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State in Interest of S.H.

Decided: July 7, 1972.

STATE OF NEW JERSEY IN THE INTEREST OF S.H., JUVENILE-APPELLANT


For modification -- Chief Justice Weintraub, and Justices Jacobs, Francis, Proctor, Hall, Schettino and Mountain. Opposed -- None. The opinion of the Court was delivered by Proctor, J.

Proctor

A juvenile delinquency complaint in the Mercer County Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court charged that the appellant, S.H., age 10, caused the drowning of B.R., age 6, by pushing him into a canal. The court found that the appellant was a juvenile delinquent. However, it reserved decision as to whether the offense would be manslaughter or second degree murder had the act been committed by a person of the age of 18 or over until it received the report of the Menlo Park Diagnostic Center to which it committed S.H. for 90 days for examination. Upon receipt of the report the court determined the act would be second degree murder if done by an adult and committed S.H. to the State Home for Boys for an indeterminate period of time. S.H. appealed to the Appellate Division and before argument there upon defendant's application the procedings were certified to this Court.

There is no dispute as to the facts. On March 17, 1970, three boys, E.J., age 7, W.W., age 8, and Bankr. were returning to school in Trenton after lunch. A short distance from the school S.H. approached the boys, accused them of beating up his sister, and asked for some money. The boys denied beating up his sister and refused to give him any money. S.H. then punched W.W. in the face and took Bankr. by the coat into an adjacent alley. The two other boys continued to school. Bankr. did not return to school or to his home that evening.

The following day, March 18, the Trenton Police Department began a missing person's investigation of Bankr. That morning Sergeant John Girman, along with two patrolmen, went to the school S.H. attended. At 11:00 A.M. in the presence of the vice-principal they spoke to S.H. He was

not a suspect at this time, as the police did not know whether or not Bankr. was the victim of foul play. S.H. was being questioned because the police had information that he was one of the last persons to see Bankr. S.H. told the police that he had seen Bankr. on Brunswick Avenue with W.W. and E.J. He said they were approached by a boy named Leroy who hit one or both of the older boys and took Bankr. away with him. S.H. said he then went to school. After the questioning S.H. returned to class.

That same day, after speaking to W.W. and E.J., the police returned to S.H.'s school at 1:00 P.M. and asked to see the boy again. They questioned him as to the identity of Leroy. After describing Leroy, S.H. suddenly began to cry and said Leroy threw Bankr. into the canal. He agreed to show the police the place where Leroy had thrown the boy. Shortly thereafter the police and fire departments along with S.H. went to the canal and he showed them the place where Leroy pushed Bankr. into the water. He also told them Bankr. floated down the canal and he pointed out the spot where he last saw him go under. At 3:30 P.M. B.R.'s body was discovered about 300 feet from where S.H. said he saw Leroy push the boy into the water.

After the body was found, S.H. told the police he would take them to Leroy's house. They arrived at the address S.H. gave them about 4:45 P.M., where he identified a certain boy as Leroy. Investigation showed that the boy was not named Leroy, was in school at the time of the episode and was in no way involved.

Thereafter, at about 5:00 P.M., the police took S.H. to the first precinct Trenton Police Station. After discussing the matter with other policemen, Sergeant Girman concluded a homicide had occurred and S.H. was a prime suspect.

When S.H. arrived at the police station, his father was already there. However, the police told Mr. H. he was not needed at that time and he left the station and went home. Sergeant Girman turned S.H. over to Detective Purdy

of the Juvenile Bureau of the Trenton Police Department. The detective took the boy to a room on the second floor usually used to interrogate adults. Alone in the room with S.H., the detective read the boy his Miranda rights from a card, explaining what they meant as he went along. According to the detective, he spent about 10 minutes explaining the Miranda rights. The following colloquy ...


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