Crawford Decision Not Retro-Active for PCR Applications – Whorton v. Bockting

On March 8, 2004, the United States Supreme Court ruled in Crawford v. Washington, 541 US 36 (2004) that testimonial statements made by witnesses who are absent from trial are admissible only where the declarant is unavailable and the defendant has had a prior opportunity to cross-examine the witness.

In this morning’s decision by the United States Supreme Court in Whorton v. Bockting, the Justices held that the Crawford decision does not apply retro-actively to cases on federal collateral review (the New Jersey equivalent of post-conviction relief).

This decision is of immense importance to municipal court practitioners since several recent rulings by the Appellate Division in drunk driving cases have fundamentally changed the procedures that required to prove intoxication on the basis of Crawford-related issues. (e.g. State v. Berezansky, 386 N.J. Super. 84 (App. Div. 2006) (Laboratory technician must appear to testify upon defense objection to documentary lab results); State v. Renshaw, ___ N.J. Super ___ (App. Div. 2007) (Person who extracted blood samples from defendant must testify as condition of proving sample was taken in a medically acceptable manner, abrogating NJSA 2A:62A-11).

Today’s United States Supreme Court holding may limit or prevent consideration of Crawford issues in post-conviction relief applications under Rule 7:10-2 for convictions occurring prior to the new rule of law announced in Crawford.

Download a copy of Whorton v. Bockting.

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