The New Jersey Supreme Court on Tuesday ordered a new trial for a criminal defendant who was interrogated so sharply by the trial judge during his testimony that the jury may have questioned his veracity.

“[T]he questions had the effect of suggesting to the jury that the court doubted defendant’s account in a case that rested heavily on defendant’s credibility,” Chief Justice Stuart Rabner wrote for the unanimous court in State v. Taffaro (A-8-07). “Rather than clarify points in a witness’s testimony, the court’s questions had the capacity to signal disbelief.”

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