State v. Singh

In State v. Singh, at the defendant’s trial for robbing a gas station, a police detective testified and narrated surveillance video footage. During the narration, he referred to an individual depicted in the video as “the defendant” twice. Defense counsel did not object. While showing the surveillance footage, the prosecutor asked about “the defendant’s shoes.” The detective described the shoes as having white soles and three white stripes. The prosecutor next showed the detective a pair of sneakers admitted into evidence, and the detective testified that they “were the sneakers that the defendant was wearing at the time of his arrest.” Defense counsel objected, but the trial judge permitted the detective to testify about the similarities between the sneakers he saw on the video and the sneakers worn by the defendant at the time of his arrest. The jury convicted the defendant, who appealed. The Appellate Division affirmed. The NJ Supreme Court affirmed and held that, while the detective should not have referenced the defendant in his summary of the surveillance footage, that fleeting reference did not amount to plain error in light of the other evidence. The Court ruled that the detective’s testimony regarding the sneakers was proper. He saw the sneakers on the video before testifying and had first-hand knowledge of what the sneakers looked like because he saw the defendant wearing them on the night of his arrest. N.J.R.E. 701 requires only that testimony is rationally based on the witness’s perception and that such testimony helps the jury.

Amrit-Singh