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Lawrence v. Attorney General for State of New Jersey

United States District Court, D. New Jersey

April 30, 2019


          Ernest Lawrence, Petitioner pro se

          Sarah Diane Brigham Counsel for Respondents


          NOEL L. HILLMAN, U.S.D.J.

         Petitioner Ernest Lawrence (“Petitioner”), a prisoner presently incarcerated at New Jersey State Prison in Trenton, New Jersey, has filed a Petition for a Writ of Habeas Corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254 (the “Petition”). ECF No. 1. Respondents Steven Johnson and the Attorney General for the State of New Jersey (“Respondents”) filed an Answer to the Petition (the “Answer”). ECF No. 5. For the following reasons, the Court will deny the Petition and a certificate of appealability shall not issue.

         I. BACKGROUND

         In its opinion on direct appeal, the Superior Court of New Jersey, Appellate Division, provided the following summary of the factual background of Petitioner's case:

The State's trial evidence established that early on the morning of January 8, 2008, in the basement of a Camden row home where defendant lived with nineteen-year old Jennifer Lane and their two small children, he stabbed Lane seventeen times with a paring knife. Lane staggered upstairs to the first floor where she collapsed and died. Defendant hurried upstairs and exited the row home, dropping the paring knife by the front door as he left. The police found defendant a short distance away, suffering from five stab wounds to his chest. At the time, the police did not know his wounds were self-inflicted.
Defendant was admitted to Cooper Hospital where he underwent surgery for a collapsed lung. The next day, Camden County Prosecutor's Investigator John Greer and Camden City Detective Isidoro Reyes questioned defendant at the hospital. When the officers first began to question defendant, they did not inform him of his Miranda rights, but after he told them that Lane had stabbed him and he had stabbed Lane, they informed him of his rights, which he waived. Defendant told Investigator Greer that he and Lane stabbed each other during an argument, but he did not know who stabbed the other first. Denying that he would ever cut himself, defendant told Investigator Greer that all of his wounds had been inflicted by Lane. Defendant also said that after he got hit a couple of times, he “pulled” the knife and began swinging at her. After stabbing Lane, defendant left the row home to calm down. Unaware of the extent of his wounds, he intended to return, but he passed out.
Later the same day, Investigator Greer returned to the hospital to photograph defendant's hands because defendant had claimed he and Lane were stabbing each other, but he had no defensive wounds on his hands. Defendant consented, and Investigator Greer photographed his hands.
The police did not charge defendant with Lane's murder until January 22, 2008. They were unable to apprehend him for two days. On January 24, 2008, at five o'clock in the morning, defendant purchased a round-trip ticket for a flight from Atlantic City to Kingston, Jamaica with a stop in Florida. Florida authorities arrested defendant when his plane landed in Fort Lauderdale. The next day, Investigator Greer and Detective Reyes travelled to Florida and questioned defendant a second time. Defendant told Investigator Greer that throughout the day and night leading up to the homicide, Lane “kept leaving every minute with a friend of hers” who defendant characterized as her “Ex.” When Lane returned after one visit with her friend, defendant argued with her about taking care of the children, who were hungry. According to defendant, the argument escalated and “we [got] stabbed.” Defendant said, “I got stabbed, she got stabbed and that's all I can remember from there.”
Defendant blamed Naquia Rollins, a friend with whom Lane previously had an intimate relationship, for repeatedly interfering with, and jeopardizing, his relationship with Lane. Nevertheless, defendant did not believe Lane had resumed her affair with Rollins. Defendant eventually admitted that he stabbed Lane and then stabbed himself.
According to Rollins and the first and second floor residents of the row home where defendant lived, defendant had previously threatened Lane. Rollins testified about the threat defendant made the afternoon before he stabbed Lane. On the day before Lane's death, Rollins visited Lane for about twenty minutes early in the day, then returned later and drove Lane to a grocery store to get some milk. When they returned to the row home, defendant walked up to the van Rollins was driving and accused Rollins of lying to him on a previous occasion. According to Rollins, defendant said “he didn't like what was going on and that he would make sure that I never see her again and there was nothing nobody can do about it.”
Rollins and Lane drove away in the van, watched television at Lane's aunt's house, then returned to Lane's row home at approximately 9:45 p.m. While they talked inside the van, defendant came out of the row home, unbuckled Lane's seatbelt, and “grabbed her out of the car.” Rollins drove away. That was the last time Rollins saw Lane alive.
James Glover, who lived on the second floor of the row home, was sitting on the front porch when defendant returned from work. Later that evening, a white van “pulled up” with Lane in the passenger seat. Defendant emerged from the row home, walked to the white van, said something to Lane, then returned to the porch. He said to Glover, “I'm gonna kill that girl.” He then waited about two minutes, and went into the house.
Kimell Young, who owned the row home and lived on the first floor, talked to defendant while he was sitting on the front steps of the home the day before Lane's death. Lane was getting into Rollins' white van, and defendant was angry. Defendant told Young, “if [I] can't have her, nobody is gonna have her. I hate that bitch.” Young also testified that on a previous occasion defendant said the only way Lane would listen to him was if he shook her up, meaning that he had to push her around.
Defendant called one witness at trial, his sister. She testified that when defendant was discharged from the hospital he was so physically debilitated and mentally depressed that she could not care for him, so she suggested he return to their family in Jamaica where he could be properly cared for during his recuperation.
A Camden County grand jury charged defendant in an indictment with first-degree murder, N.J.S.A. 2C:11-3(a)(1) and (2) (count one); third-degree possession of a weapon for an unlawful purpose, N.J.S.A. 2C:39-4(d) (count two); fourth-degree unlawful possession of a weapon, N.J.S.A. 2C:39-5(d) (count three); and fourth-degree hindering apprehension or prosecution, N.J.S.A. 2C:29-3(b)(4) (count four). After he was indicted, defendant filed a motion to suppress the statements he had made in the Camden hospital and while in custody in Florida. Following three days of hearings, the court denied defendant's motion.
The court also conducted pre-trial hearings in which it ruled that the State could present the testimony of Young, Glover, and a first-floor boarder, Harry Winsch, concerning defendant's threats to harm Lane, and about the relationship defendant and Lane shared.
The trial took place on five non-consecutive days in September 2010. Defendant did not dispute that he stabbed Lane and then stabbed himself. Rather, he attempted to persuade the jury that he did not intend to kill Lane, but repeatedly stabbed her during an uncontrollable jealous rage caused by his fear that Lane might abandon him and the children and resume her relationship with Rollins.
The jury found defendant guilty on all counts. At sentencing, the court merged counts two and three into count one and sentenced defendant on count one to a forty-five year custodial term subject to NERA. The court also sentenced defendant to a concurrent eighteen-month prison term on count four, and imposed required fees and assessments.

