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Supreme Court Reinstates Defendant’s Conviction, Finding Confession was Voluntary

13
Dec
2010

by in Criminal Defense

State v. B.Y., ? N.J. ?, 2010 N.J. LEXIS 1089 (October 26, 2010) – Appellate Division judgment reversed, conviction reinstated.

“Defendant BY was arrested on outstanding warrants, advised of his rights, and brought to the police station where detectives questioned him about a string of unsolved burglaries. Unbeknownst to those detectives, the arresting officer’s recitation to defendant, advising him of his rights, was neither correct nor complete. Because the detectives believed that the arresting officer had properly warned defendant about his rights, they did not re-administer those warnings to him at the police station. Instead, they conducted an interview during which defendant made no incriminating statements. They ended that interview when defendant referred to a family member’s advice to him to ask for a lawyer if he were ever arrested. When the detectives then told defendant that they were required to stop questioning him, he attempted to restart the interview without an attorney. The detectives refused to proceed, but allowed him, at his request, to step outside for a cigarette…. Immediately after returning from the cigarette break, defendant reiterated his request to speak with the detectives. At that point, defendant was fully advised of his rights, following which he formally waived them and confessed…. Undertaking its own analysis based on the factors this Court identified in O’Neill[, 193 N.J. 148 (2007], the Appellate Division rejected the trial court’s conclusion that the confession was voluntary…. Although both the trial court and the appellate panel tried to apply O’Neill to this case, that framework is not required in the very different factual circumstances presented by this record. First, there was no ‘question-first, warn-later’ methodology being employed here at all…. There is no evidence in this record that the interrogating officers pursued a form of the ‘question-first, warn-later’ approach that the United States Supreme Court and this Court have rejected. Second, in the first part of the interview, which followed the inadequate Miranda warnings, defendant said little, and he said nothing at all that was relevant to the robberies being investigated…. Third, warned or not, defendant actually was aware of at least some of his rights, because he referred to his right to counsel during the first interview. Those significant differences between this record and the circumstances we addressed in O’Neill make it plain that the issue about whether the State bore its burden of proving that defendant’s waiver of his rights was knowing, voluntary, and intelligent should be evaluated in accordance with the totality of the circumstances framework…. Applying our ordinary totality of the circumstances test, we conclude that defendant’s confession was knowing, voluntary, and intelligent. We do so because the trial court’s findings of fact and credibility determinations are supported by ample evidence in the record and because the appellate panel’s contrary conclusions are not. The trial court’s credibility findings were based upon specific references to objective evidence that demonstrated that defendant’s factual assertions were false and by the court’s determination that the testimony of the detectives was believable.”

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