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Law School Case Brief

People v. Rogers - 48 N.Y.2d 167, 422 N.Y.S.2d 18, 397 N.E.2d 709 (1979)

Rule:

Once an attorney has entered the proceeding, thereby signifying that the police should cease questioning, defendant in custody may not be further interrogated in the absence of counsel.

Facts:

Defendant Herbert L. Rogers was arrested in his home on Dec. 16, 1975 at about 10:15 a.m. as a suspect in a liquor store robbery committed by two youths on Feb. 7, 1975. Defendant was handcuffed, placed in a patrol car and taken to the robbery squad in Mineola. At the time of arrest, and again at police headquarters, Miranda warnings were administered. Defendant informed the police that he had an attorney but that he was willing to speak in the absence of the attorney. After a two-hour period of interrogation in which defendant denied complicity in the crime, the police received a communication from his attorney instructing them to cease further questioning. Thereafter, the police asked no further questions about the robbery but, under a purported waiver of defendant's rights, continued to question concerning unrelated activities in which he had not participated. These queries continued for approximately four hours after the communication from his attorney. During this entire period, defendant was manacled. After inquiries ceased, the police completed the paper work necessary to process defendant and no further information was sought. Defendant then uttered an inculpatory statement which was overheard by one of the detectives who had been questioning him. At trial in New York state court, defendant's motion to suppress the statement was denied on the ground that the assertion was spontaneously volunteered. Defendant was convicted of robbery in the first degree and, upon plea of guilty, of burglary in the third degree.

Issue:

Should the trial have granted the motion to suppress evidence of the inculpatory statement?

Answer:

Yes.

Conclusion:

The state's highest court reversed defendant's conviction for robbery and burglary, holding that defendant's constitutional right against self-incrimination was violated and because defendant's statements were not voluntary. The court held that once defendant was represented by an attorney, the police could not elicit from him any statements, except those necessary for processing or his physical needs. According to the court, all interrogation had to cease and no further questioning could occur on any crimes unless the attorney was present. The court further held that the police could not seek a waiver of this right, except in the presence of counsel. The court also found that defendant's rights were violated because the police were instructed by counsel not to interrogate defendant and the police continued questioning on unrelated crimes. Next, the court held that defendant's inculpatory statements did not fit within the spontaneously volunteered statement exception because the spontaneity was not genuine and was the result of inducement, encouragement, or acquiescence. Due to defendant's age, education, and the coercive atmosphere, the court held that the statements were not voluntary.

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