Vehicular Homicide Conviction Reversed Because Trial Judge Allowed Medical Examiner to Testfy Beyond His Expertise

New Jersey Criminal Lawyers Schwartz Posnock

The New Jersey Superior Court – Appellate Division, reversed a conviction for vehicular homicide because the judge presiding over the trial permitted the  County Medical Examiner to testify to the probable identity of the driver and the movements of the occupants of the car when it decelerated and crashed. On May 4, 2012, the Court, in State v. Locasio, reversed the conviction because the tesimony of the Medical Examiner on issues of accident reconstruction and biomechanics was beyond the the medical exminers’ expertise. The medical examiner is a forensic pathologist, but is not an expert in these additional areas . To compound the judge’s error at trial, when the attorney for Locasio attempted to cross-examine the medical examiner on his qualifications to give an opinion on accident reconstruction and biomechanics, he was prohibited from doing so.

The decision of the Appellate Division is not surprising. The law governing the subject matter of expert testimony is clear: An expert witness cannot testify as to matters beyond the scope of their expertise. The New Jersey Rules of Evidence, particularly NJEvid. Rule 702, which follows the Federal Rules of Evidence, curtails the scope of permissible expert testimony to that which the expert witness can demonstrate actual expertise, and be deemed an expert in the subject matter after cross-examination by opposing counsel.

As always, criminal defence lawyers in defending cases New Jersey State Court, as well as in Federal Court in New Jersey, should always be mindful of the rules of evidence and how they impact the admissibility of expert testimony. Restricting expert testimony in accordance with the Rules of Evidence, may make the difference in whether you have a fair trial. This right applies in every court, including the Municpal Courts throughout the State. 










































































































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