Appellate Review of Trial Courts Determination of Evidentiary Questions

What is the standard of review for a trial courts decision regarding the introduction of certain pieces of evidence at trial?

Submitted by New Jersey Criminal Lawyer, Jeffrey Hark.

The New Jersey Appellate Division and State Supreme Court are required to provide a quote deferential standard quote for reviewing a trial court evidentiary airy brewing. The appellate courts are required to determine if “the trial court has abused its discretion” at the time The evidence is introduced. In other words the Appellate Division is it limited in determining if there has been a “clear earlier of judgment “. In addition the appellate court cannot substitute it’s a own judgment for that of the trial court unless the ruling is so wide of the Mark that it reflects a manifest denial of justice” State v.  Perry. (2016).  See also, State v. Brown, 170 NJ 138, 147 (2001), State v. Marrero, 148 NJ 469, 484 (1997). State v. Kelly 97 NJ 178, 216 (1984)

As a result the appellate review of the trial judges decision in this case is limited to whether the trial court abused its discretion in excluding the evidence of the semen stain on the victims shorts pursuant to New Jersey’s rape shield law thus depriving the defendant of his constitutional right to present a defense that someone else committed the crime for which he is charged.

Accordingly, the trial court had to determine the relevancy of the seamen on the victims shorts. This brings into play New Jersey’s rape shield law that precludes the introduction of evidence of the victims prior sexual conduct. The defendant did not have any supporting evidence as to who or when where how they other evidence of semen arrived on the victim sure it’s for DNA testing. As a result he was not able to connect via Time line the presentation of semen on the victims every body in close time proximity to his being with the victim.

The trial court and appellate courts determined this specific factor as being extremely important because it would lead the jury to its own guessing game regarding that evidence. Logically, this leap of faith request of the defendant limited the trial judges ability to conclude that “other seamen stain” being relevant to this defendant’s guilt or innocence.

The next prong of the test examine the prejudicial effect of the evidence on the victim. The New Jersey Supreme Court determined exposing the victim to questions concerning this “other semen evidence” was far too prejudicial to her veracity credibility violated the very essence of the Rape Shield law given it’s limited probative value to the defendant’s constitutional entitlement to any defense he deemed appropriate.  In other words, if the defendant was able to relate the semen to another person in close time and proximity to the victim and the alleged incident for which he was charged, arguably the trial court would be in a better position to determine the probative value of that evidence at the time of trial.  With the high burden of review by the appellate courts, the Supreme Court found there was no abuse of discretion.


Jeffrey S. Hark, Esq.

609-471-1959. Cell

856-354-0050 Office

Criminal Civil Lawyer

Jeffrey Hark is a New Jersey Civil and Criminal Lawyer.

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