State v. Lawrence, No. A-4252-10T2, 2013 WL 4045596, at *1-3 ( N.J.Super.Ct.App.Div. Aug. 12, 2013) (internal footnotes omitted).

         Following his conviction, Petitioner filed a direct appeal. See ECF No. 6-4 at 99. On August 12, 2013, the Appellate Division affirmed Petitioner's conviction and sentence, but remanded the matter for correction of the judgment of conviction to reflect the appropriate amount of jail credits. See Lawrence, 2013 WL 4045596, at *12-13. The New Jersey Supreme Court denied certification of Petitioner's direct appeal on March 20, 2014. State v. Lawrence, 88 A.3d 190 (N.J. 2014).

         Petitioner thereafter filed his petition for post-conviction relief (“PCR”) in state court raising several ineffective assistance of counsel claims. See ECF Nos. 6-14, 6-15. The petition was denied. See ECF No. 6-39. On appeal from the PCR court's denial, Petitioner challenged his trial counsel's alleged failure to: (1) investigate Petitioner's mental health at the time of the crime, and (2) review all of the discovery in the case. See State v. Lawrence, No. A-3917-14T1, 2016 WL 5210616, at *1 ( N.J.Super.Ct.App.Div. Sept. 22, 2016). The Appellate Division affirmed the PCR court's decision denying Petitioner relief. See id. at *3. The New Jersey Supreme Court denied certification. See State v. Lawrence, 169 A.2d 982 (N.J. 2017).

