Video-recorded testimony is being used increasingly in New Jersey courtrooms, and this has meant the need for rules to regulate their use. The New Jersey Supreme Court recently laid out the first set of guidelines for video recorded testimony:
- A judge should not deny jury requests for playback.
- The entire testimony should be played back.
- Courts should allow juries to hear specific portions of the testimony, if requested.
- All testimony recordings should be played in the presence of all parties.
- Courts should take care to ensure that juries do not place undue emphasis on specific portions of the testimony.
- Courts should document the testimony that is played back.
- Courts should exercise discretion in denying testimony playback if requested.
Response to Concerns about Undue Emphasis
The New Jersey Supreme Court established these seven guidelines in response to a request from the Attorney General's Office. The guidelines advise caution in the use of video testimony because video captures much more than a testimony read back by a court reporter. Traditionally, court reporters have been used for reading out testimony when required for jurors, and the effect of a court reporter reading out from a transcript is not the same as when video-recorded testimony footage is shown to jurors.
The decision comes out of a 2007 incident in Irvington. Two people, including a juvenile, were accused of robbing two construction workers at gunpoint. During the trial of one of the defendants, jurors requested a reading of the victim's testimony, and the judge allowed the video-recorded testimony to be played for jurors. This was done to ensure that no time was wasted on preparation of transcripts. The two were convicted, and one of the public defenders argued that video playback emphasized the witness' testimony.
The New Jersey criminal defense lawyers at Helmer Paul Conley and Kasselman represent persons charged with murder, assault, sex crimes, drug crimes, DWI and other crimes across New Jersey.