Investigatory and Custodial Questioning (Part 1)

by | Nov 25, 2021 | Blog, Criminal Law, Monmouth County, New Jersey, Ocean County

On June 15, 2021, the New Jersey Supreme Court decided the Essex County case of State v. Zakariyya Ahmad. The principal issue before the Court concerned whether Miranda warnings were required under the circumstances of the case.

Justice Pierre-Louis wrote for a unanimous Court in relevant part: In this case, the Court considers whether defendant Zakariyya Ahmad’s statement to police — which occurred when defendant was 17 years old and without his being advised of his Miranda rights — was properly admitted at his trial for multiple offenses related to the murder of a café owner in Newark. On October 27, 2013, defendant, who had turned seventeen just two months earlier, arrived at the Emergency Room at University Hospital in Newark at 11:20 a.m. He had been shot in his left arm and leg. A detective and two other officers from the Newark Police Department (Newark PD) arrived at the hospital shortly after defendant. The detective asked defendant where he was shot and how he got to the hospital. While medical professionals were tending to defendant, his mother, father, and other family members arrived.

Defendant was discharged at 2:30 p.m. Upon discharge, instead of being allowed to go home with his family, defendant was advised by Newark Police officers that he had to report to the Newark PD. According to defendant’s testimony at the evidentiary hearing, officers told him he had no choice in the matter. Officers escorted defendant from the hospital to a marked police car, put him in the back seat, and drove him to Newark PD’s Major Crimes Unit. Defendant’s mother testified that officers told her she could not take defendant home or drive him to the police station from the hospital.

The nearly eight-year delay between the underlying facts of this case and the New Jersey Supreme Court’s decision demonstrates how “the wheels of justice turn slowly.” Those wheels have all but grinded to a halt since the Covid pandemic significantly increased the backlog of criminal cases.