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QUESTIONING OF SUSPECTS COMES UNDER FIRE IN QUEENS: Queens DA’s Program of Interviewing Suspects Deemed “Misleading and Deceptive” – and a Ruling Considered a Major Victory in Protecting the Rights of Defendants

 

On April 16th, a major victory was won for criminal defendants in Queens – and perhaps across the country – when Acting Supreme Court Justice Joel Blumenfeld admonished the Queens District Attorney’s Office for an Ethical Violation of the Code of Professional Conduct for the manner in which their office was interviewing defendants prior to their arraignment in Criminal Court.  The Perez decision (cite: https://www.nylj.com/nylawyer/adgifs/decisions/041812blumenfeld.pdf)  was an important ruling that not only protects criminal defendants and their right to be free from coercive government questioning, but goes a long way to protect a defendants Constitutional Rights against self-incrimination.

This groundbreaking case and important decision centered on the Queens DA’s Office policy of taking defendants out of their holding cells prior to arraignment and, most importantly, prior to their chance to speak with an attorney —  and reading them a preamble script prior to advising them of their Miranda rights … and thereafter talking to defendants about the incident if they agreed.

In the script in question (again, read to defendants prior to reading them their Miranda warnings, and taking them out of their holding cells to read this script to them), Queens Assistant District Attorneys were advising defendants that “If your version of the events of that day is different from what we have heard, this is your opportunity to tell us your story.  If there is something you would like us to investigate concerning this incident, you must tell us now so we can look into it.” [emphasis added.]  “This will be the only opportunity you will have to talk to me prior to your arraignment on these charges . [emphasis added.]

Finding the script flawed, Blumenfeld found it contained statements that gave suspects “a false sense of urgency” that they had to talk to prosecutors “now or never.”  In the Perez case, the Court ruled that the People’s failure to live up to the promises to investigate the defendant’s version of the facts as made in the preamble constituted acts involving dishonesty, fraud, deception or misrepresentation in violation of Rule 8.4 (c) of the Rules of Professional Conduct. In this case, the defendant gave information that the District Attorney’s Office promised to investigate and never wound up doing — thus in direct violation of Rule 8.4(c). The Court sanctioned the District Attorney’s Office by precluding them from using the statement against Mr. Perez at any subsequent trial.

This ruling has now help ensure that defendants charged in Queens County will not be misled or forced into giving inculpatory statements under false pretenses – and is important in bringing to light the issue, and question, of the legality of courthouse interviews.  At Collins, McDonald & Gann, we are committed to ensuring that the Constitutional rights of criminal defendants are protected at all times – and continue to stay on top of this issue to ensure that no criminal defendant is ever forced to give statements under false pretenses and that they remain protected by New York State’s Rules of Professional Conduct throughout the entire process.

For more about this decision: https://www.newyorklawjournal.com/PubArticleNY.jsp?id=1202549241241&slreturn=1

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