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Trial Judge Should Have Given Jury Identification Charge

28
Nov
2010

by in Criminal Defense

State v. Omar Bridges, unpublished opinion, App. Div. Docket No. A-0806-07T4 (September 8, 2010) – Convictions reversed.

“Defendant … argues that the trial judge should have provided an identification charge to guide the jury’s evaluation of the testimony of Officer Patinho and co-defendant Ollie. The State responds that the extensive credibility instruction provided by the trial judge adequately addressed his concerns. Given Officer Patinho’s limited opportunity to view the shooter, an identification charge was critical to allow the jury to properly evaluate the in-court identification by the victim of his assailant…. It is abundantly clear that identification was a central and critical issue in the case. The State had to prove that defendant was the person firing a weapon at Officer Patinho and Officer Gsavatich and the person who shot Officer Patinho. In doing so, it relied principally on the testimony of Patinho, who testified that he saw the passenger riding behind the driver briefly ‘peek’ out of the rear passenger side window. Based on that glimpse, Patinho identified defendant at trial as the shooter. Yet, the jury received no instructions on the elements it should consider in its evaluation of this identification. They were not instructed to consider the time-of-day, lighting, the amount of time the victim had to view his assailant, whether the assailant was previously known to the victim, and a host of other salient factors for the jury’s consideration…. In summary, we hold that the omission of an identification charge on Officer Patinho’s identification of defendant was a critical error in this case.”

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