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Defendants Claim Confessions Read at Trial Unfairly Swayed Jury


On January 10, 1990, two men who were drug dealers met and decided that they were going to have to rob a convenience store owner from India because he owed them $5,000 for a previous drug deal. A New York DWI Lawyer said he had not paid the men and they wanted to make an example of his as well as recoup some of their losses. They went to the store that evening and he was not there. The following day, the two men met with two other men and arranged to get a van and meet at the convenience store that night. One man drove the van and dropped the others off at the store.

There was one other employee in the store that night. He was also from India. He saw the discussions that were taking place between the storeowner and the two men who were at the store, but claims that he did not take any notice. He had gone to work at the convenience store for less pay than he had been making as a cab driver before taking the job. There was some speculation as to his involvement in the drug business that was going through the convenience store. The store was to close at around three in the morning. At closing time, the employee counted out the store’s receipts for the day and gave them to the owner. It was about $2,500 in cash. The two men accompanied the storeowner and the employee out of the store. In front of the store, the owner and employee pulled down the security shutters and locked the building.

It was then that the employee said that the men pointed a gun at the storeowner and the other man put a gun into the employee’s side and told them to get into the storeowner’s car. They were taken to an isolated area where the man in the front passenger seat shot the storeowner in the head. The van pulled up and the men got out of the car with the employee. They left the storeowner slumped over his steering wheel presumably dead. The employee was taken back to his home and told that if he told anyone about what he had seen, he would be killed. The other men left the van abandoned and got into a different vehicle and everyone was dropped off at their homes.

The following day, the two men met with another man with whom they had been planning a drug deal. They did not know that this man was an employee of the Drug Enforcement Administration. The DEA agent was making a drug deal arrangement with the men when one of them commented that he had not gotten any sleep the previous night because they had killed an Indian man for not paying his debt to them. A New York DWI Lawyer said the men asked the DEA agent if he could arrange for silencers for the guns that they had used to kill the Indian man. He told them that he could if they would bring the guns to him to be fitted for the silencers. The men left and the DEA agent contacted the Queens Homicide Unit to report the information about the homicide. He was advised that an Indian male had been found dead in it car in the manner that had been described.

The DEA agent met with the men again and taped a conversation with them in reference to the two guns that they had brought to be fitted with silencers. The DEA agent commented to the men that he did not think that the guns they brought him could fire, let alone kill anyone. The men stated on tape that the guns were the ones that had been used to kill the Indian storekeeper. Shortly after that meeting, the men were arrested. Five men in all were arrested, including the store employee.

During the trial, two of the men testified at the trials of the others. Statements had been taken from the other two men. They did not testify at trial. Each man was tried separately. A Nassau County DWI Lawyer said the court was concerned that the trials would be tainted by the statements of the men because they each claimed that one of the others had committed the actual homicide. The court ruled that the statements be redacted to remove all of the names of the suspects and replace them with innocuous pronouns. All of the men were convicted with the exception of one who was acquitted. The men appealed their convictions.

They appealed based on the assumption that the confessions were not sufficiently redacted by adding the pronouns. They stated that the statements unduly prejudiced the jury against them and that it prevented them from obtaining a fair trial. The defendants stated that the confessions that were read at trial inferentially incriminated the defendants who did not confess to the crime. The Supreme Court agreed and overturned the convictions of the two defendants who did not confess. The two who confessed were not harmed by the reading of the confessions in the view of the Justices. The defendant who was acquitted was not harmed and did not request any recourse from the court.

Cases that involve several defendants create special problems for prosecutors. They must balance the rights of the offenders who have not confessed with the rights of the prosecution to reveal the confessions of the ones who were involved in the crime who do confess. This can be tricky and most often leads to failures in the adequacy that the goal is accomplished. It is this type of failure that can only be recognized by an attorney. The rights that are protected in a court of law go beyond the rights of defendants that have committed horrible crimes such as this one. The rights that are being protected in these courtrooms are the rights of every American citizen. If a prosecutor or police officer is allowed to win a case with improper actions this time, the next case may be an innocent person. It may even be you. Every time that a defense attorney uncovers an impropriety in the courtroom process, they have won a small victory for civil rights in this country. Sometimes, it can be difficult for a community to recognize that the defense attorney is the person who protects the civil rights of all people. When a defense attorney requires that the prosecutor present a case that is well-formed and established on good evidence that is fair and impartially presented, that attorney is ensuring that innocent people are not subjected to improper behavior on the streets of their town every day. Civil rights are the foundation of American life. Liberty is more precious than any currency there is. It is critical that people not lose sight of the fact that it is better for ten guilty men to go free than it is for one innocent man to be sent to prison. That sentiment is just as true now as it was when it was first made.

Stephen Bilkis & Associates has a group of experienced Queens Criminal Lawyers. They have convenient offices throughout New York and the Metropolitan area. A Queens Drug lawyer is the best choice for your defense.

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