Convicted Killer Says Lawyer Was Inadequate Robert Marshall Contended The Lawyer Lied, Too. He Is Seeking A New Trial In The 1984 Slaying Of His Wife.

Posted: December 22, 1994

MAYS LANDING — Death row inmate Robert Marshall testified yesterday that his attorney didn't adequately represent him when he was convicted eight years ago of having his wife killed at a Garden State Parkway rest stop.

Not only did Cherry Hill lawyer Glenn Zeitz not do a good job, he lied as well, the Toms River man claimed in Atlantic County Superior Court in a hearing that he hopes will lead to a new trial.

Marshall said Zeitz did not tell the truth when he testified here Tuesday and earlier this month that he had prepared properly for the six-week murder case that spawned a bestseller and television movie.

That statement, one of the highlights in a series of hearings that began Dec. 1 and will be continued next month, did not go unchallenged.

Robert Leaman, a supervisory attorney general opposing efforts to overturn Marshall's conviction, stared at Marshall, sitting pale and passive in a courtroom at the Atlantic County Courthouse. The one-time head of Ocean County's United Way campaign stared back.

"So, Mr. Zeitz was lying under oath to this court?" Leaman asked, wide- eyed and clearly skeptical. "Is that your conclusion, Mr. Marshall?"

Marshall, who spent more than four hours testifying yesterday, nodded once. ''That's the only conclusion we can reach," he replied.

Superior Court Judge Manuel H. Greenberg will have to reach a different conclusion some time next year, when hearings to determine if Marshall got a fair trial for the 1984 killing of his wife, Maria, come to an end. He will have to decide if there is sufficient evidence to warrant a new trial for the former insurance executive, overturning Marshall's March 5, 1986, conviction and death sentence.

Marshall has always maintained that robbers killed his wife in the pre-dawn hours of Sept. 7, 1984. He told investigators he and his wife were returning

from a night of gambling at Atlantic City, heading north on the parkway, when tire trouble prompted him to pull off at a remote rest stop.

The insurance executive told detectives he stopped the car, stepped out and was attacked by robbers who knocked him unconscious, robbed him and killed his wife.

Police arrested him three months later, alleging he'd paid $65,000 to three Louisiana men to kill his wife at that rest stop so he could collect on her $1.5 million insurance policy and continue an affair.

Marshall's arrest, trial and conviction were big news. It inspired author Joe McGinniss to write Fatal Vision, and was the basis of a television movie starring Robert Urich as the man who decided to solve his personal and

financial worries with a contract hit on his wife.

The arrest generated so much publicity in Ocean County that court officials moved his trial to Atlantic County, where a jury deliberated over two days before declaring that Marshall had masterminded his wife's killing.

Marshall has been on death row since then, where he's maintained that he did not receive adequate counsel from Zeitz. He also claims he was incapable of fully understanding what happened when he got the death penalty because he'd fainted earlier in the day and was not well.

Prosecutors also doubt that claim. They have rescue and sheriff's officials who were present when Marshall collapsed and are ready to recall what happened, Leaman said.

They'll be called on Jan. 5, the next hearing date. Marshall's state- appointed defense lawyers say they'll also have witnesses.

After that, the decision on whether Marshall should get a new trial falls to Greenberg, the same jurist who presided over Marshall's murder case.

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