Sunday, October 09, 2005

Deprivation of US & NJ Right of Confrontation because Trial Court Barred Defense from Cross-Examining Prosecution Witness about Polygraph Test Results

State v. Castagna, 376 N.J. Super. 323, 870 A.2d 653 (April 12, 2005), cert. granted, 185 N.J. 35, 878 A.2d 852, (July 7, 2005):
Our decision to reverse is based on an erroneous legal ruling that operated to deprive all three defendants of their right to confront the witnesses against them, as guaranteed by the Sixth Amendment of the Constitution of the United States, as applied to the states by the provisions of the Fourteenth Amendment, and as independently embodied in Article I, Paragraph 10 of the New Jersey Constitution. This constitutional deprivation came about when the trial court precluded defense counsel from cross-examining a key prosecution witness on the results of a stipulated polygraph examination, because these defendants were not parties to the stipulation.

We hold that when the State enters into an agreement with a witness, stipulating to the admissibility of the results of that witness's polygraph examination, a defendant has a constitutional right to confront that witness, in cross-examination, with the results of the polygraph, as a means of impeaching that witness's credibility. As a matter of fundamental fairness, we also hold that, under these circumstances, the State is precluded from disavowing the reliability of the polygraph results.

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