Police interrogations must end once suspects claim Miranda rights, court rules

By: - November 16, 2022 1:28 pm

Police can’t interrogate suspects after they ask for an attorney, the New Jersey Supreme Court unanimously ruled Wednesday in their latest decision on Miranda rights. (Photo by Andrew Brookes/Getty Images)

Police can’t interrogate suspects after they ask for an attorney, the New Jersey Supreme Court unanimously ruled Wednesday in their latest decision on Miranda rights.

Justice Lee Solomon, writing for the court, reversed the murder conviction of a Passaic County man who made incriminating statements during an interrogation by Paterson police who ignored his request to talk to his lawyer.

The state’s case against Jamal Wade was largely circumstantial, so incriminating statements he made during the illicit interrogation harmed him, said Solomon, who remanded the case for a new trial.

“While police may extract such statements through interrogation, they must do so within the confines of the law,” Solomon wrote. “We are satisfied that did not happen in this case. We conclude therefore that only a new trial, one untainted by defendant’s unlawfully obtained admissions, can rectify the detectives’ failure to honor defendant’s Miranda rights.”

Solomon’s ruling reversed trial and appellate court decisions in the case.

It comes after two decisions the court made earlier this year revolving around the Miranda warning, a 55-word reminder officers must read to people apprising them of their rights to remain silent and have attorney representation.

In May, the court ruled that police who read suspects their rights before interrogations cannot then lie or contradict the Miranda warning to entice them to talk or confess. In March, the court decreed that Miranda requires officers to tell suspects only about existing charges they face, not charges they may face in the future.

In Wade’s case, Paterson police investigating the September 2016 shooting death of Cosmeik Gee identified Wade and another man as suspects after reviewing surveillance footage, according to the ruling.

After his arrest, Wade told detectives: “I got a lawyer. I don’t — yeah. Let me talk to him … I don’t need to tell you s— if I ain’t under arrest.”

That’s where the interrogation should have ended, Solomon wrote, but detectives continued questioning Wade, who admitted he was the man in the surveillance footage. Wade then was indicted for murder, conspiracy, and weapons offenses.

A jury eventually convicted him on all counts, and a judge sentenced him to 40 years in prison without parole. He appealed, saying he didn’t waive his Miranda rights so his statements should have been suppressed and police failed to inform him of the charges he faced and lied that he wasn’t under arrest.

John Bruno Jr., whose Rutherford law firm represented Wade, said the decision reinforces Miranda as an inviolable protection of people’s civil rights.

“He mentioned on multiple occasions, ‘I have a lawyer, I want to speak to my lawyer,’ but the police misled him, and they said, ‘you’re not suspect.’ They knew he was. They said, ‘you’re not under arrest, and you’re free to speak to us,'” Bruno said. “They used bad police tactics to extract a statement from him that the Supreme Court ruled was inadmissible. I’m so proud that the constitutional safeguards have been highlighted in this decision.”


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Dana DiFilippo
Dana DiFilippo

Dana DiFilippo comes to the New Jersey Monitor from WHYY, Philadelphia’s NPR station, and the Philadelphia Daily News, a paper known for exposing corruption and holding public officials accountable. Prior to that, she worked at newspapers in Cincinnati, Pittsburgh, and suburban Philadelphia and has freelanced for various local and national magazines, newspapers and websites. She lives in Central Jersey with her husband, a photojournalist, and their two children.