Under State and Federal law, criminal defendants are not required to offer a defense at any point during their proceedings. They have the privilege to set forth a defense if they choose to do so, though, and if a judge denies them that privilege, it may constitute a violation of the right to a fair trial. The right is not boundless, however, and any evidence a defendant wishes to set forth in his or her defense must be reasonably related to a critical element of the State’s case. A defendant’s right to offer a defense was the subject of a recent New Jersey ruling in which the defendant argued the court erred in failing to introduce evidence suggesting that another party committed the aggravated assault out of which his charges arose. If you are accused of assault or another crime, it is prudent to meet with a New Jersey criminal defense attorney as soon as possible to discuss your options.
The Alleged Assault
It is reported that a physical altercation occurred outside of a New Jersey bar. Video surveillance footage of the incident showed the victim struggling with a man. The man was wearing similar clothing to what the defendant was wearing when he was arrested moments later. The man was then shown taking an object out of the waistband of his pants and striking the victim repeatedly. The man and the victim move off-camera, and the victim is seen seconds later walking into the street to hail a police car.
It is alleged that the victim suffered a gunshot wound to the abdomen. The defendant was arrested and charged with multiple crimes, including aggravated assault. During the trial, the court prohibited the defendant from questioning the bar owner regarding his confrontation with the victim on the night of the victim, noting he had not provided notice he would argue he was acting in self-defense and the purpose of the questioning was unclear. The jury convicted the defendant, after which he appealed.