Sunday, December 22, 2013

State v. Odom case brief

State v. Odom case brief summary
560 A.2d 1198 (N.J. 1989)

Plaintiff prosecution appealed an order from the Superior Court, Appellate Division (New Jersey), that reversed a conviction for possession of controlled dangerous substances with the intention to distribute. The superior court held that the testimony of a police officer, dually qualified as an expert, related directly on the issue of ultimate guilt of defendant drug dealer and was not admissible into evidence under N.J. Evid. R. 56(2).

Plaintiff prosecution offered the testimony of a police officer, as an expert in illegal narcotics, who stated that in his opinion the possession of 18 vials of crack indicated an intent to distribute. The appellate court reversed defendant's conviction for possession of crack with intent to distribute and remanded for new trial because the opinion testimony constituted a determination of defendant's guilt.


  • The New Jersey Supreme Court reversed. 
  • The opinion of the police officer was admissible because it was within his specialized knowledge, and it assisted the jury in appreciating the significance of the quantity, street value, and packaging of the drugs with respect to whether possession was for personal use or for distribution that an average person could not understand.
  • Moreover, because his opinion did not express whether defendant was guilty, but simply characterized the intended purpose of the possession in light of the evidence, his specialized knowledge, and in language that paralleled the statute, that testimony was not objectionable even though it embraced the ultimate issue of defendant's guilt which was for the jury to determine.

The court reversed the order that reversed defendant drug dealer's conviction for possession of controlled substances with the intent to distribute. The police officer's expert testimony, did not express his opinion of defendant's guilt but simply characterized defendant's conduct based on the facts in evidence in light of his specialized knowledge, and therefore was admissible even though it embraced ultimate issues that the jury must decide.

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