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State v. Fuller

Decided: March 5, 1990.


On appeal from the Superior Court, Appellate Division, whose opinion is reported at 231 N.J. Super. 66 (1989).

For affirmance -- Chief Justice Wilentz, and Justices Clifford, Handler, Pollock, O'Hern, Garibaldi and Stein. Opposed -- None. The opinion of the Court was delivered by Clifford, J.


We granted leave to appeal, 117 N.J. 66, 570 A.2d 429 (1989), to consider whether the bright-line rule of State v. Hartley, 103 N.J. 252, 511 A.2d 80 (1986), required the police authorities to readminister the Miranda warnings before interrogating defendant. On receiving those warnings shortly after his arrest, defendant exercised his right to remain silent, immediately following which he started to discuss with the arresting officer certain aspects of the case. The officer refused to speak with defendant absent defendant's request that he do so. When defendant evidenced his willingness to talk about the crimes for which he had been arrested, the officer, after first taking some precautionary measures described below, obtained an inculpatory statement, without, however, repeating the Miranda warnings.

Relying on Hartley, the trial court suppressed defendant's statement. The Appellate Division reversed. State v. Fuller, 231 N.J. Super. 66, 554 A.2d 1364 (1989). We affirm.


Acting on information concerning the whereabouts of defendant-appellant, Michael Trapp, wanted in connection with a robbery, burglary, and kidnapping, Lt. Gazaway of the Hillsborough Township Police Department participated in defendant's arrest in New York City. On the way to a Manhattan police station defendant told Gazaway that he was carrying a knife, later identified as belonging to the victim of the crimes. When they arrived at the station house, Gazaway gave defendant the warnings required by Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436, 86 S. Ct. 1602, 16 L. Ed. 2d 694 (1966). Defendant acknowledged

that he understood his Miranda rights, and when asked if he would waive them and speak with Gazaway, he replied that he would not. Thereupon Gazaway terminated the discussion, remaining in the same room with defendant but attending to other work.

About a minute or so after invoking his right to remain silent, Trapp asked Gazaway, "How did you find out where I would be?" He also inquired about what had happened to "the other guy." Gazaway responded that because defendant had originally refused to discuss the matter, the officer could not talk to him about the investigation unless defendant "voluntarily requested" that he do so. According to Gazaway, defendant expressed his willingness to talk about his role in the offenses as long as he did not have to "implicate anyone else involved."

At that point Gazaway asked another detective to step into the room. In the presence of defendant and the second officer, Gazaway then recited the foregoing events, namely, the previous furnishing of the Miranda warnings, defendant's acknowledgement that he understood his rights, and his exercise of the right to silence, followed just moments later by defendant's "voluntar[y] request to talk * * * as long as [Gazaway] did not make him implicate any other people who may have been involved in the robberies with him." Before the second officer left the room, defendant confirmed the accuracy of Gazaway's recitation and said he was willing to talk. He then responded to Gazaway's questioning with the statement that is the subject of this appeal.

In suppressing the statement the trial court found that although Trapp had knowingly, intelligently, and voluntarily waived his right to remain silent, there remained the threshold issue of whether the police had scrupulously honored defendant's previously-asserted right to remain silent. According to the trial court, our opinion in Hartley, supra, 103 N.J. at 267, 511 A.2d 80, announced a "bright-line, inflexible requirement that fresh Miranda [warnings] must be given after a suspect

has asserted the right to remain silent in order to satisfy the 'scrupulously honored' requirement," and that that bright-line rule applies not only when, as in Hartley, the police initiate further interrogation after a hiatus in the discussion but also, as in this case, when "the defendant resumed communications with the police."

The Appellate Division disagreed, concluding that "the rule established in Hartley is limited by its facts and expressed holding to those cases of 'police-initiated custodial interrogation.'" 231 N.J. Super. at 72, 554 A.2d 1364 (quoting Hartley, supra, 103 N.J. at 256, 511 A.2d 80). Because "in this case it was the defendant who initiated further conversation with Gazaway [that] led to the further interrogation with the resulting oral statement," ibid., the Appellate Division reversed the trial court's order suppressing the statement and remanded the matter for trial. Id. at 76, 554 A.2d 1364.



In an effort to protect a criminal suspect's privilege against self-incrimination, the United States Supreme Court, in Miranda v. Arizona, supra, 384 U.S. 436, 86 S. Ct. 1602, 16 L. Ed. 2d 694, dictated that custodial interrogation must cease immediately on defendant's request. The Court did not, however, establish guidelines for when interrogation may begin again until it decided Michigan v. Mosley, 423 U.S. 96, 96 S. Ct. 321, 46 L. Ed. 2d 313 (1975). The Mosley Court held that "the admissibility of statements obtained after the person in custody has decided to remain silent depends under Miranda on whether his 'right to cut off questioning' was 'scrupulously honored.'" Id. at 102-03, 96 S. Ct. at 325-26, 46 L. Ed. 2d at 320-21. It concluded that the "scrupulously honor" requirement had been met in Mosley's case.

In Mosley the police arrested the defendant on suspicion of robbery and carefully informed him of ...

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