Thursday, February 5, 2015

Admissibility of a Confession or Prior Statement by the Court of a Defendant Admitting Guilt Does Not End the Discussion

Many inculpatory statements (admitting guilt), admitted by the court does not end the discussion.  To often criminal defense attorneys will file a miranda motion to exclude the statement from being admitted into evidence, but fail to argue to the judge or jury, whatever the case may be, that the statement, although admissible, is not reliable.  What do I mean by that?  Reliability simply means whether the statement is truthful.  Most laymen would be shocked to learn that a large majority of suspects admit to crimes for which they are innocent, and that the confession is false.  Most people would be shocked to learn that innocent people often admit to crimes which they did not commit.

People confession to crimes for various reasons, both for practical (which they later learned was not practical), or for psychological reasons.  Most often it is a combination of the too.

In 25-years of criminal practice this New Jersey criminal defense attorney has experienced a large number of defendants who had confessed to a crime or unlawful conduct in which they were innocent.  In fact, because of the sophistication of the jury and the fact that took their reasonable doubt oath seriously, they recognized that the confession was false, and entered verdicts of not guilty. .   

To begin this discussion we must start with the suspect’s first encounter with law enforcement. The suspect being confronted with law enforcement questioning experience various emotions which sometimes lead to the idea that the quickest way out of the situation is to tell the cop what he wants to hear, cooperate, and he will give me a brake. Of the course the brake never comes and the suspect is cuffed and every charge that the cop can think of will be charged.

The emotions that the suspect faces, especially a suspect who has never had any previous encounter with law enforcement, are numerous, such as jail, having to post bail, embarrassment, fear, anxiety, intimidation by the questioning cop, psychological and physical pressure by the cop, having to tell family and spouse, expense of hiring a lawyer, the loss of a job or profession, divorce, loss of child custody, publicity, notifying ones employer and embarrassment of co-workers finding out, which all lead to the false conclusion that the best way to eliminate all or some of these future problems is telling the cop what he wants to hear.

In addition, it is not unheard of for a law enforcement to use physical coercion.  Such as a suspect being dragged out of his home in the freezing cold without a coat or cuffed outside in the cold sitting outside on a sidewalk, until a confession or consent to search is obtained from the suspect.

In New Jersey our courts have long recognized that sometimes people confess to crimes that they did not commit.  Even if the trial court admits a confession the State must still produce at trial, “independent proof of facts and circumstances which strengthen or bolster the confession and tend to generate a belief in its trustworthiness, plus independent proof of loss or injury.” (such as a dead body or injured victim).  State v. Lucas, 30 N.J. 37, 56 (1959)  This requirement is to help insure that an innocent man is not convicted “solely out of his own mouth of a crime that never occurred or a crime committed by someone else.”  State v. Johnson, 31 N.J.  489, 502-503 (1960)

Lastly, the failure of a trial court to advise a jury of this requirement, that the confession must be corroborative, will result in a reversal of the conviction. State v. Roach, 146 N.J. 208, 229 (1996)

Before you decide in hiring a criminal defense attorney who should carefully review the lawyers qualifications, experience and professional results before you make this important decision.

Quote and thought for the day:
“It is not enough to demand justice. Justice, as Our Lord taught, is to be hungered and thirsted after as a means of wellbeing. Just as hunger and thirst can never be forever satisfied in this life, neither can the requirement for the divine gift of justice.” Sean Fitzpatrick

277 North Broad Street
P.O. Box 261
Elizabeth (Union County), New Jersey 07207
Office Phone No. (908) 354-7006
Cell Phone No.   (201) 240-5716
Dated:  February 5, 2015

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