Miranda and Breaks In Custody (Part 2)

by | Mar 9, 2019 | Blog, Criminal Law, Monmouth County, New Jersey, Ocean County

Justice Albin continued in relevant part: Wint moved to suppress the statement he allegedly made in Bucks County. The trial court determined that Wint’s admission would be admissible at trial. The court found that Wint had waived his Miranda rights before making the incriminating statement. The court also concluded that, by saying “that he would speak to them when back in Pennsylvania,” Wint reinitiated the conversation with the Pennsylvania detectives in Camden. Additionally, the court maintained that the six-month gap between defendant’s invocation of his right to counsel and the interrogation was “a substantial lapse in time to warrant his questioning about the Camden homicide.”  The jury acquitted Wint of murder but found him guilty of the lesser-included offense of passion/provocation manslaughter and the other charged offenses.

The Appellate Division remanded for reconsideration of the suppression issue.  The panel held that the Pennsylvania detectives violated Edwards by attempting to interrogate Wint in New Jersey and that Wint did not initiate the third interrogation in Bucks County. The panel, however, determined that the trial court must engage in an attenuation analysis and also decide whether the six months between Wint’s requests for counsel and the questioning in Bucks County constituted a “break in custody” within the purview of Shatzer.

The New Jersey Supreme Court granted Wint’s petition for certification, 231 N.J. 564 (2017), and the State’s cross-petition, 231 N.J. 546 (2017). The unanimous court held that the Pennsylvania detectives violated Edwards by attempting to question Wint in Camden after his earlier request for counsel, and Wint did not initiate the interrogation that occurred in Bucks County. The giving of repeated Miranda warnings did not cure the Edwards violation. Wint remained in continuous pre-indictment custody for six months before the questioning in Bucks County. Pre-indictment, pretrial detainment does not qualify as a break in custody under Shatzer, and none of the exceptions set forth in Edwards apply here.  Edwards requires suppression of Wint’s incriminating statement concerning the shooting in Camden.  The admission of that statement was not harmless error.

The trial Court’s giving weight to the substantial lapse of time between the invocation of rights and the subsequent statements to Pennsylvania detectives would create a dangerous precedent if it were not rejected by the higher courts. It would encourage police to simply weight for time to pass before ignoring the invocation of fundamental constitutional rights.