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Defendant Claims Confession Illegally Obtained


This case was brought in court to determine whether the rule applies even if the interrogator is unaware that an imprisoned man is represented by an attorney. Based on records, the right to counsel rule signifies that an accused in custody in connection with a criminal matter for which he is represented by counsel may not be interrogated in the absence of his attorney with respect to that matter or an unrelated matter unless he waives the right to counsel in the presence of his attorney.

The incident happened early 2002, when a man was murdered in his bodega. A New York Drug Crime Lawyer said the case remained unsolved for some time until an individual came forward and informed the police that a man had shot the victim. The informant explained that, shortly after the shooting, he was talking to a group of young men in the neighborhood about the incident. The informant asserted that during the conversation, the man had laughed and stated that he had shot the store owner. The informant further identified man whom he had known for years from a photo array.

After receiving the information, the investigating officer interviewed one of the young men who had been present during the conversation reported by the informant. The individual recalled that, on the day of the killing, either the man or the other individual had suggested to rob a store. Later that day, the man admitted to his friends that he had shot the store owner.

Another acquaintance of the man who had been with him that day told the detective that the other individual claimed that the man had killed the victim and that the man confirmed that he was the shooter. A New York Criminal Lawyer said based on the interviews, the detective spoke to the man’s companion, who confessed in a videotaped interview that he had accompanied the man to the bodega to commit a robbery and the man had shot the victim. The other young men who cooperated with the police were not involved in the underlying crime.

The detective eventually learned that the man was imprisoned in Pennsylvania on a drug crime. The Pennsylvania authorities told the detective that the man was in custody because he was unable to post his $10,000 bail. The detective traveled to the correctional facility where the man was jailed to speak to him about the homicide. The investigator was not informed about the details of the Pennsylvania drug crime and he did not inquire about them. Without the knowledge of the detective, the man was represented by an attorney in connection with the Pennsylvania offense.

When the man was allowed to meet with the detective, the detective issued Miranda warnings to him, advised the man that he did not want to discuss the Pennsylvania matter and indicated that he was investigating the Staten Island murder. A Nassau County Drug Possession Lawyer said the detective inquired if the man wanted to speak to an attorney about the New York case and the man responded that he did not. In the course of the interview, the detective played a portion of the man companion’s taped confession, after which the man acknowledged that he had been involved in the robbery but claimed that his companion was the shooter. The man signed a written statement to that statement.

After the interview and while the man remained imprisoned, he discussed his role in the murder with another inmate. The man disclosed to that inmate that he had shot the deli owner during the botched robbery. A Queens Drug Possession Lawyer said the man further stated that he told the detective that he was an accomplice of the shooter and he planned to use his sister as an alibi witness, intending to claim that he was at her house when the deli owner was shot. The inmate related the conversation to his lawyer and the information was eventually provided to the New York prosecutor handling the case.

As a result, the man was charged for felony murder in the second degree, intentional murder in the second degree, three counts of attempted robbery in the first degree and criminal possession of a weapon in the second and third degrees. But, the man moved to suppress his confession with the detective, asserting that his right to counsel had been violated when he was questioned about the murder without first obtaining a waiver of his right to counsel in the presence of his Pennsylvania attorney. During the suppression hearing, the detective testified that he did not know that a lawyer was representing the man on the Pennsylvania charge, nor did he ask about it. Therefore, the Supreme Court denied the man’s motion, concluding that the right to counsel did not attach because the detective had lacked of actual knowledge of the attorney’s involvement in the Pennsylvania matter.

The man contends in a jury trial that his confession should have been suppressed because he was in police custody when the detective interviewed him, his indelible right to counsel had attached upon assignment of a lawyer on the Pennsylvania charge and the detective did not secure a valid waiver of that right before questioning him. The state of New York disagrees and maintains that the right to counsel did not attach because the detective did not have the actual knowledge that the man was represented on the Pennsylvania matter. The state of New York also assert that recognition of a right to counsel under the circumstances will resurrect the discredited derivative right to counsel rule of New York. It has long viewed the right to counsel as a cherished and valuable protection that must be guarded with the utmost vigilance.

Following a jury trial, the man was convicted of intentional murder, felony murder, attempted robbery in the first degree and criminal possession of a weapon in the second degree. He was also sentenced to a prison term of 25 years to life.

Based on records, when an attorney enters a case to represent a client, the police may not question the accused about that matter regardless of whether the person is in police custody. If, however, the police seek to question the suspect about a matter that is not related to the case that the attorney is handling, different rules apply. The court established that an individual who is in custody for an offense and is represented by counsel on that case may not be questioned about any matter, related or unrelated to the crime for which there is legal representation, unless the individual validly waives the right to counsel.

The Appellate Division also affirmed the conviction, holding that, although the man was represented by a lawyer on the charge for which he was in custody in Pennsylvania, the indelible right to counsel was not implicated because the interviewing detective was not aware that the man had a lawyer in Pennsylvania.

The court of appeals also considered the totality of the evidences. Since the jury found the man guilty of shooting, it necessarily disbelieved what the man told the detective and thereby diminished the importance of the improperly obtained statement in the overall context of the case. Moreover, the man did not present to the jury any theory that cast significant doubt upon his guilt. For all of those reasons, the court of appeals found that the violation of the man’s indelible right to counsel was not damaged beyond a reasonable doubt. Consequently, the order of the appellate division was affirmed.

When someone is under the influence of drugs they tend to have a violent reaction or actions that can be harmful to other people and because of their disturb thoughts they can be more dangerous. If someone in your family became a victim of a crime, you can ask the NY Criminal Lawyers for legal assistance or initial assessment for your case. If you are the one who committed the crime, you can have the NY Drug Lawyers at Stephen Bilkis and Associates.

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