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State v. Wint

Supreme Court of New Jersey

December 12, 2018

State of New Jersey, Plaintiff-Respondent/Cross-Appellant,
v.
Laurie Wint, a/k/a Laurie A. Wint, Jr., Laurie Ainsworth Wint, Lance, Defendant-Appellant/Cross-Respondent.

          Argued September 26, 2018

          On certification to the Superior Court, Appellate Division

          Marcia Blum, Assistant Deputy Public Defender, argued the cause for appellant/cross-respondent (Joseph E. Krakora, Public Defender, attorney; Marcia Blum, of counsel and on the briefs).

          Sarah Lichter, Deputy Attorney General, argued the cause for respondent/cross-appellant (Gurbir S. Grewal, Attorney General, attorney; Sarah Lichter, of counsel and on the briefs).

          Nicholas C. Harbist argued the cause for amicus curiae the Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers of New Jersey (Blank Rome, attorneys; Nicholas C. Harbist, on the brief).

          Alexander Shalom argued the cause for amicus curiae American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey (American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey Foundation, attorneys; Alexander Shalom, Alexi Machek Velez, Edward Barocas and Jeanne LoCicero, on the brief).

          ALBIN, J., writing for the Court.

         The Court considers whether Pennsylvania detectives violated Edwards v. Arizona, 451 U.S. 477 (1981), by attempting to question defendant Laurie Wint in Camden and later questioning him in Pennsylvania after he earlier requested counsel. The Court also considers the exceptions to the rule requiring the suppression of any statement secured during a subsequent custodial interrogation after a defendant requests counsel: whether (1) counsel was provided during the questioning, (2) defendant initiated the communication, or (3) a break in custody occurred. See Edwards, 451 U.S. 477; Maryland v. Shatzer, 559 U.S. 98 (2010).

         In Edwards, the United States Supreme Court held that when an accused invokes his right to have counsel present during a custodial interrogation, questioning must cease unless the accused initiates further communication or conversation. 451 U.S. at 484-85. The Edwards doctrine, which bars continuing an interrogation after a request for counsel, applies even if a different law enforcement agency seeks to question the accused about an unrelated crime, Arizona v. Roberson, 486 U.S. 675, 686-88 (1988), but does not apply "when a suspect who initially requested counsel is reinterrogated after a break in custody that is of sufficient duration to dissipate its coercive effects." Shatzer, 559 U.S. at 109.

         In this case, officers arrested defendant Laurie Wint on a New Jersey murder charge and brought him to the Camden County Prosecutor's Office for questioning. Wint invoked his right to counsel after receiving Miranda warnings, and the interrogation ceased. Immediately afterwards, two detectives from Pennsylvania investigating an unrelated murder in Bucks County entered the interrogation room to question Wint. Wint again requested the presence of counsel, ending the interrogation. When Wint left the room, the detectives wished him good luck and stated, "[W]hen we get you back to Bucks County we can talk about this again." Wint responded, "[Y]eah, I'll talk to you when we get back to Bucks County." Wint remained in continuous pre-indictment custody in Camden County when, six months later, he was transported to Bucks County. There, Pennsylvania detectives again administered Miranda warnings but did not provide counsel as Wint had earlier requested. This time, Wint waived his rights and allegedly said: "In June 2011 I committed a murder in Camden." He was charged in a Camden County indictment with murder and other offenses.

         Wint moved to suppress the statement he allegedly made in Bucks County. The trial court determined that Wint's admission would be admissible at trial. The court found that Wint had waived his Miranda rights before making the incriminating statement. The court also concluded that, by saying "that he would speak to them when back in Pennsylvania," Wint reinitiated the conversation with the Pennsylvania detectives in Camden. Additionally, the court maintained that the six-month gap between defendant's invocation of his right to counsel and the interrogation was "a substantial lapse in time to warrant his questioning about the Camden homicide." The jury acquitted Wint of murder but found him guilty of the lesser-included offense of passion/provocation manslaughter and the other charged offenses.

