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State v. Spann

Decided: February 13, 1987.

STATE OF NEW JERSEY, PLAINTIFF,
v.
JOSEPH M. SPANN AND ANITA SISTRUNK, DEFENDANTS



Telsey, P.J.Cr.

Telsey

OPINION

The issue of first impression here is whether or not the results of a Human Leukocyte Antigen test (HLA) can be admitted into evidence in a criminal trial. This court finds that HLA test results are admissible in criminal cases.

Defendants Joseph M. Spann and Anita Sistrunk, former corrections officers at the Salem County Jail, are charged with Sexual Assault, in violation of N.J.S.A. 2C:14-2(c)(3), and Official

Misconduct, in violation of N.J.S.A. 2C:30-2(a). The indictment arises out of an incident at the jail where it is alleged that Defendant Spann had sexual intercourse with an inmate. The State now seeks to admit into evidence the results of an HLA test. The test results disclose a 96.55% probability that Spann is the father of the child born to the inmate. The defendants contend that although HLA test results have been received in civil actions to prove paternity, they are inadmissible in criminal actions because the State is held to a higher burden of proof in criminal cases. This court disagrees.

In Romano v. Kimmelman, 96 N.J. 66, 80 (1984), our Supreme Court held that, "the results of scientific tests are admissible at a criminal trial only when they are shown to have sufficient scientific basis to produce uniform and reasonably reliable results and will contribute materially to the ascertainment of truth." See also, Frye v. United States, 293 F. 1013 (D.C.Cir.1923) (recognized as the seminal case on the admissibility of scientific evidence). Reliability must be demonstrated by showing that the scientific technique has gained general acceptance within the scientific community. State v. Johnson, 42 N.J. 146, 170-71 (1964). However, "scientific acceptability need not be predicated upon a unanimous belief or universal agreement in the total or absolute infallibility of the techniques, methodology or procedures that underlie the scientific evidence." Romano, 96 N.J. at 80.

A proponent of scientific evidence may prove its general acceptance and thereby its reliability:

(1) by expert testimony as to the general acceptance, among those in the profession, of the premises on which the proffered expert witness based his or her analysis;

(2) by authoritative scientific and legal writings indicating that the scientific community accepts the premises underlying the proffered [evidence];

(3) and by judicial opinions that indicate the expert's premises have gained general acceptance. [ State v. Kelly, 97 N.J. 178, 210 (1984).]

The admissibility of evidence from relatively new scientific techniques has been addressed in a ...


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