State v. Burney

The New Jersey Appellate Division ruled that the trial court’s findings concerning the trustworthiness of the defendant’s statement to police during his hospital-bed interrogation were inadequate to conclude that they were voluntary. When the police questioned him, the defendant was awaiting overdue dialysis n an intensive care unit. A notation in his medical chart showed that he was suffering from “toxic/metabolic derangement.” In response to the police’s bedside interrogation, the defendant offered an alibi that would have been discredited by a historical cell phone data analysis. The defendant moved to suppress the statement. The trial court suppressed the statement as to the State’s case-in-chief because the  defendant had not knowingly and intelligently waived his Miranda rights. But the court also ruled that the statement was voluntary and thus could be used for impeachment purposes should he take the witness stand. The defendant declined to testify in accordance with defense counsel’s advice that his testimony would be subject to impeachment by the statements given to police at the hospital, i.e., the discredited alibi. The Appellate Division reversed, ruling that the “defendant’s medical condition at the time of the interrogation was an important circumstance that had to be carefully considered as part of the totality of relevant circumstances in determining whether his statements to police were given voluntarily. The detectives were not qualified to make a medical judgment as to defendant’s cognitive capacity. And because the hospital-bed interrogation was not electronically recorded, the trial court could not independently assess defendant’s outward condition.”

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