         The Appellate Division remanded for reconsideration of the suppression issue. The panel held that the Pennsylvania detectives violated Edwards by attempting to interrogate Wint in New Jersey and that Wint did not initiate the third interrogation in Bucks County. The panel, however, determined that the trial court must engage in an attenuation analysis and also decide whether the six months between Wint's requests for counsel and the questioning in Bucks County constituted a "break in custody" within the purview of Shatzer.

         The Court granted Wint's petition for certification, 231 N.J. 564 (2017), and the State's cross-petition, 231 N.J. 546 (2017).

         HELD: The Pennsylvania detectives violated Edwards by attempting to question Wint in Camden after his earlier request for counsel, and Wint did not initiate the interrogation that occurred in Bucks County. The giving of repeated Miranda warnings did not cure the Edwards violation. Wint remained in continuous pre-indictment custody for six months before the questioning in Bucks County. Pre-indictment, pretrial detainment does not qualify as a break in custody under Shatzer, and none of the exceptions set forth in Edwards apply here. Edwards requires suppression of Wint's incriminating statement concerning the shooting in Camden. The admission of that statement was not harmless error.

         1. In Miranda v. Arizona, the United States Supreme Court imposed the requirement that before questioning a suspect during a custodial interrogation, the police must provide warnings, 384 U.S. 436, 479 (1966), and "[i]f the individual states that he wants an attorney, the interrogation must cease until an attorney is present." Id. at 474. In Edwards, the Court held that "when an accused has invoked his right to have counsel present during custodial interrogation, a valid waiver of that right cannot be established by showing only that he responded to further police-initiated custodial interrogation even if he has been advised of his rights." 451 U.S. at 484. In Arizona v. Roberson, the Court made clear that once a suspect requests the presence of counsel during an interrogation relating to one investigation, neither the same nor another law enforcement agency may initiate a second interrogation, even one relating to a different investigation, without providing the suspect with the counsel he earlier requested. 486 U.S. at 677-78, 687-88. (pp. 20-25)

         2. In Maryland v. Shatzer, the Court announced a break-in- custody exception to the Edwards rule. 559 U.S. at 104-05. The Supreme Court held that Edwards did not mandate suppression of Shatzer's incriminating statements because, after his first interrogation, Shatzer experienced a break in Miranda custody by returning to the general prison population and because the second round of interrogations occurred more than two-and-a-half years later. Id. at 114, 116-17. The Court maintained that a break in custody means different things for pretrial detainees and prison inmates. Id. at 106-07, 112-14. The Court concluded that "an extension of Edwards is not justified . . . when a suspect who initially requested counsel is reinterrogated after a break in custody that is of sufficient duration to dissipate its coercive effects." Id. at 109. In that circumstance, the fresh administration of Miranda warnings when the suspect is reinterrogated is "deemed sufficient" to protect his right to counsel. Ibid. A break in custody of fourteen days is sufficient "for the suspect to get reacclimated to his normal life, to consult with friends and counsel, and to shake off any residual coercive effects of his prior custody." Id. at 110. (pp. 26-32)

         3. Here, approximately three minutes after they knew Wint had unequivocally requested counsel, the two Pennsylvania detectives entered the Camden County interrogation room to question Wint about the Pennsylvania murder charge. That was a clear violation of Edwards. The record does not support the trial court's finding that Wint initiated a conversation with the Pennsylvania detectives in which Wint agreed to speak with them at some later time without counsel. Wint remained in continuous pre-indictment, pretrial custody in the Camden County jail when he was transported to a police station in Pennsylvania where the same detectives interrogated him again without providing him with counsel. Wint did not experience a break in custody within the intendment of Shatzer before he was interrogated without counsel in Pennsylvania, and therefore the Edwards presumption of involuntariness applies to the admission Wint made to the detectives. For break-in-custody purposes, Shatzer distinguished the very different worlds and circumstances of a pretrial detainee and a convicted inmate. When a pretrial detainee is released into the free world he experiences a break in custody. Id. at 110. As Shatzer explained, convicted inmates stand in a very different position because their world is prison. Id. at 113. Wint's return to his pre-indictment, pretrial custody in the Camden County jail after two interrogations during which he invoked his right to counsel was not a return to normalcy. (pp. 32-39)

