On appeal from Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Atlantic County, Indictment No. 05-09-2039.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Submitted October 25, 2011 -
Before Judges Payne, Reisner and Simonelli.
Defendant, Gregory Martinez, at the age of nineteen, shot Roberto Diaz in the back multiple times at a high school graduation party after Diaz allegedly brandished a knife and threatened others in the course of a racially charged incident. Defendant confessed, and after his confession was found admissible, he conditionally pled guilty to first-degree manslaughter, N.J.S.A. 2C:11-4a, receiving a negotiated sentence of fifteen years of imprisonment subject to the No Early Release Act (NERA), N.J.S.A. 2C:43-7.2.
Defendant has appealed the denial of his motion to suppress his confession, following a Miranda*fn1 hearing, and his sentence, raising the following arguments:
THIS APPEAL MAY AND MUST PROCEED, DESPITE DEFENDANT'S GUILTY PLEA, BECAUSE THE PLEA WAS CONDITIONAL.
THE DEFENDANT'S FIFTH-AMENDMENT RIGHTS WERE VIOLATED BY THE FAILURE OF THE AUTHORITIES TO TERMINATE QUESTIONING WHEN THE DEFENDANT AT LEAST AMBIGUOUSLY REQUESTED THAT THEY DO SO. U.S. CONST., AMENDS. V, XIV.
THE TRIAL COURT ERRED IN REJECTING DEFENDANT'S CLAIM THAT HIS BORDERLINE MENTAL FUNCTIONING PRECLUDED HIM FROM MAKING THE REQUISITE KNOWING AND INTELLIGENT WAIVER OF HIS MIRANDA RIGHTS. U.S. CONST., AMENDS. V, XIV; N.J. CONST., ART. 1, PARS. 1, 7, 10.
THE DEFENDANT RECEIVED AN EXCESSIVE SENTENCE, NECESSITATING REDUCTION.
Because the State concedes that defendant preserved his right to appeal from the order denying his motion to suppress his confession, we proceed directly to the issues raised in connection with that confession. Defendant first argues that a request by him to speak to his mother during the course of law enforcement interrogation and prior to his confession should have been considered an equivocal invocation of his right to remain silent that the interrogating investigator failed to respect. As a consequence, he claims his confession should have been suppressed.
We reject defendant's argument. The record reflects that the shooting in question occurred on July 1, 2005. On July 3, defendant was identified as the shooter by a witness to what had taken place. A county-wide bulletin was broadcast seeking to locate defendant and to conduct an interview. According to the testimony of defendant's mother, Gail Walker, on July 3, she and defendant attended a family barbeque, but left at approximately 8:30 or 9:00 p.m. Sometime after 10:30 p.m., Walker was contacted by a close family friend, who informed her that three officers "with guns" were at the friend's house looking for defendant. At that point, Walker "turned [defendant] in," calling or texting the prosecutor's office and stating that she would voluntarily ...