Jordan, Humphrey, and Vaio were police officers.† They
entered Odom's apartment with a search warrant.† Inside, they found some
drugs.† Odom was charged with possession with intent to sell.
At trial, the prosecution attempted to introduce testimony
from another police officer named Tierney.† The prosecution claimed that
he was an expert in drugs.
Odom objected, arguing that Tierney was unqualified to
testify because his experience was based on hearsay.
The Trial Judge found Tierney qualified to testify as an expert
Tierney testified that the amount of drugs Odom possessed implied
that he intended to sell.† There was too much for just personal use (plus,
there was no drug paraphernalia in the apartment for Odom to use).
Odom argued that the drugs were for his personal use, and
that the police just didn't find his crack pipes.
The Trial Court found Odom guilty of possession with
intent to distribute.† He appealed.
The Appellate Court reversed and remanded for a new
trial.† The prosecution appealed.
The Appellate Court found that Tierney's opinion was not
only unhelpful, but also that it's probative value was outweighed by its
The New Jersey Supreme Court reversed and upheld the
The New Jersey Supreme Court noted that the opinion of an
expert can be admitted in evidence if it relates to a relevant subject
that is beyond the understanding of the average person of ordinary
experience, education, and knowledge.
In this case, most jurors have no idea how much crack
the average addict has, compared to how much the average dealer has.
The Court found that an expert witness cannot
express whether or not they feel a person is guilty, but they can
characterize the defendants' conduct based on the facts in evidence in
light of his special knowledge.
Tierney didn't outright say that Odom was guilty of
intent to distribute, he only said that in his expert opinion, someone
who had that much crack in their house was probably intending on selling
"An expert opinion that the drugs were held for
distribution, even though expressed in words that are similar to the
statutory definition of the offense, does not rise to the level of an
assertion that the defendant committed the crime charged or is guilty of
the statutory offense."
The Court did feel that the question to Tierney could
have been phrased better.† They suggested that next time the prosecution:
lay a foundation about the facts of the drugs and the
role of paraphernalia,
ask the expert a hypothetical using the facts
avoid using the terminology of the Statute in defining
what state of mind on which the expert is offering an opinion,
not use the defendantís name in the hypothetical
(here the defendantís name was used but the error was