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New Jersey Appellate Suppresses Confession

State v. Kendall Funchess, unpublished opinion, App. Div. Docket No. A-2435010T1 (September 17, 2012) – Conviction reversed, confession suppressed.  

“Defendant's suppression motion was decided ‘on the papers,’ without any evidentiary hearing.  In his appeal, defendant argues that the trial court erred in denying his motion because the officers were legally required to clarify his three statements regarding an attorney to determine whether he was seeking to invoke his right to an attorney….  

A review of the transcript here fails to show that defendant had a ‘clear and complete’ understanding of his rights or the consequences of continuing to answer the officers' questions.  

The officers repeatedly minimized the consequence of executing the Miranda waiver, referring to reading the rights as ‘a standard procedure’ that they had to ‘get[] out of the way’ before they gave defendant "[his] opportunity to tell ... what happened.’  When defendant asked, ‘No lawyer, no nuthin?’ and if he was waiving his right to a lawyer by signing the paper, Aguanno did not ask if defendant wanted a lawyer….  Rather, he stressed the officers' need to get defendant's ‘side of the story’ and that the ‘only way to get [his] side of the story’ was to read the Miranda rights to him….  

Viewing the totality of the circumstances here, including defendant's questions and statements, we are not satisfied that he had a clear understanding of his right to counsel or the consequences of his waiver….  Our confidence in his level of comprehension is further diminished by the strong suggestion in the transcript that defendant may have been under the influence of drugs at the time of the interview.”  

(Alexander M. Iler) http://www.judiciary.state.nj.us/opinions/a2435-10.pdf

Jason Charles Matey, Attorney At Law 

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