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State of New Jersey v. Thilock D. Johnson


April 13, 2012


On appeal from an interlocutory order of the Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Morris County, Indictment No. 09-05-00567.

Per curiam.


Argued January 30, 2012 -

Before Judges A.A. Rodriguez, Sabatino, and Ashrafi.

Following at least six*fn1 days of hearings and argument, the trial court granted the motion of defendant, Thilock D. Johnson, to suppress certain incriminating statements that he made to the police during a stationhouse interrogation preceded by Miranda*fn2 warnings. The trial court expressed its reasoning in a fifteen-page written opinion dated May 26, 2011. In particular, the trial court concluded that defendant's request to defer until the following day a polygraph examination sought by the police, and his assertion that he "really wan[ted] [to] get home [and] take a shower[,]" amounted to an invocation of his constitutional right to cease the interrogation.

In August 2011, this court granted the State's motion for leave to appeal the trial court's suppression ruling. Shortly before oral argument on the appeal, the Supreme Court issued on January 12, 2012 its decision in State v. Diaz-Bridges, 208 N.J. 544 (2012).

In Diaz-Bridges, the Court held that a suspect's repeated requests to speak with his mother and other similar statements he made to the police were not sufficiently clear assertions of his constitutionally-protected rights of silence. Id. at 569-72. Consequently, the Court reversed the trial court's order suppressing the defendant's incriminating statements in their entirety. Id. at 572.

We remand this matter to afford the trial court the opportunity to reconsider its suppression ruling in this case in light of Diaz-Bridges.*fn3 At our request, appellate counsel have furnished us with a video recording of defendant's police interrogation, and also have provided supplemental briefs addressing the impact, if any, of Diaz-Bridges on this case. Even so, it is preferable that the trial court be given the initial opportunity to consider the potential impact of the Court's holding in Diaz-Bridges on this case. In particular, we are mindful of the extensive proceedings the trial court conducted in this matter, including hearing the competing expert testimony from mental health professionals respectively called by the prosecution and defense counsel. We also note the credibility assessments made by the trial court, which might need to be amplified, in light of Diaz-Bridges, as to the factual issues material to the suppression analysis under current law.

The remand proceedings shall be completed by June 15, 2012. To accommodate the remand, counsel shall furnish the trial court with courtesy copies of the briefs and supplemental briefs that they have submitted on the appeal. We intimate no outcome that the trial court should reach. We further note that the trial court, in its discretion, may choose to reopen the record and take additional testimony, to the extent it deems appropriate, to develop any open issues implicated by Diaz-Bridges.

Following the remand decision, the aggrieved party may seek further review by this court by filing a request for same within fifteen days: the State through an amended motion for leave to appeal, and alternatively, defendant through a motion for leave to appeal. The appealing party shall furnish this court with expedited transcripts of the remand proceedings.


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