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State v. Coburn

Decided: December 23, 1987.

STATE OF NEW JERSEY, PLAINTIFF-RESPONDENT,
v.
WILLIAM RICHARD COBURN, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT



On appeal from Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Monmouth County.

J. H. Coleman, O'Brien and Havey. The opinion of the court was delivered by Coleman, J.h., P.J.A.D.

Coleman

The significant question raised in this appeal is whether Miranda*fn1 warnings are required when a suspect who has not been arrested is questioned by a police officer at a location reported to the police as the scene of a killing. The trial judge held that Miranda warnings are not required. We agree and affirm.

A Monmouth County Grand Jury indicted defendant for the murder of Madga Lewis,*fn2 a/k/a Maria Lewis, contrary to N.J.S.A. 2C:11-3 (Count One); second degree possession of a handgun for an unlawful purpose, contrary to N.J.S.A. 2C:39-4a (Count Two); third degree possession of a handgun without a permit, contrary to N.J.S.A. 2C:39-5b (Count Three); possession of over 25 grams of marijuana and possession with intent to distribute marijuana, contrary to N.J.S.A. 24:21-19a(1) (Count Four) and N.J.S.A. 24:21-20a(4) (Count Five); and unlawful possession of a knife, contrary to N.J.S.A. 2C:39-5d (Count Six).

Defendant filed motions to suppress the use of the gun, marijuana and his oral statements as evidence. These motions were denied. At the conclusion of a jury trial, defendant was found guilty on all counts except unlawful possession of a knife. After merging Count Two with Count One, defendant was sentenced to a custodial term of life with 30 years of parole ineligibility for the murder. Under Count Three defendant was sentenced to a concurrent term of nine months. After merging Count Five with Count Four, defendant was sentenced on Count Four to a concurrent term of six years. A total penalty of $1,025 was assessed payable to the Violent Crimes Compensation

Board. Defendant has appealed. We now affirm except as to the sentence on Count Three.

In this appeal, defendant contends that:

POINT I

THE COURT ERRED BY PERMITTING DEFENDANT'S STATEMENTS TO BE ADMITTED INTO EVIDENCE.

1. THE DEFENDANT'S INTERROGATION SHOULD HAVE BEEN SUPPRESSED UNDER MIRANDA.

A. PRE- MIRANDA STATEMENTS SHOULD HAVE BEEN SUPPRESSED.

B. IT IS PLAIN ERROR TO ALLOW DEFENDANT'S POST- MIRANDA WARNING STATEMENTS INTO EVIDENCE SINCE HE WAS INCAPABLE OF MAKING A KNOWLEDGEABLE WAIVER.

2. DEFENDANT'S INTERROGATION DOES NOT FIT UNDER THE "PUBLIC SAFETY EXCEPTION" OF NEW YORK v. QUARLES.

3. THE RULE OF LAW ENUNCIATED IN NEW YORK v. QUARLES SHOULD NOT BE FOLLOWED BY NEW JERSEY COURTS.

POINT II

THE TRIAL COURT ERRED BY ALLOWING THE MARIJUANA FOUND UNDERNEATH DEFENDANT'S BED TO BE INTRODUCED INTO EVIDENCE.

1. MRS. POLHEMUS' CONSENT WAS IMMATERIAL SINCE SHE LACKED AUTHORITY TO GIVE CONSENT.

2. MRS. POLHEMUS' CONSENT WAS NOT GIVEN VOLUNTARILY.

3. THE RECORD DOES NOT CLEARLY SHOW THAT MRS. POLHEMUS GAVE CONSENT.

POINT III

IT WAS PLAIN ERROR TO ALLOW THE MEDICAL EXAMINER TO TESTIFY ABOUT GUN DISTANCES.

A. THERE WAS NO SHOWING THAT THE MEDICAL EXAMINER WAS QUALIFIED TO TESTIFY ON GUN DISTANCES FROM INFLICTED WOUNDS.

B. THE MEDICAL EXAMINER'S TESTIMONY CONCERNING FIRING DISTANCES SHOULD NOT HAVE BEEN ALLOWED SINCE IT FELL ...


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