Justice Solomon continued in relevant part: At trial, the prosecutor called Robinson-Crews to testify. The State argued that a question asked by defense counsel on cross-examination opened the door to testimony about Crews’s dying declaration. After an N.J.R.E. 104 hearing, the trial judge reversed the motion judge’s holding and allowed Robinson-Crews to testify to the jury about the dying declaration. The judge also ruled that Portis could testify regarding what Robinson-Crews claimed to her Crews said as he was dying — that Paperboy and Youngin shot Crews. Defense counsel sought to introduce as a past recollection recorded the Norton Affidavit to impeach Robinson-Crews’s credibility. The court ruled it inadmissible, in part because of the “remarkable” inability of Detective Bolognini to recall any of the conversations.
A jury found defendants guilty of murder, robbery, and a weapons offense. The trial judge denied their motions for a judgment of acquittal notwithstanding the verdict or a new trial, and the Appellate Division affirmed their convictions and sentences. The Court granted defendants’ petitions for certification. 231 N.J. 526 (2017); 231 N.J. 533 (2017).
The State’s failure to produce nineteen discovery items until one week after the beginning of defendants’ murder trial did violate defendants’ due process rights under Brady. The Court reaches this conclusion, in part, because the trial court abused its discretion by excluding admissible impeachment and exculpatory evidence withheld by the State. Though there is no evidence or allegation that the State acted in bad faith or intentionally in failing to timely produce the discoverable material, the Court nonetheless vacates defendants’ convictions and remands for a new trial because defendants were deprived of a fair trial.
The “opening the door” argument is a catch-all used by prosecutors in their efforts to introduce otherwise inadmissible evidence. The doctrine calls for the introduction of otherwise inadmissible evidence if the defense elicits testimony that unduly prejudices the State through the introduction of a deceptive half-truth. Prosecutors often attempt to use the doctrine as a response to any effort to cross-examine a State’s witness.