         In January 2017, Petitioner filed the instant habeas petition, pro se. See ECF No. 1. His application raises the following claims:

GROUND ONE: “The Defendant's statements were taken in violation of his constitutional rights against self-incrimination, and accordingly must be suppressed ((U.S. Const. Amends. V, XIV, N.J. Const. (1947), Art. I, Par. 10)”
GROUND TWO: “The trial court erred to defendant's prejudice in refusing to deliver a limiting instruction as to highly prejudicial evidence of prior statements by the defendant.”
GROUND THREE: “The Defendant was greatly prejudiced by baseless and unremediated testimony produced by the State that he had previously hit the victim”
GROUND FOUR: “The Appellant herein argues that the trial court erred in its ruling by admitting prior bad act evidence over trial counsel's objections and without limiting instructions in violation of his due process under both N.J. State and Federal Constitutional Amendments”
GROUND FIVE: “The Defendant will argue prosecutor misconduct for submitting overly prejudicial evidence during summation and through the use of State witnesses concerning the defendant's children walking in a pool of blood and lying downstairs near a pool of blood.”
GROUND SIX: “The Trial Court gave erroneous jury instructions concerning the jury confusion to clarify Count 4 as to attempt to leave the country on the 8th Day of January 2008.”
GROUND SEVEN: “Failure of the Trial Court to suppress the Defendant's First Statement to Investigators was error because it was not fully established that the Defendant's medication made him coherent to the questions presented which incriminated him.”
GROUND EIGHT: “Trial Counsel's Ineffectiveness for failing to investigate Defendant's ‘Mental Health Problem at the time of the crime.'” ECF No. 1-3.
GROUND NINE: “This matter must be remanded for findings of fact and conclusions of law regarding defendant's claim that trial counsel failed to review all the discovery.” ECF No. 7.


         A petition for writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254 is the proper mechanism for a state prisoner to challenge the fact or duration of his confinement where the petitioner claims his custody is in violation of the Constitution or the laws of the United States. See 28 U.S.C. § 2254(a); Cullen v. Pinholster, 563 U.S. 170, 181 (2011); Preiser v. Rodriquez, 411 U.S. 475, 498-99 (1973). A habeas petitioner bears the burden of establishing his entitlement to relief for each claim presented in the petition. See Harrington v. Richter, 562 U.S. 86, 98 (2011).

         The standard used in reviewing habeas claims under § 2254 depends on whether those claims have been adjudicated on the merits by the state court. If they have not been adjudicated on the merits, the Court reviews de novo both legal questions and mixed factual and legal questions. See Appel v. Horn, 250 F.3d 203, 210 (3d Cir. 2001). If the state court adjudicated the claim on the merits, then 2254(d) limits the review of the state court's decision as follows:

An application for a writ of habeas corpus on behalf of a person in custody pursuant to the judgment of a State court shall not be granted with respect to any claim that was adjudicated on the merits in State court proceedings unless the adjudication of the claim -
(1) resulted in a decision that was contrary to, or involved an unreasonable application of, clearly established Federal law, as determined by the Supreme Court of the United States; or
(2) resulted in a decision that was based on an unreasonable determination of the facts in light of the evidence presented in the State court proceeding . . . .

28 U.S.C. § 2254(d).

         If a claim has been adjudicated on the merits in state court, [1] this Court has “no authority to issue the writ of habeas corpus unless the [state court's] decision ‘was contrary to, or involved an unreasonable application of, clearly established Federal Law, as determined by the Supreme Court of the United States,' or ‘was based on an unreasonable determination of the facts in light of the evidence presented in the State court proceeding.'” Parker v. Matthews, 567 U.S. 37, 40 (2012) (quoting 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d)).

         A court begins the analysis under § 2254(d)(1) by determining the relevant law clearly established by the Supreme Court. See Yarborough v. Alvarado, 541 U.S. 652, 660 (2004). Clearly established law “refers to the holdings, as opposed to the dicta, of [the Supreme Court's] decisions as of the time of the relevant state-court decision.” Williams v. Taylor, 529 U.S. 362, 412 (2000). A court must look for “the governing legal principle or principles set forth by the Supreme Court at the time the state court renders its decision.” Lockyer v. Andrade, 538 U.S. 63, 71-72 (2003). “[C]ircuit precedent does not constitute ‘clearly established Federal law, as determined by the Supreme Court,' [and] therefore cannot form the basis for habeas relief under AEDPA.” Parker, 567 U.S. at 48-49 (quoting 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d)(1)).

         A decision is “contrary to” a Supreme Court holding within 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d)(1), if the state court applies a rule that “contradicts the governing law set forth in [the Supreme Court's] cases” or if it “confronts a set of facts that are materially indistinguishable from a decision of [the Supreme Court] and nevertheless arrives at a [different result.]” Williams, 529 U.S. at 405-06. Under the “‘unreasonable application' clause of § 2254(d)(1), a federal habeas court may grant the writ if the state court identifies the correct governing legal principle from [the Supreme Court's] decisions but unreasonably applies that principle to the facts of the prisoner's case.” Williams, 529 U.S. at 413. “[A]n unreasonable application of federal law, ” however, “is different from an incorrect application of federal law.” Harrington v. Richter, 562 U.S. 86, 101 (2011) (quoting Williams, 529 U.S. at 410).


