On appeal from the Appellate Division of the Superior Court.
For modification -- Chief Justice Vanderbilt, and Justices Case, Heher, Oliphant, Wachenfeld, Burling and Ackerson. The opinion of the court was delivered by Vanderbilt, C.J.
The facts of this case are simple. The defendants Cicenia, Corvino and DeMasi were indicted for murder. Before trial Cicenia applied for an inspection of alleged confessions made by himself and his codefendants and for an order suppressing his own confession on the ground that it had been obtained while he was under arrest without a complaint or warrant having been made against him, without his having been advised of his constitutional rights, and after he had been denied counsel for seven hours while he was being interrogated and his statement taken. He also sought leave to take testimony in support of his application to suppress his statement. The County Court, after pointing out that the admissibility of the confession could be determined at the trial, held that it had no power to suppress the statement in advance of trial and therefore denied the application to suppress the confession or to take testimony on the question of the suppression. It also denied his motion for an inspection of the alleged confessions.
Thereupon, and without awaiting trial, Cicenia appealed to the Appellate Division of the Superior Court, which dismissed his appeal on the ground that the judgment appealed from, being interlocutory in nature, was not within the provisions of either Rule 4:2-1 or Rule 4:2-2. From this judgment of the Appellate Division Cicenia has appealed to this court.
Three questions are presented on the appeal to this court:
1. Is the defendant properly before this court on an appeal from the Appellate Division as a matter of right? The question must be answered in the negative. As the Appellate Division pointed out in its opinion, the order of the County Court appealed from is interlocutory and does not fall within any of the provisions of our rules for taking appeals from interlocutory judgments. The defendant's appeal therefore is premature. Moreover, the defendant was not properly before the Appellate Division for still another reason. Not only does Rule 1:2-1 relating to this court provide that:
"Appeals may be taken to this court from final judgments * * * directly from the trial courts in capital causes."
but Rule 1:5-1(b) is directed to the same end:
"All appeals taken in capital causes are hereby certified directly to this court."
The manifest purpose of these rules is to prevent any undue delay in the appellate court in the ultimate disposition of the most important class of criminal cases coming before us. Any appeal, therefore, that the defendant might have would clearly be to this court rather than to the Appellate Division of the Superior Court. Thus, the appeal being from an interlocutory judgment and also being taken to the wrong court is subject to dismissal on two distinct grounds. Nevertheless, because the other questions in the case have not only been fully argued but are important questions of first impression in this State, we shall treat the appeal as having been certified here on our own motion.
2. The second question raised is whether or not the defendant has an absolute right, as he asserts, to an inspection before trial of his alleged confession and those of his codefendants. In support of his contention that he has such a right, the ...