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New Jersey Attempted murder trial relies on drunk identification

Everyone has seen courtroom thrillers where one side calls an eyewitness only to have that person’s reliability called into question by the opposing counsel. That frequently happens in real life courtrooms as well. The difference is, however, that real people—not actors—may end up suffering long-term consequences when the outcome of a case rests solely on an eyewitness’s identification and testimony and there is little or no physical evidence.

Most people wouldn’t trust a word that comes out of someone’s mouth after drinking 18 beers. Yet, that is what jurors are being asked to do in the trial of a Passaic man charged with attempted murder. The weapon used was never recovered and the only eyewitness in the case is also the victim, who had had a blood alcohol content of 0.25. If convicted, the defendant could be sentenced to spend between 10 to 20 years in state prison.

The eyewitness was not only legally impaired at the time of the alleged incident, but was recovering from a gunshot wound to the chest when he identified the defendant in a series of photographs shown to him by police. The prosecution is arguing the victim got caught up in the middle of a drunken fight that escalated from yelling to bottles being thrown and ultimately shots being fired.

The capacity of the victim’s testimony was called into question by the defense attorney during opening statements. The consequences are too serious for the defendant to be convicted and sentenced if there is a chance that the identification was tainted in any way. Furthermore, the defendant actually identified someone else as the shooter, and the gun was never found. Anyone who is accused of committing violent crimes may want to meet with an attorney to ensure that their constitutional rights are protected.

Source: Northjersey.com, “Passaic man goes to trial on attempted murder charges,” John Petrick, May 14, 2013

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