State v. WInt NJ Supreme Court Decision Miranda is still alive in NJ

State v. Laurie Wint (A-28/29-17)(079660) Argued September 26, 2018 — Decided December 12, 2018

Submitted by New Jersey Criminal Lawyer, Jeffrey Hark

Issue: Did Pennsylvania detectives violated Edwards v. Arizona, 451 U.S. 477 (1981), by attempting to question defendant Laurie Wint in Camden and later questioning him in Pennsylvania after he earlier requested counsel. The Court also considers the exceptions to the rule requiring the suppression of any statement secured during a subsequent custodial interrogation after a defendant requests counsel: whether (1) counsel was provided during the questioning, (2) defendant initiated the communication, or (3) a break in custody occurred. See Edwards, 451 U.S. 477; Maryland v. Shatzer, 559 U.S. 98 (2010).
In Edwards, the United States Supreme Court held that when an accused invokes his right to have counsel present during a custodial interrogation, questioning must cease unless the accused initiates further communication or conversation. 451 U.S. at 484-85. The Edwards doctrine, which bars continuing an interrogation after a request for counsel, applies even if a different law enforcement agency seeks to question the accused about an unrelated crime, Arizona v. Roberson, 486 U.S. 675, 686-88 (1988), but does not apply “when a suspect who initially requested counsel is reinterrogated after a break in custody that is of sufficient duration to dissipate its coercive effects.” Shatzer, 559 U.S. at 109.
Here officers arrested defendant Laurie Wint on a New Jersey murder charge and brought him to the Camden County Prosecutor’s Office for questioning. Immediately, Wint invoked his right to counsel after receiving Miranda warnings, and the interrogation ceased. Immediately afterwards, two detectives from Pennsylvania investigating an unrelated murder in Bucks County entered the interrogation room to question Wint. Wint again requested the presence of counsel, ending the interrogation. When Wint left the room, the detectives wished him good luck and stated, “[W]hen we get you back to Bucks County we can talk about this again.” Wint responded, “[Y]eah, I’ll talk to you when we get back to Bucks County.” Wint remained in continuous pre-indictment custody in Camden County when, six months later, he was transported to Bucks County. There, Pennsylvania detectives again administered Miranda warnings but did not provide counsel as Wint had earlier requested. This time, Wint waived his rights and allegedly said: “In June 2011 I committed a murder in Camden.” He was charged in a Camden County indictment with murder and other offenses.
At trial in Camden 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 trial 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 appellate 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).
RULING: 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.
Foundation of Decision:

  1. In Miranda v. Arizona, the United States Supreme Court imposed the requirement that before questioning a suspect during a custodial interrogation, the police must provide warnings, 384 U.S. 436, 479 (1966), and “[i]f the individual states that he wants an attorney, the interrogation must cease until an attorney is present.” Id. at 474. In Edwards, the Court held that “when an accused has invoked his right to have counsel present during custodial interrogation, a valid waiver of that right cannot be established by showing only that he responded to further police-initiated custodial interrogation even if he has been advised of his rights.” 451 U.S. at 484. In Arizona v. Roberson, the Court made clear that once a suspect requests the presence of counsel during an interrogation relating to one investigation, neither the same nor another law enforcement agency may initiate a second interrogation, even one relating to a different investigation, without providing the suspect with the counsel he earlier requested. 486 U.S. at 677-78, 687-88. (pp. 20-25)
  2. In Maryland v. Shatzer, the Court announced a break-in- custody exception to the Edwards rule. 559 U.S. at 104-05. The Supreme Court held that Edwards did not mandate suppression of Shatzer’s incriminating statements because, after his first interrogation, Shatzer experienced a break in Miranda custody by returning to the general prison population and because the second round of interrogations occurred more than two-and-a-half years later. Id. at 114, 116-17. The Court maintained that a break in custody means different things for pretrial detainees and prison inmates. Id. at 106-07, 112-14. The Court concluded that “an extension of Edwards is not justified . . . when a suspect who initially requested counsel is reinterrogated after a break in custody that is of sufficient duration to dissipate its coercive effects.” Id. at 109. In that circumstance, the fresh administration of Miranda warnings when the suspect is reinterrogated is “deemed sufficient” to protect his right to counsel. Ibid. A break in custody of fourteen days is sufficient “for the suspect to get reacclimated to his normal life, to consult with friends and counsel, and to shake off any residual coercive effects of his prior custody.” Id. at 110. (pp. 26-32)
  3. KEY FACTS IN THIS CASE. Here, approximately three minutes after they knew Wint had unequivocally requested counsel, the two Pennsylvania detectives entered the Camden County interrogation room to question Wint about the Pennsylvania murder charge. That was a clear violation of Edwards. The record does not support the trial court’s finding that Wint initiated a conversation with the Pennsylvania detectives in which Wint agreed to speak with them at some later time without counsel. Wint remained in continuous pre-indictment, pretrial custody in the Camden County jail when he was transported to a police station in Pennsylvania where the same detectives interrogated him again without providing him with counsel. Wint did not experience a break in custody within the intendment of Shatzer before he was interrogated without counsel in Pennsylvania, and therefore the Edwards presumption of involuntariness applies to the admission Wint made to the detectives. For break-in-custody purposes, Shatzer distinguished the very different worlds and circumstances of a pretrial detainee and a convicted inmate. When a pretrial detainee is released into the free world he experiences a break in custody. Id. at 110. As Shatzer explained, convicted inmates stand in a very different position because their world is prison. Id. at 113. Wint’s return to his pre- indictment, pretrial custody in the Camden County jail after two interrogations during which he invoked his right to counsel was not a return to normalcy. (pp. 32-39)
  4. Because the detectives initiated the interrogation and did not provide counsel to Wint, Edwards requires suppression of the incriminating statement made to the detectives concerning the shooting in Camden. The admission of Wint’s statement — “I committed a murder in Camden” — was not harmless error and was clearly capable of causing an unjust result. Wint is therefore entitled to a new trial in the homicide case. Because the erroneous admission of the statement was not relevant to Wint’s other convictions, those stand. At a new trial, the State may not admit as substantive evidence Wint’s statement. The Court does not address arguments about the prosecutor’s summation, and it rejects Wint’s argument that the trial court improperly dismissed two jurors. (pp. 39-42)

Criminal Civil Lawyer

Jeffrey Hark is a New Jersey Civil and Criminal Lawyer.

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