New Jersey v. Tier

At a status conference, the State took issue with the witness list defendant produced because it listed the names of three men but did not provide identifiers, addresses, or synopses of their anticipated testimony which the State alleged was in violation of Rule3:13-3(b)(2)(C). In response, defendant agreed to produce identifiers and addresses but argued against providing synopses. Defendant asserted that the Rule required that synopses be produced only if they have already been reduced to writing. Defense counsel affirmed that no witness statement summaries had been prepared. The trial court ordered the defense to produce witness synopses and to create them if they had not been previously drafted. The court specifically ordered defense counsel to provide the State with the reason why the witnesses are on the list. The Appellate Division summarily reversed the trial court s order, reasoning that a criminal defendant s disclosures are carefully limited by the strictures of Rule3:13-3(b)(2). The Supreme Court found a plain reading of Rule3:13-3(b)(2)(C) required production of witness statements only if those statements have already been reduced to writing. Nothing in the rules precludes a trial court from ordering a defendant to designate witnesses as either character or fact witnesses, however. Accordingly, the Court affirmed the Appellate Division's reversal of the discovery order as it related to the witness statements and modify the panel's determination that the trial court improperly ordered defendant to designate fact and character witnesses. View "New Jersey v. Tier" on Justia Law