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State in Interest of A.B.M.

Decided: February 26, 1973.

THE STATE OF NEW JERSEY IN THE INTEREST OF A.B.M., JUVENILE-APPELLANT


Labrecque, Kolovsky and Matthews.

Per Curiam

A.B.M., age 15 (hereafter the defendant), appeals from an order adjudging him a juvenile delinquent. He was charged with being a participant, with one A.W., in the murder of one Edwardo Perez, in violation of N.J.S.A. 2A:113-1, and with conduct endangering his health, morals and general welfare, in violation of N.J.S.A. 2A:4-14(1)m.

Perez, while taking an evening walk on April 18, 1971, was set upon, assaulted and robbed. When found he was in a dazed condition, bleeding from the head, and his wallet and identification were missing. There was a pool of blood on the sidewalk near where he was found, and a bloody stick, similar in shape to a broom handle, was found nearby (the blood was still wet). When taken to the hospital he was discovered to be suffering from multiple skull fractures and lacerations of the scalp. Later a craniectomy was performed in an effort to reduce the pressure from a subdural hematoma which developed. His condition was complicated by the presence of a "stress" ulcer with attendant gastrointestinal bleeding. He died on April 29, 1971. The primary cause of death was stated to be "subdural hemorrhage, fractured skull due to trauma." Secondary cause was "internal lesions and bleeding due to duodenal ulcer." It was said that the latter condition was "in all probability" secondary to his brain damage.

To the extent here pertinent the court found, in substance, that defendant had intentionally participated (with A.W.) in an atrocious assault and battery upon the victim in the course of a robbery, and that the victim had died as the result of the injuries sustained during the commission of the atrocious assault and battery. He was committed to an indeterminate term at the Training School for Boys at Jamesburg.

Defendant first contends that his oral confession was inadmissible because of its unreliability. He argues that his subnormal mentality precluded a knowing and intelligent waiver of his constitutional rights, his interrogation was conducted

in disregard of due process and fundamental fairness, and his confession was involuntary.

Prior to the introduction of testimony as to defendant's oral admission of guilt the trial judge conducted a voir dire hearing. At its conclusion he permitted evidence as to defendant's statements, holding that the State had established beyond a reasonable doubt that the Miranda warnings had been given and that there had been an intelligent and voluntary waiver of defendant's rights thereunder. We find that the proofs support this conclusion.

The State adduced testimony indicating that after the victim's death detectives, in the process of attempting to locate the suspect in another robbery, went to the house of A.W., also a juvenile. While they were there defendant came in. When during the questioning of A.W. the police made known their intention to take him to police headquarters, defendant elected to go along. On the way to police headquarters defendant was informed of his Miranda rights. At about 3 P.M., after the parties had arrived at police headquarters, O'Connell, another detective not connected with the investigation then under way, observed defendant and engaged in some small talk with him. In the process he asked defendant if he knew anything about the April 18 mugging of Perez -- at the same time telling him that there was no need for him to say anything. Defendant's reply was that "the other fellow" knew about it. Upon hearing this O'Connell obtained defendant's home telephone number and attempted twice in defendant's presence to reach his mother. When he was unsuccessful in doing so defendant was again reminded that he did not have to answer questions. Thereafter, when asked what he knew about the Perez incident, A.B.M. stated that he and A.W. had mugged Perez. He related that he had been visiting A.W. in Elizabeth on April 18, and at 8 or 8:30 P.M. he and A.W. had gone for a walk. When they turned onto Marshall Street and spotted an old man walking towards them A.W. said, "Let's take him." Defendant was the first

to strike the victim, punching him in the face. Then A.W. struck him and he grabbed A.W. by his shirt. A.W. thereupon picked up a stick and hit the man on the head. A.W. then took his wallet and they ran back to A.W.'s house. The wallet was found to contain a $10 bill, which defendant changed at a bar across from A.W.'s house. They split the money between them and defendant took the bus to his home in Linden.

About an hour later O'Connell and another detective accompanied defendant as he retraced the route he asserted he and A.W. had taken during and after the mugging. After this defendant was brought back to headquarters and, the police still having been unable to locate his mother, detectives were sent to try to find her. It was not until about 6 P.M. that she was located and arrived at police headquarters. In the meantime defendant had been provided with food and cigarettes, and was detained in the office of the captain of detectives.

When defendant's mother arrived she was advised of her son's constitutional rights and also that the victim had passed away. After this defendant repeated in her presence that he and A.W. had assaulted and robbed Perez. She agreed to allow him to give a written confession, but later withdrew her permission. When she requested an attorney for her son the questioning ceased. This ...


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