         4. Because the detectives initiated the interrogation and did not provide counsel to Wint, Edwards requires suppression of the incriminating statement made to the detectives concerning the shooting in Camden. The admission of Wint's statement -- "I committed a murder in Camden" -- was not harmless error and was clearly capable of causing an unjust result. Wint is therefore entitled to a new trial in the homicide case. Because the erroneous admission of the statement was not relevant to Wint's other convictions, those stand. At a new trial, the State may not admit as substantive evidence Wint's statement. The Court does not address arguments about the prosecutor's summation, and it rejects Wint's argument that the trial court improperly dismissed two jurors. (pp. 39-42)

         REVERSED and REMANDED for a new trial.

          CHIEF JUSTICE RABNER and JUSTICES LaVECCHIA, PATTERSON, and TIMPONE join in JUSTICE ALBIN's opinion. JUSTICES FERNANDEZ-VINA and SOLOMON did not participate.

          OPINION

          ALBIN JUSTICE.

         In Edwards v. Arizona, the United States Supreme Court held that when an accused invokes his right to have counsel present during a custodial interrogation, questioning must cease unless the accused initiates further communication or conversation. 451 U.S. 477, 484-85 (1981). The Edwards doctrine, which bars continuing an interrogation after a request for counsel, applies even if a different law enforcement agency seeks to question the accused about an unrelated crime, Arizona v. Roberson, 486 U.S. 675, 686-88 (1988), and even if the accused has consulted with an attorney, Minnick v. Mississippi, 498 U.S. 146, 153 (1990). The Edwards doctrine, however, does not apply "when a suspect who initially requested counsel is reinterrogated after a break in custody that is of sufficient duration to dissipate its coercive effects." Maryland v. Shatzer, 559 U.S. 98, 109 (2010) (emphasis added).

         In this case, law enforcement officers arrested defendant Laurie Wint on a New Jersey murder charge and brought him to the Camden County Prosecutor's Office for questioning. Wint invoked his right to counsel after receiving Miranda[1] warnings, and the interrogation ceased. Immediately afterwards, two detectives from Pennsylvania investigating an unrelated murder in Bucks County entered the interrogation room to question Wint. After receiving his rights for the second time, Wint again requested the presence of counsel, ending the interrogation. Wint remained in continuous pre-indictment custody in Camden County when, six months later, he was transported to Bucks County. There, Pennsylvania detectives again administered Miranda warnings but did not provide counsel as Wint had earlier requested. This time, Wint waived his rights and allegedly incriminated himself in the New Jersey murder.

         The trial court denied Wint's motion to suppress his incriminating remarks believing that, for Edwards purposes, Wint reinitiated communication with the Pennsylvania detectives. The court also determined that the six-month lapse in time between interrogations satisfied the Shatzer "break-in-custody" requirement. With the admission of Wint's incriminating statements at trial, a jury convicted Wint of passion/provocation manslaughter and other related offenses.

         The Appellate Division remanded to the trial court for reconsideration of the suppression issue. The panel held that the Pennsylvania detectives violated Edwards by attempting to interrogate Wint just minutes after he had requested counsel from New Jersey law enforcement officers. The panel also found that Wint did not initiate the third interrogation in Bucks County. The panel, however, stopped short of suppressing Wint's incriminating statements. The panel determined that the trial court must engage in an attenuation analysis and also decide whether the six-month period between Wint's requests for counsel and the third round of questioning in Bucks County constituted a "break in custody" within the purview of Shatzer.

