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NJ Fingerprint Evidence was Hearsay at Trial, says App Div.

05
Jun
2010

by in Criminal Defense

State in the Interest of D.H., unpublished opinion, App. Div. Docket No. A-1654-08T4 (May 20, 2010) – Adjudication of delinquency reversed. “The trial court ruled that the print screens Detective Kappre received from AFIS [allegedly containing defendant’s fingerprints] were admissible under the business records exception to the hearsay rule….

Detective Kappre did not have the requisite knowledge to lay the foundation for the admission of these AFIS records as business records. He had only the barest knowledge of AFIS and could testify only that it used an algorithm to generate a response to a request. The trial court, in a proper exercise of its discretion, admitted Kappre as an expert in fingerprint comparison, and thus he properly expressed the opinion that the latent prints removed from the GPS box matched the prints on the screen he received from AFIS. He had no basis, however, upon which to testify that the enlarged prints he received from AFIS to compare with the latent prints were, in fact, the prints of D.H….

In addition to citing the business records exception to the hearsay rule, the trial court ruled that these documents received from AFIS were admissible as public records under N.J.R.E. 1005. This rule provides, ‘The contents of an official record or of a writing authorized to be recorded or filed, if otherwise admissible, may be proved by a copy, certified as correct in accordance with Rule 902, or testified to be correct by a witness who has compared it with the original.’ N.J.R.E. 1005 specifies, however, that the document must be ‘otherwise admissible.’ Here, the AFIS records were not ‘otherwise admissible’ in the absence of a proper foundation, which Kappre was not equipped to provide.”

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