New Jersey Supreme Court decides Four Crawford Cases
This morning the New Jersey Supreme Court released a quartet of opinions related to how Crawford v. Washington issues are to be determined under New Jersey law. These cases, in conjunction with several earlier decisions from the Appellate Division, will now provide the procedural and evidential framework by which Crawford issues will be decided in future criminal and quasi-criminal cases in the Superior and municipal courts.
In its rulings today, the Court held as follows:
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State v. Buda – In this case, a severely injured three year old boy made statements at the hospital to both his mother and a DYFS worker that he had been beaten by his mother’s boyfriend. At trial the child did not testify. The trial court ruled that the child’s statements qualified as an excited utterance, but the nature of the statement made to the DYFS worker was testimonial within the meaning of Crawford and thus inadmissible in evidence. However, a sharply divided New Jersey Supreme Court ruled 4 to 3 that the child’s statement to the DYFS investigator was taken under an emergency situation where the primary purpose of the investigator was to protect the child as opposed to gathering evidence to be used in a criminal prosecution. Accordingly, the Court reversed the Appellate Division holding and ruled that the statement to the DYFS worker was non-testimonial.
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State in the Interest of JA. – In this case, an eyewitness to a mugging trailed the purported suspects and gave a brief description on the street of the perpetrators to an investigating police officer. As a result, the police were able to apprehend the defendant. At trial, the eyewitness did not testify. However, his statements to the police officer were admitted as an excited utterance and a present sense impression. The Appellate Division ruled that the statements were non-testimonial as they were quickly given during the course of an emergency investigation by the police. The Supreme Court reversed this holding and ruled that there was no emergency confronting the police, the victim or the witness at the time the statement was taken on the street. Accordingly, the statement was testimonial within the meaning of Crawford and thus inadmissible at trial.
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State v. Sweet and State v. Dorman – These two cases have been merged for purposes of the Court’s decision and will be published under the caption State v, Sweet. The issue in these cases relates to the admissibility of both ampoule testing certificates and breath test instrument inspection certificates. The Supreme Court ruled that these documents are generally admissible as business records or public records and, like most business records, are non-testimonial within the meaning of Crawford.
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