- Associated Press - Wednesday, February 3, 2016

TRENTON, N.J. (AP) - The state Supreme Court heard arguments on whether a man convicted of killing his wife by pushing her from the cliffs along the Palisades in 1992 should receive a new trial.

The justices on Tuesday considered the case of Stephen Scharf, 65, whose 2014 conviction was thrown out an appeals court that ruled that key testimony from her friends and doctor should not have been allowed at his trial.

Scharf was charged with killing his wife, Jody Ann, more than 15 years after her fall from the rock’s edge. During trial, the defense said Scharf had recently ended relationships with two girlfriends and was attempting to reconcile with his wife.

Scharf told police they had been picnicking on a rock ledge and his wife was drunk when she accidentally fell 120 feet from a cliff at Palisades Interstate Park while he went to get a blanket from their car. But Bergen County prosecutors disagreed, saying that he had been served with divorce papers 12 days before his wife’s death and the couple was planning to go to a comedy club on the night of her death, not the cliffs.

“It’s like a Hallmark movie,” Bergen County Prosecutor Catherine Foddai told the justices Tuesday. “But that’s not what it was. There was a dark side, which the jury had every right to hear, and the only way they could hear it was through the testimony (of others).”

The court is determining whether secondhand statements from Jody Ann’s friends and therapist that her husband might kill her should have been used against Scharf.

“Statements about ‘he wants me dead, he’ll see me dead before the divorce is over,’ those were unnecessary,” Stephen Kirsch, Scharf’s public defender, argued. “It really tainted the prosecution here.”

Scharf is being held on $1 million bail as he awaits a decision.

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