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New Jersey Defendant Win on Miranda Rights Issue

06
May
2011

by in Criminal Appeals

State v. Larry Peppers, unpublished opinion, App. Div. Docket No. A-6199-07T4 (April 29, 2011) – Conviction reversed. In this case, the defendant recently won his appeal by arguing that his statement should have been suppressed.

“Based on our review of the record and applicable law, we find error in the court’s denial of defendant’s motion to suppress post-arrest inculpating statements he made to the police….

There is no dispute defendant was arrested and taken into custody, was not read Miranda warnings, and had invoked his right to counsel when he made the incriminating statement about shooting Alcius. Additionally, as recognized by the court, Detective Recktenwald’s decision to transport defendant past the Hess station en route to the police station and his accusation then that defendant was a ‘stone cold killer’ was part of a premeditated investigatory tactic to obtain information….

[When Recktenwald next saw defendant, he] was handcuffed to a chair and sitting in a room. Rather than issuing Miranda warnings to defendant, the detective encouraged defendant to talk with him outside the presence of counsel. The detective persisted despite defendant’s express statement that his brother had told him he should have an attorney….

There is no excuse for the police tactic of declining to Mirandize defendant at any time after he was arrested and placed in custody in the police car. We regard Detective Recktenwald’s conduct as an improper stealth process designed to elicit incriminating evidence without express questioning of defendant. Although the detective did not attack defendant’s character or review the evidence against him, he nonetheless subjected defendant to an interrogative technique designed to encourage him to make incriminating statements.

Contrary to the court’s finding, Detective Recktenwald did not meet with defendant for casual conversation or to ask routine ministerial or ‘pedigree’ questions, but to question defendant about the shooting at the Hess gasoline station. Moreover, he continued to prod defendant even after defendant mentioned obtaining an attorney…. This case presents the ‘classic stationhouse interrogation contemplated by Miranda,’ a defendant deprived of his freedom and questioned by a homicide detective in a coercive police atmosphere without being advised of his right to remain silent or retain an attorney…. Because the police failed to inform defendant of his Miranda rights, defendant’s statement cannot not be used against him.”

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