In a hearing, motion, or trial the Rules of Evidence govern the testimony of witnesses and the introduction of exhibits. The Rules of Evidence used in all the courts of New Jersey are approved by the Supreme Court of New Jersey. They closely parallel the Rules of Evidence used in the federal courts throughout the United States. The underlying theme of the rules is that testimony, documents and exhibits must be relevant to the case. If the evidence is not relevant, an experienced criminal trial attorney will object and the evidence may be excluded.
Evidence is presented in a progressive manner. On direct examination the attorney must establish a basis, called a foundation, for the questions asked of a witness. On cross examination, the defense attorney may ask leading questions. Leading questions and carefully orchestrated cross examination are designed to control and limit the impact of a witness called by the prosecutor.
Hearsay is a frequently heard objection. Hearsay means that the witness is testifying to the words of someone else in order to prove a fact. For example, a witness might be asked if it is raining. He or she does not know, but heard someone else say it is raining. To allow the witness to testify to what was only heard but not directly observed would be hearsay.
Fortunately, the Sixth Amendment of our United States Constitution grants all accused persons standing trial the right to confront witnesses against them.
While there are exceptions, in order to protect his client, an experienced criminal trial attorney must know when to object in order to control the evidence a judge or jury considers. By mastering the Rules of Evidence, an experienced criminal defense lawyer guides his case to a successful verdict.