Sometimes the defense news we get leaves the average citizen wondering what in the world...what were the Judges thinking when they made their decision? The average citizen can be excused their disbelieving stares when the decision appears to fly in the face of something they thought they understood.
A recent decision by the NJ Supreme Court involving whether there was a violation of a defendant's right to remain silent during a murder investigation, is exactly the type of decision that leaves the average citizen questioning the sanity of the legal profession. A lay person does not look to the fine distinctions that we lawyers often draw to differentiate our client's case from the precedent that controls the outcome. We can split a hair and argue the issues until the cows come home, without losing sight of the specific fine point we are pursuing.
As lawyers, we can understand (while we may disagree with the outcome) that there is a distinction upon which the Court rendered it's decision. 'We the People' however (read that as 'average citizen') have difficulty understanding that it is OK for the police to aggressively interrogate an anxious, isolated and legally uneducated suspect for 10 hours, and for the resulting statement to be admissible in Court, when the suspect asked repeatedly to speak to his mother, and the request was refused repeatedly, and instead the police continued to subject the suspect to the 'overt and inherent psychological pressures of a police-dominated atmosphere'.
There was a time when the law was simpler to understand, and the lines of permissible interrogation more clear to the uninformed citizen. I agree with Justice Albin's dissent on this one, despite my 25-year career in law enforcement. Just because the suspect did not speak in the clipped, precise language of a lawyer, saying 'I want a Lawyer' does not mean that the suspect knowingly and voluntarily waived his rights against self-incrimination. Hopefully, I will awaken soon and realize that this defense news was just a bad dream...
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