On appeal from Superior Court of New Jersey Law Division, Bergen County, Indictment No. 05-01-0146.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Submitted October 16, 2007
Before Judges Fuentes and Grall.
Defendant Carlos Tay was tried before a jury and convicted of one count of first-degree robbery, N.J.S.A. 2C:15-1. He was sentenced to fifteen years imprisonment, subject to an eighty-five percent parole ineligibility period and five years of parole supervision pursuant to the No Early Release Act (NERA), N.J.S.A. 2C:43-7.2. We reverse the conviction and remand this matter for a new trial.
We gather the following facts from the evidence presented at trial. On September 27, 2004, at approximately 2:30 a.m., Rafael Jimenez, a taxi driver based in Union City, responded to a call from his base to pick up two fares. One fare was one man; the other fare consisted of two men and a woman. The man sat in the front seat of the cab, and the other three occupants sat in the backseat, with the woman sitting in the middle.
Jimenez later identified defendant as the man sitting to the right of the woman. Jimenez testified to smelling alcohol coming from the man sitting directly behind him.
Jimenez dropped off the front seat passenger first.
Thereafter, the three backseat passengers asked Jimenez to stop within one block of that location. At that point, the man on the right, whom Jimenez identified in court as the defendant, said to the man on the left "let's get him down." The woman allegedly said "no, leave him alone," and told defendant to get out of the cab.
The man and woman left the cab after paying Jimenez the appropriate fare. By contrast, defendant told Jimenez to get out of the cab because "he was not going to pay [him] anything."
At this point, Jimenez saw defendant take a knife out of his pocket; defendant placed the weapon in contact with Jimenez's body causing him pain. Inexplicably, defendant then "took off running down."
In response, Jimenez placed the cab in reverse, and signaled a passing police car that was driven by Officer Dingertopadre. Jimenez told Dingertopadre that he had just been held at knifepoint. He described his assailant as a Hispanic man wearing a sports shirt over a white t-shirt. This description matched a man Dingertopadre had just seen in front of a pizzeria two blocks south of where Jimenez had flagged the officer down.
Approximately five minutes after Dingertopadre had radioed this information to police headquarters, Officer Hartman reported finding a person matching the description. The man Hartman found was a Hispanic male wearing a blue basketball jersey; no weapons were found on his person. In court, Hartman identified the defendant as the man he had detained.
Defendant was placed inside the marked police car; when questioned, defendant said he had just been with his cousins, and brought Hartman to his cousins' house. Dingertopadre also took Jimenez to defendant's cousins' home to make an identification.
Jimenez identified defendant as the man who had held him at knifepoint. He also identified defendant's cousin as being the other man who had been in the cab with him. By that point, Officer Rivas, who spoke Spanish, arrived at defendant's cousin's house. Rivas spoke with defendant in Hartman's police car, where, according to Rivas, defendant admitted, in Spanish, that he had been in Jimenez's taxi cab that night, and had just returned home from a party. Hartman placed defendant under arrest and transported him to the Bergen County Jail. The knife that defendant allegedly used on Jimenez was never found.
Defendant was not administered any of the warnings required under Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436, 86 S.Ct. 1602, 16 L.Ed. 2d 694 (1966), before he made any of these statements.
At trial, the State presented the testimony of the alleged victim, and the three police officers involved in the investigation and subsequent arrest. The following colloquy ensued with ...