State v. Sanchez

During a homicide investigation, the Camden County Prosecutor’s Office circulated a flyer entitled “Attempt to Locate,” which stated that a red/burgundy Buick Century was “possibly used” in a homicide. The flyer included a still photo derived from surveillance video. In the photograph, the faces of a male passenger in the right front seat and a male passenger in the right back seat are visible. In response to the flyer, a parole agent contacted the detective leading the investigation. The agent identified the front-seat passenger as the defendant, a parolee whom she supervised. The defendant filed a motion to preclude the testimony. He argued the parole agent, who was not present when the shooting occurred or when the surveillance video was taken, could not provide testimony rationally based on her perception of the events or assist the jury in its determination of any fact in issue, as N.J.R.E. 701 requires. The trial court agreed and ruled the testimony was inadmissible as lay opinion testimony. The Appellate Division reversed. The New Jersey Supreme Court affirmed the Appellate Division and ruled the lay opinion testimony was rationally based on the witness’s perception. Therefore, the testimony satisfied the first prong of N.J.R.E. 701. Furthermore, based on the agent’s extensive contacts with the defendant, the absence of any other identification testimony, and the quality of the surveillance photograph, the testimony met the second requirement of N.J.R.E. 701 because it would assist the jury in determining a fact at issue.

Sanchez