         A. Denial of Petitioner's Motion to Suppress

         In Ground One, Petitioner alleges that the trial court erred in denying his motion to suppress two statements he made to police, arguing that both statements were taken in violation of his constitutional right against self-incrimination. See ECF No. 1-3 at 3. Petitioner contends that the first statement, which he provided to police while in the hospital on January 9, 2008, was a custodial interrogation for which he should have immediately been advised of his Miranda rights. See Id. Petitioner contends that his second statement, which he provided while he was in custody in Florida on January 25, 2008, was also invalid because the interviewing officers failed to advise him that he had been charged with murder. See id.

         i. Hospital Statement

         Petitioner asserts that when police visited him in the hospital on January 9, 2008, the entire encounter constituted a custodial interrogation, and, as such, he should have been advised of his Miranda rights prior to any questioning. See ECF No. 3-5. Petitioner states that he was, at all times, “in custody” in his hospital room because there were officers stationed outside of his door, he was physically unable to leave given his medical condition, and “[t]he questioning was entirely focused upon an incident in which the defendant's companion was stabbed to death, a fact which would leave no doubt in the mind of any rational person that he was or was becoming a focus on [sic] the police investigation.” See ECF No. 1-3 at 3-5. In denying this claim on direct appeal, the Appellate Division reasoned:

Considering the totality of circumstances in the case before us, we conclude the trial court did not err by denying defendant's suppression motion. Investigator Greer and Detective Reyes did not know that defendant had stabbed himself when they interviewed him in the hospital. Nothing at the crime scene and nothing that any witness had told the detectives suggested that defendant's wounds had been self-inflicted. One witness had given a statement that suggested a third party may have been involved in the stabbing. Although Investigator Greer and Detective Reyes admittedly considered defendant a suspect, the circumstances surrounding the homicide were anything but clear.
Defendant's confinement to a hospital bed due to his injuries did not present an atmosphere suggestive of custodial interrogation. As our Supreme Court has recognized, a hospital room is “totally lacking the ‘compelling atmosphere inherent in the process of in-custody interrogation.'” State v. Zucconi, 50 N.J. 361, 364 (1967) (quoting Miranda, supra, 384 U.S. at 478, 86 S.Ct. at 1630, 16 L.Ed.2d. at 726). And though police were posted at the door of defendant's room, defendant had confirmed with them, before Investigator Greer and Detective Reyes arrived to question him, that they were there for his protection. Investigator Greer made clear to defendant, almost immediately after Investigator Greer introduced himself and Detective Reyes, that defendant was not under arrest and, if capable, was free to leave.
Investigator Greer and Detective Reyes also explained to defendant that their purpose in speaking to him was to learn what happened at the row home. They did not make any accusations, and spoke with defendant less than five minutes before he told them that he and Lane stabbed each other.
[. . .]
Accordingly, we affirm the trial court's determination that Investigator Greer's initial questioning of defendant in the hospital room was not a custodial interrogation.

Lawrence, 2013 WL 4045596, at *7-8.

         The Fifth Amendment provides, in part, that no person “shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself.” See U.S. Const. amend. V. The Fourteenth Amendment incorporates the Fifth Amendment privilege against self-incrimination. See Malloy v. Hogan, 378 U.S. 1, 8 (1964). In Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436 (1966), the Supreme Court held that “without proper safeguards the process of in-custody interrogation ... contains inherently compelling pressures which work to undermine the individual's will to resist and to compel him to speak where he would not otherwise do so freely.” Id. at 467.

         However, Miranda warnings are required “only when the person police are questioning is in custody.” See United States v. Willaman, 437 F.3d 354, 659 (3d Cir. 2006) (citing Miranda, 384 U.S. at 468). A person is “in custody” for purposes of Miranda when “there is a ‘formal arrest or restraint on freedom of movement' of the degree associated with a formal arrest.” See California v. Beheler, 463 U.S. 1121, 1125 (1983) (quoting Oregon v. Mathiason, 429 U.S. 492, 495 (1977)). In the absence of a formal arrest, the proper inquiry to determine whether an individual is “in custody” is whether “in light of the objective circumstances of the interrogation, a reasonable person would have felt he or she was not at liberty to terminate the interrogation and leave.” See Howes v. Fields, 565 U.S. 499, 509 (2012) (internal quotations and citations omitted).

