Thirty-four-year-old New Jersey State Trooper Robert Higbee lay on
his back in an Atlantic City Hospital room. His 6’8” frame hardly
fit into the bed. Just hours before at 10:00 p.m., Higbee sustained a concussion when the patrol car in which he was “closing the gap” on a
speeder, collided with a van crossing through an intersection ahead of
him. Tragically, the two teenage sisters in the van died at the scene.
The next morning, I received a phone call from the State Troopers
Fraternal Association of New Jersey (STFA), the organization
that represents the state’s law enforcement officers. I was already on
their approved attorney’s list and had previously answered “critical
incident matters” on their behalf. I was now being asked to represent
Trooper Higbee regarding any repercussions related to the accident.
Within an hour I was at the hospital. Higbee was still in a daze.
I had no idea at that moment I met him, how closely our lives would
Five months later, a Cape May County grand jury indicted
Trooper Higbee on the charge of vehicular homicide, a crime that
carries a penalty of up to twenty years in prison. My job was to establish
conclusively that Higbee had acted neither intentionally nor
recklessly, only that he had made a tragic mistake in the dark of
night, at a poorly marked intersection in rural Cape May County,
The heaviest burden that can be placed upon a defense attorney
is in knowing that the fate of an innocent person rests in your hands.
The following two-and-a-half years would prove to be the most demanding and excruciating I have ever experienced in my career as
a criminal trial lawyer.