Submitted by New Jersey Criminal Lawyer, Jeffrey Hark.
1) Appellate review of a trial court’s decision for out of court identification and a use of defendant’s statement without the benefit of miranda warnings.
This court, as all, review facts and the law and the trial court’s written decision. The court then outlines its own standard of review of the trial court’s decision. Remember the appellate review is limited in nature to a determination of whether the trial court’s findings could have been ‘reasonably’ reached based on whether there was sufficient credible evidence. The court states as follows:
Our standard of review on a motion to bar an out-of-court- identification (or a statement made without benefit of Miranda warnings) is no different from our review of a trial court’s findings in any non-jury case. See State v. Johnson, 42 N.J. 146, 161 (1964). “The aim of the review at the outset is . . . to determine whether the findings made could reasonably have been reached on sufficient credible evidence present in the record.” Id. at 162. As with our review of the fact finding on other pre-trial motions in a criminal case, the “trial court’s findings at the hearing on the admissibility of identification evidence are ‘entitled to very considerable weight.'” State v. Adams, 194 N.J. 186, 203 (2008) (quoting State v. Farrow, 61 N.J. 434, 451 (1972)); see also State v. Locurto, 157 N.J. 463, 470-71 (1999). Our Supreme Court has long held that “[a]n appellate court should give deference to those findings of the trial judge which are substantially influenced by his opportunity to hear and see the witnesses . . . .'” State v Elders, 192 N.J. 224, 244 (2007) (quoting Johnson, supra, 42 N.J. at 161). That deference is grounded in the understanding that our “reading of a cold record is a pale substitute for a trial judge’s assessment of the credibility of a witness he has observed firsthand.” State v. Nash, 212 N.J. 518, 540 (2013). Appellate review of the trial court’s application of the law to the facts, however, is plenary. State v. Coles, 218 N.J. 322, 342 (2014); see also State v. Jones, ___ N.J. ___, ___ (2016) (slip op. at 19-20).
I continue to write a blog on this standard of review because it is so important for the trial attorney to know and fight the facts as they come in and look for the opening when the state:
- has not presented the facts which are the elements of the offense,
- there is not sufficient credible evidence,
- the trial court (including municipal court) has not made adequate finds of fact and credibility of witnesses and evidence or conclusions of law based on those facts.