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Puckett v. State – A13A0264 – Expert Witness – Rule of Sequestration

Puckett v. State, A13A0264, May 17, 2013. This case deals with DUI Expert Witnesses and the Rule of Sequestration during a DUI jury trial in Cobb County State Court located in Marietta, Georgia. Under O.C.G.A. 24-9-61 repealed on Jan 1st, 2013 by the new Georgia Evidence Code, either party has the right to have the witnesses of the other party examined out of the hearing of each other. This rule is known as the Rule of Sequestration. The Trial Court has broad discretion regarding the application of the Rule of Sequestration.

In this case, Puckett hired Tony Corroto to testify in his case as an expert witness on the Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus test. Puckett wanted his expert to sit in court and listen to the testimony of the police officer while he testified during the jury trial. The Court would not let Expert Corroto sit in the courtroom and listen.  The court reasoned that Expert Corroto could review the transcript from the motion where the Officer testified on HGN and that Puckett’s attorney could ask Expert Corroto hypothetical questions.  Because of this, the Georgia Court of Appeals reasoned that it was not an abuse of discretion and the Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court excluding the DUI expert from the Officer’s testimony during the jury trial.

The new rule of sequestration is governed by OCGA 24-6-615 which provides that “at the request of a party the court order witnesses excluded so that each witness cannot hear the testimony of other witnesses, and it may make the order on its motion..” except for parties and “a person whose presence is shown by the party to be essential tot he presentation of the party’s cause” or a crime victim as set out in 24-6-616.

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