– If you are a defense attorney, knowing how to properly raise preliminary questions for the purpose of an objection is one of the most important basic skills you need to learn.
– There will be many times where the defense wants to raise an objection (often for lack of personal knowledge) where the record is silent as to whether or not the witness actually has personal knowledge.
– Example: Officer sees Defendant breaking the windows of Jane Doe’s house.
– At trial, Jane Doe does not show up, so one of the elements that could theoretically be difficult for the state to prove will be the identity of the victim.
– During the course of the trial, the officer is likely to say something along the lines of: “I was dispatched to 123 Fake St and upon arriving, I saw the defendant smashing out the windows to Jane Doe’s house.”
– If the defense objects to the officer testifying that the house is “Jane Doe’s house”, the Judge is likely to say “Well, the officer can answer the question if he knows the answer.” The officer might theoretically have personal knowledge that the house belongs to Jane Doe, but this is unlikely.
– At this point, if you are the defense attorney you would want to state the following:
– Can I ask preliminary questions for purpose of an objection?
– Officer, you have never been to this house before?
– You have never viewed title work or mortgage documentation for the house?
– You have an opinion on who owns the house?
– You formed this opinion based solely on facts you learned from a third party while on scene?
– Judge, I am going to object to the officer testifying as to who the house belongs to. Based on what the officer has said, he lacks any personal knowledge as to who owns the house. Any knowledge he does have is based on hearsay statements which are not admissible and which would violate the right to confront and cross examine.
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