United States District Court, D. New Jersey
Lawrence, Petitioner pro se
Diane Brigham Counsel for Respondents
L. HILLMAN, U.S.D.J.
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.
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
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
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
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).
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).
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.
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
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
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.
STANDARD OF REVIEW
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).
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
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;
(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).
claim has been adjudicated on the merits in state court,
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)).
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)).
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).
Denial of Petitioner's Motion to Suppress
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.
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
Lawrence, 2013 WL 4045596, at *7-8.
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.
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).
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'
[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
[INVESTIGATOR GREER]: Okay. Um, before I go any further
I'm going to advise you of your rights ....
See id. at 101.
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.
[INVESTIGATOR GREER]: Yes.
[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
[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
ECF No. 6-27 at 32-34.
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).
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
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).
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.
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
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
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.
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 ...