Confrontation Clause Cases (Part 26)

by | Jun 14, 2024 | Blog, Criminal Law, Monmouth County, New Jersey, Ocean County

The Appellate Division continued in relevant part: Gallant handed the blood vials to Officer Knepper. He took them immediately to the Hawthorne Police Headquarters and placed them in an evidence refrigerator. Thereafter, Hawthorne Police Detective Robert King removed the blood samples from the refrigerator and delivered them to a clerk of the New Jersey State Police’s regional forensic laboratory in Little Falls. King testified at trial that he documented the chain of custody for the vials. There was no testimony, nor any intimation by defense counsel on cross-examination, that either Officer Knepper or Detective King had tampered with the blood vials while they were in their possession.

In addition to the testimony of Officer Knepper and of Detective King, the municipal prosecutor offered several documents into evidence at defendant’s trial. Two categories of those hearsay documents, admitted over defendant’s objection, are central to defendant’s appeal.

In particular, the State offered into evidence Exhibit S-2, a “Bodily Substance Sample Certification” dated March 18, 2005. The certification, which is consistent with N.J.S.A. 2A:62A-11, was signed by both Roger Gallant and Officer Knepper. Portions of the certification are pretyped; and other portions are handwritten notations that filled in blanks on the form. The certification reads, in pertinent part, as follows:

I, Roger Gallant, a PCA II, at The Valley Hospital, certify that on 3/18/05, 2005[sic], I obtained the following bodily substance sample from Adam Kent at the request of Ptl. James W. Knepper, # 6229, a law enforcement officer from Hawthorne Police Dept., who identified the patient.

The form also reflects that the type of substance extracted from defendant was blood (consisting of “2 gray-top tubes containing Sodium Fluoride and Potassium Oxalate”). It also states that the “venipuncture site” was prepared with “Betadine–supplied by officer in kit.”

The fact that hospital staff made a mistake while filling in the form at issue weighs in favor of requiring live testimony. Only then can cross-examination expose additional mistakes that could raise reasonable doubt.