THOMPSON INTRODUCES RESOLUTION AMENDING RULES OF EVIDENCE IN NEW JERSEYCOURTS
Assemblyman Sam Thompson, R-Monmouth & Middlesex, introduced a joint legislative resolution that will permit New Jersey’s courts to amend its Rules of Evidence guideline to permit a ‘forfeiture by wrongdoing’ exception to the hearsay rule, which would be patterned after the federal courts’ rules of evidence. In essence, the list of exceptions to the prohibition of hearsay evidence would be expanded to include testimony provided by a witness despite their unavailability to appear in court because of a legitimate threat to their safety caused by the defendant.
“This resolution will give our courts the authority to allow into evidence the statements of individuals whose well-being is threatened by the defendant or someone affiliated with the accused,” stated Thompson. “Federal law permits the ‘forfeiture by wrongdoing’ exception to account for such occurrences. This exception will ensure that intimidation of witnesses is not a viable defense weapon for the accused.”
Thompson’s joint resolution stems from a New Jersey Appellate Court ruling that declined to adopt a ‘forfeiture by wrongdoing’ exception to the hearsay rule, as it cited the unequivocal statutory procedures that are in place regarding rules of evidence which do not include this provision. The Appellate Court’s ruling was recently heard by the New Jersey State Supreme Court and a decision is pending.
“Adding this component to the permitted hearsay rule will assist prosecutors in their efforts to overcome attempts to coerce a witness against testifying,” continued Thompson. “Threatening a witness should not be an option for a defendant in either a federal or state court.”
If passed by the Legislature and signed into law, the New Jersey court system may adopt the amendment.