State of New Jersey v. Gerena: Opinion as Legally Admissible Evidence

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The court docket decided {that a} lay particular person could make estimates about peak and age.


The Superior Courtroom of New Jersey, Appellate Division determined this case on December 14, 2020.  The choice hinged on the Courtroom’s accepting two witnesses’ opinion testimony as legally admissible proof.  Mr. Gerena was convicted of fourth-degree lewdness and second-degree sexual assault by contact, and appealed.  The State needed to show that at the least one of many victims was underneath the age of 13.

The Courtroom has to observe the New Jersey Guidelines of Proof to find out proof admissibility. Proof have to be related and reliable for the Courtroom to contemplate it.  In authorized phrases, this implies being admitted into proof. 

On this case, the witnesses supplied opinion testimony in regards to the age and heights of the kids who noticed the Defendant’s actions. Based on the NJ Guidelines of proof, “If a witness isn’t offering knowledgeable testimony, the testimony within the type of opinions or inferences could also be admitted whether it is rationally primarily based on the witness’s notion and can help in understanding the witness’s testimony or figuring out a truth in challenge.”  A trial choose has the discretion (energy) to restrict or exclude this testimony.  

The witnesses, A.G. and one other witness, Police Sergeant Gerardi,  testified they noticed Mr. Gerena expose himself in a public park.  There have been a number of youngsters and some mother and father there.  Mr. Gerena was about 10 toes from the kids, one witness was 25 toes from Mr. Gerena. 

The witnesses supplied estimates in regards to the ages and heights of the victims at trial.  The peak estimates assisted with figuring out the age of the kids.  Sergeant Gerardi estimated that the kids have been three to 13 years outdated.  A.G. estimated that they have been six to 13 years outdated.  Neither witness took footage of the kids, nor spoke with the mother and father.  The peak estimates have been primarily based on the perceived peak of the kids in contrast with the witnesses’ heights.  For instance, A.G. said that she was about 5 toes, 4 inches tall.  She remembered that the tallest youngster was the identical peak as she, and the shortest one would attain her hip.  Sergeant Gerardi additionally in contrast the kids’s peak to his personal.  He was about 5 toes, eleven inches, they usually reached from a bit under his waist to his chest.  As well as, he in contrast the kids’s ages to his personal children.

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Protection counsel objected to their testimony, arguing it was hypothesis not opinion.  The Sergeant didn’t write this info within the police report.  Neither one of many witnesses talked with the mother and father to seek out out with certainty the ages and heights of the kids.  In her summation, protection counsel argued the age of the kid victims was a component of the crime.  A component of a criminal offense is one in every of a set of info that should all be confirmed to convict a defendant of a criminal offense.  The state should show every ingredient of a criminal offense past an inexpensive doubt.  The witnesses speculated the kids’s ages bases on their peak.  Nonetheless, protection counsel argued that the witnesses weren’t shut sufficient to the kids to estimate with adequate accuracy.  

The court docket decided {that a} lay particular person could make estimates about peak and age. They said that these determinations needs to be made on a case-by-case foundation, and supplied an eight-factor evaluation.  As well as,  the testimony of the 2 witnesses have been comparable.  This additionally lends itself to the proof being reliable.  The court docket upheld the conviction.

This case is sort of necessary.  The witnesses didn’t know with certainty the ages and heights of the kids.  They have been merely observing, and making a guess.  Despite the fact that their testimony was solely a guess, the Courtroom accepted this as proof.  This proof proved a component of the crime, and Mr. Gerena was convicted.  The opinion of a lay particular person can present robust proof to both facet in a trial. On this case, the State employed the proof in its favor, however there are actually eventualities the place the protection would possibly achieve this. An skilled felony protection legal professional would consider every case, every witness, and potential methods for utilizing such a proof, in addition to different kinds of proof, and to problem the State’s makes an attempt to confess proof.

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