         We now reverse. We agree with the Appellate Division that the Pennsylvania detectives violated Edwards by attempting to question Wint in Camden after his earlier request for counsel. We also agree that Wint did not initiate the interrogation that occurred in Bucks County. That third and last interrogation proceeded without the presence of counsel despite Wint's two previous requests for counsel. Here, the giving of repeated Miranda warnings did not cure the Edwards violation.

         Wint remained in continuous pre-indictment custody for a period of six months before the questioning in Bucks County. Therefore, no "break in custody" occurred within the intendment of Shatzer. The Supreme Court set a bright line in Edwards and Shatzer: after a defendant requests counsel during a custodial interrogation, any statement secured during a subsequent custodial interrogation must be suppressed unless (1) counsel was provided during the questioning, (2) defendant initiated the communication, or (3) a break in custody occurred. None of those exceptions apply here. We therefore part with the panel's decision to remand for an attenuation analysis and a break-in-custody analysis.

         Accordingly, we reverse the judgment of the Appellate Division and remand for a new trial on the charge of passion/provocation manslaughter at which the incriminating statements made by Wint in Pennsylvania will be inadmissible.

         I.

         A.

         On September 26, 2012, Wint was charged in a Camden County indictment with murder, N.J.S.A. 2C:11-3(a)(1) and (2); second-degree possession of a firearm for an unlawful purpose, N.J.S.A. 2C:39-4(a); second-degree unlawful possession of a firearm, N.J.S.A. 2C:39-5(b); fourth-degree resisting arrest, N.J.S.A. 2C:29-2(a); and second-degree certain persons not to possess weapons, N.J.S.A. 2C:39-7(b). Wint moved to suppress a statement he allegedly made to Pennsylvania detectives in Bucks County. He claimed that the Pennsylvania detectives violated Edwards by initiating an interrogation despite his earlier request for counsel in New Jersey.

         A suppression hearing was conducted in the Camden County Superior Court, Law Division. At the hearing, the State elicited testimony from three witnesses: Investigator Lance Saunders of the Camden County Prosecutor's Office and two Pennsylvania detectives -- Detective John Bonargo of the Warminster Township Police Department and Detective Martin McDonough of the Bucks County District Attorney's Office. The testimony focused on three interrogations of Wint while he remained in pre-indictment custody.

         Wint was charged on June 16, 2011 with the murder of Kevin Miller in the city of Camden and on July 29, 2011 with the murder of Tyrone Newman in Warminster Township, Pennsylvania. On July 31, 2011, Camden police officers arrested Wint and transported him to the Camden County Prosecutor's Office for questioning.

         Investigator Saunders began interrogating Wint while Detectives Bonargo and McDonough from Pennsylvania watched from an adjacent room. Investigator Saunders advised Wint of his Miranda rights, including his right to the presence and appointment of counsel. Following a brief exchange, Wint responded, "I think I should call my lawyer" and "I really don't want to talk to anybody." All questioning then ceased.

         After leaving the interrogation room, Investigator Saunders informed Detectives Bonargo and McDonough that Wint had invoked his right to counsel. Nevertheless, approximately three minutes later, the two Pennsylvania detectives entered the interrogation room to question Wint about their case. The detectives introduced themselves and, while acknowledging that Wint had chosen not to speak about the Camden case, asked whether he would be willing to speak about the Bucks County investigation. Wint responded he would if given a cigarette. However, after the detectives read him his Miranda rights, Wint requested the presence of counsel:

[McDonough]: Do you wish to speak to us without a lawyer being present?
[Wint]: I want him to sit here while we talk.
[McDonough]: I didn't hear. Do you wish to speak to us without a lawyer being present?
[Wint]: I want him to sit here while we talk.
[McDonough]: You want a lawyer here with us?
[Wint]: Yeah --
[McDonough]: Okay, so that, that won't happen today because we don't have a ...

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