On December 5, 1975, an elderly woman was living alone in her home in forest Hills, New York. A New York Criminal Lawyer said her home was attached to another home on the side of it and she had difficulties getting along with her neighbor. On December 5th , burglars broke in to her home and tied and gagged her as they rummaged through her home and stole her belongings including several fur coats. A piece of cloth was shoved into her mouth to work as a gag. During the robbery or shortly thereafter, the gag that was in her mouth cut off her oxygen supply and she suffocated.
On December 12, police arrested a 58 year-old used furniture store owner in Manhattan. He was not connected to the victim by any obvious means. The police also arrested two employees of the furniture salesman. One was a man with a lengthy criminal record for possession of stolen property and the other was a seventeen year-old female who was also an employee of the shop. The trio was transported to the 106th precinct where they were Mirandized. The seventeen year old girl had a history of drug usage and the police suspected that the events of that night were fueled by the prospect that the crime might be drug related.
However, when the trio was Mirandized, the defendant store owner stated that he understood his rights and that he did not want to make any statements. He did not request an attorney. After four and a half hours, the defendant called the detective to his cell and informed him that the wanted to speak to a District Attorney about a deal in his case. The officer informed him that the District Attorneys had already gone home for the day. The detective asked him if he wanted to tell him anything and the defendant did not respond.
The detectives then spoke to the other man who had been arrested with the defendant. He gave then a statement and took them to his apartment where he surrendered several furs that had been stolen during the home invasion. When the team returned to the precinct, the detective put the furs down in front of the cell where the defendant was being held. He retreated to a different area in the precinct with the other man. In court, the detective testified that he had done this so that the defendant would know that they had the evidence.
The defendant grabbed the side of the cell and began screaming that he wanted to talk to a District Attorney. A Brooklyn Criminal Lawyer said he stated that he wanted to talk to another Italian. One of the detectives not assigned to the case went to him and told him that he was Italian. The defendant stated that he could not do a lot of time and wanted a deal with the District Attorney. The detective told him that he could not give him a deal and that no promises could be made.
After that, the defendant told the detective that he had been introduced to the woman who lived in the house adjoining the victims. He stated that the neighbor had told him that the victim was bothering her and that she wanted the woman to be robbed. He told her that he was not interested and she asked him if he knew of anybody who would be interested. The detective told him that he had not told him anything relative to the investigation and the defendant again stated that he could not do a lot of time. The interview ended at that point. The defendant was taken to central booking at around ten in the evening.
The defendant made a motion to suppress the statements that he made following the deposit of the furs outside of his cell. He stated that the deposit of the furs outside of his cell constituted questioning and that it caused him mental anguish that was tantamount to coercion. However, the most damning testimony in the case was from the seventeen year-old girl who testified that the defendant was present at the scene at the time of the commission of the crime. She also testified to admissions that were made by the defendant to her. The defendant was convicted of felony murder.
Felony murder is a crime in which during the commission of any felony crime a person dies. The death does not have to planned or intended. In fact, the death can be the result of a natural health failure such as a heart attack brought on by stress. The result is the same, the person dies during the commission of the felony act and the crime is Felony Murder.
The defendant filed several motions to review for appeal. Only one stood any ground that could be reviewed. He stated that the fact that the furs were put outside of his cell constituted a subtle form of psychological coercion that would fall under the protections of Miranda. He stated that because he was questioned in this manner without the presence of an attorney, that the act would constitute a reversible error of the verdict and the demand of a new trial. The justices did not agree. They stated that the man was properly Mirandized by the detectives as soon as he was in custody and being questioned per the law. They stated that when he invoked his Miranda rights under the law, that the detectives ceased to question him. The coats in and of themselves bore no connection to the defendant and so did not constitute any form of coercion to get a statement from an otherwise not guilty person.
The defendant chose to focus on the portion of Miranda warnings that refer to any actions of the police that the police should know are reasonably likely to elicit an incriminating response from the suspect. Because this sections deals with the perceptions of the defendant, he claims that he perceived the actions as a coercion. The Justices do not agree. They maintain that the police officer Mirandized the subject correctly. The defendant then stated that he did not want to make any statements. The officers did not question him after that time.
The defendant then called the officers to his cell in order to make a voluntary statement of the events that had occurred. The officers in no way coerced the subject. In fact, the officers were strictly in compliance with the Miranda ruling and did not fail to repeatedly comply. At any time, while the defendant was clearly upset and ready to make a statement, it would have been reasonable to say that the officers could have pressed the issue and gotten a confession. They did not take this advantage. The court, in light of these actions believe that the police showed a large amount of restraint by not eliciting a confession from the man when he was in this state. The request is not granted and the verdict is upheld.
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