Does The Defendant Have The Right NOT To Testify At Trial?

A defendant who opts not to testify is entitled to a jury instruction that the jury may not permit this fact to enter into its deliberations. Carter v. Kentucky, 450 U.S. 288, 303 (1981); State v. Oliver, 133 N.J. 141, 160 (1993). Such an instruction should ordinarily be given upon request of the defendant, but it is not constitutional error to give this charge over the defendant’s objection. Lakeside v. Oregon¸ 435 U.S. 333, 339 (1978); State v. Lynch, 177 N.J. Super. 107, 115 (App. Div.), certif. denied, 87 N.J. 347 (1981). If not all defendants in a multi-defendant trial request the cautionary instruction, the court must nevertheless give instruction, and the other defendants who did not request the charge cannot claim reversible error. See State v. Jackson, 204 N.J. Super. 13, 21(App. Div. 1983), affd, 99 N.J. 379 (1985); State v. McNeil, 164 N.J. Super. 27, 31-32 (App. Div. 1978), certif. denied, 79 N.J. 497 (1979).

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