         Here, the record demonstrates that Petitioner was not “in custody” during his January 9th interview. At the hearing on Petitioner's motion to suppress, Investigator Greer testified that he visited Petitioner in the hospital in order to determine what had occurred the day of the crime. See ECF No. 6-4 at 71. Investigator Greer testified that although Petitioner was a suspect, he was “as much of a suspect as the victim and third-party present at the scene.” Id. Detective Reyes also testified at the suppression hearing and he corroborated Investigator Greer's statements. Id. at 72. Both officers stated that they visited Petitioner to find out what had happened to him and Jennifer Lane, and that as soon as Petitioner began to implicate himself, Investigator Greer immediately terminated the interview and advised Petitioner of his Miranda rights before proceeding further. Id. at 70, 72. The transcript of Petitioner's subsequent statement further validates the officers' testimony.

[INVESTIGATOR GREER]: Um, when we came in here this morning I came in here um, I told you that we were um investigating to find out what exactly happened to you, correct?
[INVESTIGATOR GREER]: And I advised you that you weren't under arrest um, at any time and um, you acknowledge that you understand that you're not under arrest is that correct?
[INVESTIGATOR GREER]: Okay, and um, when we were asking you what happened you apparently during the course of what started as an argument um, you stabbed um, what's your baby's mom name?
[PETITIONER]: Jennifer Lane
[INVESTIGATOR GREER]: Jennifer, you stabbed Jennifer, Jennifer stabbed you and you're not sure who stabbed who first?
[INVESTIGATOR GREER]: Okay. Um, before I go any further I'm going to advise you of your rights ....

See id. at 101.

         Petitioner also contends, however, that the presence of officers outside his door conveyed a restraint on his freedom. See ECF No. 1-3 at 4. Yet this assertion is belied by testimony of Investigator Greer, as well as by the transcript of Petitioner's statement that day. Investigator Greer's testimony included, in pertinent part:

[PROSECUTOR]: In the transcript, which I know defense counsel has and I provided to the court of that initial statement on January 9th, the defendant specifically makes reference to the officers outside his hospital room door.
[PROSECUTOR]: Could you explain that, what your understanding was of his understanding of why the officers were there?
[INVESTIGATOR GREER]: Yes, mention was made of the officers that were out front and I don't remember specifically whether it was initiated by myself and my partner, or it was by the defendant, but the officers being present came up. And the defendant shared with us that he actually was aware of the fact that they were only there to protect and watch him, that they weren't there to --and I'm paraphrasing when I say this -- to make sure that he didn't leave the room because he was free to come and go as he pleased, because he was not under arrest.
[PROSECUTOR]: And did the defendant actually say in the statement according to the transcript that he, himself, asked the officers why they were there?
[INVESTIGATOR GREER]: Yes, prior to us arriving.
[PROSECUTOR]: And that he was satisfied that from their response that they were there to watch over him in case anybody came.
[INVESTIGATOR GREER]: That's correct. I expounded upon that afterwards, yes.
[INVESTIGATOR GREER]: [. . .] The subject of the officers came up and I believe, more that I think about that it was actually me that initiated it, because his reply was that he was already aware of why they were there. I brought up the fact that the officers were there for his own safety, and he said yeah I asked them that and again, I'm paraphrasing this, I asked them that question why they were here before or earlier, and they shared with me they were there to protect you, to make sure nobody comes into your room or things of that nature. And I followed up by stating so you do understand you're not under arrest, you're free to go, they're here to protect you. And he acknowledged that he did.

ECF No. 6-27 at 32-34.

         The transcript of Petitioner's statement from January 9, 2008, also supports Investigator Greer's testimony. See ECF No. 6-4 at 114.

[INVESTIGATOR GREER]: Okay and just one last thing, the officer that you made reference to they are outside your door um, seeing them there you still, you understand that you are not under arrest?
[INVESTIGATOR GREER]: And you knew prior to us getting here you were not under arrest?
[INVESTIGATOR GREER]: And you could leave here any time you wanted if you were physically able?
[. . .]
[PETITIONER]: Because I ask them, they say sorry they say they just here to watch over me in case anybody to come

Id. (emphasis added).

         It is apparent from the record that Petitioner was aware that the officers outside of his hospital room were simply there to protect him, and that he knew the officers' presence was not to restrict his movement or prevent him from leaving the hospital.

