State v. Cotto

In a mammoth 70-page opus, the New Jersey Appellate Division affirmed a conviction for aggravated arson. The defendant argued that the trial court erred in denying his motion to suppress statements he made during a custodial interrogation. He claimed that the interrogating officers did not inform him that he would be charged with aggravated arson when they gave the Miranda warnings. He also contended the trial court erred in permitting an expert to testify, charging the jury, and failing to redact parts of the defendant’s statement. The Appellate Division disagreed with each of the allegations of error. As to the defendant’s first claim, the Court noted that “as State v. Sims makes clear, although the defendant indisputably was a suspect in the arson investigation because charges had not been filed concerning that crime, the detectives were not required pursuant to a bright-line rule to alert the defendant as to his suspect status during the initial Miranda waiver colloquy.” Moreover, the Court found that the defendant was not misled or unaware of the nature of theĀ  detectives’ questions. The Court concluded its discussion of the issue by remarking that “this was not a situation where an individual was held for hours without being told the true reason why he had been taken into custody.”

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