Investigatory and Custodial Questioning (Part 3)

by | Nov 27, 2021 | Blog, Criminal Law, Monmouth County, New Jersey, Ocean County

Justice Pierre-Louis continued in relevant part: Detective Johnson also reviewed surveillance footage from the morning of the murder; it captured defendant, Ja-Ki Crawford, and Daryl Cline exiting the Café. Crawford gave a statement to the ECPO incriminating defendant and Cline, stating Cline had shot and killed Flagg and inadvertently shot defendant in the course of an attempted robbery of the Café. Crawford reached an agreement with the ECPO pursuant to which he would cooperate and plead guilty in exchange for being sentenced as a juvenile.

Defendant was indicted, and a pretrial evidentiary hearing was held to address the State’s motion to admit defendant’s videotaped statement at trial. The court granted the motion, finding that defendant was interrogated as a shooting victim, not a suspect. At trial, Byrd testified that defendant was running down the street with Crawford and Cline when the trio asked Byrd to drive defendant to the hospital. Crawford recanted the version of events he gave earlier, testifying instead that he was at the Café when an argument erupted between Cline and Flagg and that defendant, his close friend at the time, was trying to deescalate the argument when Flagg attacked him. The State played defendant’s statement, which was inconsistent with Crawford’s and Byrd’s testimonies and did not account for the physical evidence obtained at the Café. Defendant did not testify. The jury convicted defendant on all charges except first-degree murder. The Appellate Division affirmed, agreeing that defendant was questioned as “part of an investigatory procedure rather than a custodial interrogation” and that Miranda was therefore not implicated. The Court granted certification, “limited to the issue of whether defendant’s statement was obtained in violation of Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436 (1966).” 241 N.J. 161 (2020).

Defendant’s decision not to testify might signal that he has a prior indictable conviction that could be brought to the jury’s attention if he did testify. His prior involvement with the justice system might have also led the police to not read him his Miranda warnings. Defendants that are experienced with the system are much more likely to invoke their right to remain silent than inexperienced suspects.