         Finally, to the extent that Petitioner argues that a hospital room itself is an inherently coercive environment, this argument also fails. The mere fact that Petitioner was in a hospital is not itself determinative of whether he was “in custody” for the purposes of Miranda. See United States v. Overington, A-07-147, 2007 WL 3119843, at *4 (E.D. Pa. Oct. 24, 2007) (individuals are not “‘in custody' merely because they were interviewed by police in a hospital setting”). See also King v. Stewart, No. 17-1486, 2017 WL 5001407, at *2 (6th Cir. 2017) (holding that a defendant questioned by police while in the hospital was not “in custody”); Stechauner v. Smith, 852 F.3d 708, 715 (7th Cir. 2017) (same); United States v. Berres, 777 F.3d 1083, 1092 (10th Cir. 2015) (same); United States v. Infante, 701 F.3d 386, 396-98 (1st Cir. 2012); United States v. New, 491 F.3d 369, 373-74 (8th Cir. 2007); United States v. Jamison, 509 F.3d 623, 632 (4th Cir. 2007) (determining defendant questioned in a hospital setting was not in police custody when he was “primarily restrained not by the might of the police, but by his self-inflicted gunshot wound [and] the medical exigencies it created.”); United States v. Caldwell, Civ. No. 94-310-01, 1995 WL 461224, at *4 (E.D. Pa. Aug. 2, 1995), aff'd, 116 F.3d 470 (3d Cir. 1997) (holding that defendant was not in custody where he voluntarily checked into the hospital for treatment, he was not under arrest, and his freedom to “come and go” was not curtailed by the police).

         In the instant action, the totality of the circumstances demonstrates that Petitioner was aware that he was not under arrest, that he was free to leave, and that he was able terminate the interview at any time. See Howes, 565 U.S. at 509. Based upon the record and the testimony of Investigator Greer and Detective Reyes, reasonable jurists could conclude that Petitioner was not in custody when he was questioned by police at the hospital. Accordingly, the state court's determination of Petitioner's claim was not an unreasonable application of federal law. Petitioner is not entitled to relief on this claim.

         ii. Florida Statement

         Petitioner next argues that his statement to police while he was detained in Florida should also be suppressed. See ECF No. 1-3 at 5-6. Petitioner asserts that the State “failed to carry its burden, beyond a reasonable doubt, that [Petitioner] was advised or aware of the charges against him before that statement was taken.” Id. at 5. To support his claim, Petitioner points to the transcript of his statement in which the detectives never expressly informed him that he has been charged with murder. Id. at 6. Petitioner contends that Investigator Greer's testimony at the suppression hearing that he did, in fact, inform Petitioner of the pending murder charge prior to the start of the interview “is not borne out by a close examination of the evidence.” Id. Although not explicitly stated, Petitioner appears to be alleging that the officers' failure to inform him of the murder charge against him invalidates his statement. See id.

         The Appellate Division denied this claim on direct appeal, reasoning, in pertinent part:

Investigator Greer testified that he and Detective Reyes flew to Florida and interviewed defendant in the Broward County Correctional Facility. On the day they interviewed defendant, when they entered the correctional facility's interview room, defendant was already seated. According to Detective Reyes, as they were walking in, defendant asked them why he had been charged with murder.
Investigator Greer testified that he informed defendant of the murder charge “[i]n the very beginning of the interview when we initially met in the interview room.” Defendant asked why he had been charged with murder. According to Investigator Greer, defendant said something, in the form of either a question or statement, that led Investigator Greer to believe that defendant knew of the murder charges. Investigator Greer explained that the exchange occurred before he was able to set up his tape recorder.
In its written decision, the trial court concluded defendant knew of the charges. The court found that defendant expressed his knowledge of the charges as the officers entered the interview room and that defendant did so before the officers could start a tape recorder. The court also found that nothing in defendant's statement or conduct suggested a hint he was unaware that he had been charged with murder.
The court's findings are supported by sufficient credible evidence in the record. In view of the deference that we owe to the trial court's factual determinations, we decline to accept defendant's invitation to reject the court's findings. See State v. Locurto, 157 N.J. 463, 471-72 (1999). Rather, we affirm the denial of defendant's suppression motion. The trial court did not err by admitting the statement at trial.

Lawrence, 2013 WL 4045596, at *8.

         Miranda requires four invariable warnings that suspects must receive prior to being questioned:

(1) that [a suspect] has the right to right to remain silent, (2) that anything he says or does can be used against him in a court of law, (3) that he has the right to the presence of an attorney, and (4) that if he cannot afford an attorney one will be ...

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