Wednesday, August 24, 2011

New Jersey Revises Its Procedures for the Handling of Eyewitness Identifications in Criminal Cases

The opinion of the New Jersey Supreme Court is here.

The opinion in State v. Larry R. Henderson (A-8-08)(062218) (August 24, 2011) reviews a wide swath of literature and research about eyewitness identifications and lays down new rules governing judicial assessment and regulation of eyewitness identifications in criminal cases.

This long opinion requires careful study.

The decision, said to be pathbreakng, will probably prove to be pathbreaking only if it proves to be persuasive. The legal grounds for the decision seem to apply only to New Jersey. The New Jersey Supreme Court wrote:
10 We have no authority, of course, to modify Manson [v. Brathwaite, 432 U.S. 98 (1977) [a United States Supreme Court decision dealing with the the implications of the federal due process guarantee for the handling of eyewitness identification evidence in criminal cases]. The expanded protections stem from the due process rights guaranteed under the State Constitution. Compare N.J. Const. art. I, § 1 (“All persons are by nature free and independent, and have certain natural and unalienable rights, among which are those of enjoying and defending life and liberty, of acquiring, possessing, and protecting property, and of pursuing and obtaining safety and happiness.”), with U.S. Const. amend. XIV, § 1 (“No State shall . . . deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law.”); see Jamgochian v.N.J. State Parole Bd., 196 N.J. 222, 239 (2008) (“[W]e have, from time to time, construed Article 1, Paragraph 1 [of the New Jersey Constitution] to provide more due process protections than those afforded under the United States Constitution.”); see also State v. Reid, 194 N.J. 386, 396-97 (2008) (recognizing greater protection of individual rights under New Jersey Constitution).


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