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State v. Foye

Decided: March 2, 1973.


Labrecque, Kolovsky and Matthews.

Per Curiam

Defendant James Ellis Foye was indicted jointly with John Edward Turner for the February 8, 1970 felony murder of Wanda Edwards. N.J.S.A. 2A:113-1. At a separate trial he was convicted of murder in the first degree and sentenced to life imprisonment. N.J.S.A. 2A:113-4.

Wanda, who was 14 years old, was last seen alive at approximately 8:30 P.M. on February 8, 1970. Her body was found in the back of an abandoned truck in a vacant lot in Jersey City on February 21, 1970. An autopsy revealed four stab wounds in the anterior chest wall which were the immediate cause of death. She also had sustained a moderate amount of subarachnoid brain hemorrhage. Her slacks had been torn in the seat and crotch, and her body yielded physical evidence that someone had had sexual intercourse with her shortly before her death.

The victim had attended a sorority meeting at about 6 P.M. on February 8 and had been expected to return home by 8 P.M. At about 8:30 P.M., when last seen alive, she was walking towards her home. When she failed to arrive, and a search of the neighborhood was unsuccessful, the police were notified.

Wanda knew the defendant. He had taken her and her sister to a Newark drive-in on one occasion, and on another occasion had taken them shopping. He had also given her a radio. On the evening of February 8, he, accompanied by Turner, had given her sister a ride to the bus stop. En route she had mentioned to them that she was looking for Wanda.

In a statement given to the police defendant related that on the night of Wanda's disappearance her sister had told him and Turner that Wanda would be coming home from a sorority meeting, and they had waited for Wanda to come home in order to ask her "to have sex with them." He stated: "We just took a chance to see if she would be alone. We had discussed between us whether we should ask her if she would or not. We had thought about it for a few days." They waited until Wanda came down the street, he called her over, and she accepted his invitation to take a ride in his car. The three of them rode around for some time until they arrived at 95 Colden Street where they stopped and he and Wanda got out and urinated. Turner then came over and "fondled" Wanda, and when she started to scream Turner cut off her scream by placing his arm around her neck and stabbing her four times. Turner told him he did so because he saw a "cop coming on a motorcycle." He used a hunting knife that belonged to defendant and was kept in his car over the sun visor. They then threw her body into the truck, Turner wiped the knife off with a rag, and they drove away.

Defendant was picked up on February 24, 1970 and detained for possession of a dangerous weapon (a knife) which was found in his car. Later he was questioned about the

murder and at 9:15 P.M. he signed a paper indicating that he had been advised of his Miranda rights, that he understood them, that he wished to consult with his attorney, and did not wish to make a statement. At 4:45 A.M. on February 25 he signed another statement giving his version of the killing in which he indicated that he was familiar with his Miranda rights and waived his right to an attorney. This inculpatory statement constituted the keystone of the State's case.

By his first and second points defendant challenges the admission of his statement into evidence upon the ground that it was obtained from him in violation of his right to counsel, that he did not waive such right, and that, in any event, it was involuntary.

The trial judge held a voir dire hearing out of the presence of the jury before ruling on the admissibility of the statement. The State adduced testimony that defendant had been initially arrested at approximately 4:30 P.M. on February 24 when he approached his car, which the police suspected had been involved in the murder. When they found what they considered a dangerous knife above the sun visor he was taken into custody and booked at the station house on that charge. When later, in response to a police inquiry, defendant stated that he wished to consult with his attorney, he was permitted to make a phone call. Instead of calling an attorney he called his wife, informed her of his arrest, and instructed her to call Goldstaub, his (then and present) attorney. The latter failed to appear and there was no further contact between defendant and his wife or the attorney.

While he was still in police custody, and without advising him that he was also a suspect in the homicide, one of the detectives inquired whether he knew a girl by the name of Wanda Edwards. In response defendant answered that he did know her and followed up by saying, "If you have any idea that I'm involved in the murder, I ...

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