking deck and Dustin Friedland died at Morristown Medical Center just before midnight. Henry was arrested in a hotel room in Easton, Pa., in December 2013. He is the first of the four suspects to be tried. The others will face separate trials.
The trial is scheduled to continue Tuesday, March 21.