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State of New Jersey v. Ryan L. Hodge

May 15, 2012


On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Camden County, Indictment No. 10-02-0630.



Submitted December 21, 2011 -

Before Judges Axelrad, Sapp-Peterson and Ostrer.

The opinion of the court was delivered by SAPP-PETERSON, J.A.D.

In this appeal, we granted leave to the State for our interlocutory consideration of the trial court's order suppressing a statement taken from defendant shortly after his arrest for murder. At the time defendant gave the statement, he was eighteen days shy of his seventeenth birthday. The statement was taken from the juvenile defendant without an attorney being present or defendant having the opportunity to consult with counsel prior to making the statement. Nor was defendant's grandmother, his legal guardian, present at the time the statement was taken, although she gave police permission to interview defendant. The State sought to have the statement admitted for impeachment purposes, in anticipation of defendant's assertion of a claim of self-defense to the murder charge. In denying the State's motion to admit the statement, the trial court accorded pipeline retroactivity to the Supreme Court's holding in State in the Interest of P.M.P., 200 N.J. 166 (2009), that a juvenile, against whom a formal complaint has been lodged and for whom a judicially approved arrest warrant has been issued, cannot waive his Miranda*fn1 rights in the absence of an attorney and without first having the opportunity to consult with counsel. On appeal, the State urges that P.M.P. be applied prospectively only.

We hold: (1) P.M.P. announced a new rule; (2) its purpose is not furthered by retroactive application; (3) law enforcement officials, in good faith, have relied upon the old rule in conducting custodial interrogations of juveniles; and (4) without doubt, retroactive application would have a significant impact upon the administration of justice. We therefore reverse and remand.

On February 24, 2010, a grand jury returned a four-count indictment charging defendant with first-degree murder, N.J.S.A. 2C:11-3a(1) or (2) (Count One); second-degree possession of a weapon (handgun) for an unlawful purpose, N.J.S.A. 2C:39-4a (Count Two); second-degree unlawful possession of a weapon, N.J.S.A. 2C:39-5b (Count Three); and third-degree endangering an injured victim, N.J.S.A. 2C:12-1.2a (Count Four). On March 31, 2011, nearly two years after providing his statement and over one year following indictment, the defense filed a Notice of Defense, "including, but not limited to, the defense of [s]elf-defense."

The State filed a pretrial motion to admit defendant's statement, in anticipation of the self-defense theory. At the hearing, the State presented one witness, Captain Arthur Folks, who although retired at the time of the hearing, headed the Operations Division within the Camden County Prosecutor's Office at the relevant time period. Upon completion of his cross-examination, the court raised the question of the applicability of P.M.P. to defendant's case. The court adjourned the hearing to afford counsel an opportunity to brief the issue. The court conducted oral argument two weeks later and, immediately upon its conclusion, rendered an oral opinion denying the State's motion to admit the statement:

I think that I find that in this situation[,] I think the factors weigh in favor of the defendant. I think the defendant was entitled at that point to have an attorney represent him, to tell him what it meant to waive [his] right to counsel and make sure that he understood that. I find that clearly the purpose of the rule and whether it would be furthered by retroactive application is furthered by limited retroactive application in this case and that is that the case was in the pipeline.

Thereafter, the court stayed the proceedings pending the State's application for appellate review. By order dated August 11, 2011, we granted the State's motion for leave to appeal the trial court's interlocutory ruling.


According to Captain Folks' testimony at the hearing, on April 24, 2009, both Tyson Maddox and Gerard Caugham attended a barbecue held on MacArthur*fn2 Street in Camden, where defendant was also in attendance. During the party, Maddox spoke with a seventeen-year-old female guest. By 10:25 p.m., defendant had left the barbecue and was outside talking to the same female guest with whom Maddox had earlier been speaking. When Maddox drove past in his vehicle, defendant called him a "faggot." Maddox exited his vehicle and a fistfight erupted between the two men. Defendant pulled out a gun and shot Maddox five times in the chest. Maddox died from his wounds. On April 28, 2009, defendant was charged with murder in a juvenile complaint. On May 7, 2009, defendant was arrested by the Camden County Sheriff's Department. The arrest represented defendant's fourteenth arrest as a juvenile in the five years since he had turned twelve years old.

The sheriff's officers transported defendant to the Camden County Prosecutor's Office, where he told homicide investigators that his legal guardian was his grandmother. He provided information where she might be located. Captain Folks met defendant's grandmother at defendant's aunt's home and advised her that defendant had been arrested and charged with murder. He invited her to come to the Prosecutor's Office, but she declined to do so. ...

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