Muni-mail – “Surrogate” Witnesses barred in criminal trials – State v. Rehmann

[05/01/11 – 10:33 pm] On Friday morning, in a case captioned State v. Rehmann, the Appellate Division ruled that the supervisor of a state police laboratory technician would be permitted to testify at the defendant’s drunk driving trial, even though the supervisor did not personally test the defendant’s blood sample. The Court reasoned that confrontation clause considerations normally require that all fact witnesses who testify have personal knowledge about the substance of their testimony. As a result, surrogate witnesses are not permitted at criminal trials. However, in this particular case, the supervisor was no surrogate witness. He had watched the technician perform the test of the blood sample and had extensive, detailed perrsonal knowledge about how the testing had been performed. According to the Court, “[T]he Confrontation Clause is not satisified by calling just anyone to the stand to testify about laboratory tests or other scientific results. A ‘straw man’ will not do. The State must provide a witness who has made an independent determination as to the results offered.”
It is important to note that this is the first time this precise issue has been considered by a New Jersey court. The identicial issue is currently before the United State Supreme Court and will be decided later this term. (Bullcoming v. New Mexico, 131 S. Ct. 62 (2010)).

Download a copy of State v. Rehmann.

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