I am representing a 16 year old boy charged, by his association with a group of other youths, with multiple counts of Murder, Robbery, and Assault. He was present, along with 30 to 100 others, in the surrounding area where a murder took place. He was arrested at 4:45 am at JFK Airport and brought to the 104th precinct for questioning. At the time of his arrest, he had a valid plane ticket to visit his ailing father in the Dominican Republic.
At the precinct, he was questioned for over 10 hours. The detectives attempted to read him of his Miranda rights when the boy told them he did not speak English. They then located another detective who spoke fluent Spanish and, 4 hours after his arrest, he was read his Miranda rights in Spanish. The boy responded that he understood his rights and agreed to talk with the detective. He was given a bagel to eat and some water to drink. The entire interview took place over 10 hours. During those 10 hours. the boy gave confessions, which were later repeated to two Assistant District Attorneys in the interview room.
A hearing was conducted to determine whether the confessions made by the boy were voluntarily given. According to the detectives, the boy never asked to speak to a lawyer, or call a parent or other family member, so that a lawyer could be retained for him. The detective also testified that none of the boy’s family members, or an attorney called the precinct.
When I cross examined the detective, he admitted that the boy had indeed asked to call his mother but the detective refused to allow him access to a phone!!!! He claimed he knew the boy’s mother was en route to the Dominican Republic but did not know if the boy’s mother had a cell phone!!!! The detective never gave the boy the opportunity to call any other family members or friends.
The Judge watched the taped interview and, in a thoughtful decision, concluded that the boy did not voluntarily, knowingly and intelligently waive his right to remain silent. The Judge reasoned that although the boy stated he understood his right to remain silent, based on his demeanor and behavior, the boy did not understand the importence of the rights he was giving up. The Judge went on to explain that during the entire 10 hour interview not a single officer made any effort to let the boy’s family members know that he was at this precinct being questioned. The Judge also said that in the videotape of the interview, the boy appeared nonchalant and seemingly unaware of the significance of the confessions he was making. While he was alone in the interrogation room, he played air basketball – dribbling an invisible basketball and shooting into an imaginary basket on the walls. The Judge concluded considering all of the circumstances of the case it would not have been difficult for the police to provide this boy with the opportunity to reach out to any other family member in order to let them know where he was.
The Judge also concluded that law enforcement unfairly took advantage of this youthful defendant under these circumstances and that this boy did not knowingly and intelligently understand his Miranda rights. Consequently, the District Attorney cannot use any of the boy’s confessions at the trial.
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