People v. White

Decision Date20 March 2008
Docket NumberNo. 38.,38.
Citation10 N.Y.3d 286,886 N.E.2d 156
PartiesThe PEOPLE of the State of New York, Respondent, v. Gary WHITE, Appellant.
CourtNew York Court of Appeals Court of Appeals
OPINION OF THE COURT

CIPARICK, J.

This appeal requires us to determine whether defendant's post-Miranda statements made to the police after being subjected to a brief period of un-Mirandized custodial interrogation, or its functional equivalent, should have been suppressed. Under the circumstances of this case, we conclude that suppression was not required and the post-Miranda statements were properly received in evidence.

Facts

The evidence at trial reveals that on June 1, 2002, at approximately 8:30 p.m., defendant Gary White shot and killed Albert Hansen on Flatbush Avenue in Brooklyn. Detectives Frank Byrne and Robert Sommer were assigned to investigate the shooting. A week later, on June 9, 2002, at approximately 2:00 a.m., Police Officer Joseph Conde, responding to an unrelated domestic violence complaint made by defendant's girlfriend, arrested defendant. At the time of defendant's arrest, he was intoxicated. Defendant's girlfriend advised Conde that defendant was involved in the Flatbush Avenue shooting. She described a construction area that corresponded to the location where Hansen had been shot twice in the head. Later that morning, Conde informed Byrne that defendant's girlfriend had implicated White in the Flatbush Avenue shooting. Byrne then brought defendant's girlfriend to the precinct to confirm the allegation.

That evening, at approximately 7:30 p.m., after spending over 17 hours in a holding cell (much of it sleeping) defendant was placed in a lineup. The only witness to the shooting was a female companion who had been walking alongside the victim when the shooting occurred, and she was unable to identify defendant from the lineup. At approximately 9:30 p.m., defendant was brought to an office for questioning by the detectives. Once there, defendant inquired why he had been placed into a lineup. In response, Sommer produced a computer generated arrest photograph of the victim. Defendant responded, "What about him?" Byrne stated "he was killed, and he was either killed in cold blood, or there was a reason for it." Defendant was then asked whether he would "like to tell his side of the story," and he responded, "I'll tell you everything. Get me Newports and a Pepsi." This initial exchange took approximately five minutes without any Miranda warnings.

Byrne then left the office to procure the requested items while Sommer remained with defendant, engaging in small talk. Byrne returned 15 to 20 minutes later and allowed defendant to drink his soda and smoke a cigarette. At approximately 10:00 p.m., Byrne read defendant his Miranda rights from a card. Defendant acknowledged that he understood his rights and signed and dated the card. Defendant also indicated his willingness to speak with the detectives.

Initially, defendant's statements as to his whereabouts on the day of the shooting were exculpatory. Defendant told the detectives that, on that date, he was in Queens visiting a friend from 7:30 p.m. until the next morning. The detectives explained to defendant that they knew his alibi was fabricated and that he should tell the truth.* In response, defendant rolled up his sleeves and showed the detectives large scars on both arms. Defendant stated that Hansen caused the injuries during a mugging, allegedly committed 16 or 17 years earlier. He further indicated that on the day of the shooting, Hansen had again robbed and threatened to kill him. When he saw Hansen walking down Flatbush Avenue with another person later that day, he ran up to them, pushed the other person aside, and shot Hansen twice.

At the detective's request, defendant provided a written statement but omitted the shooting. When confronted by the detectives regarding the omission, defendant prepared a second handwritten statement in which he admitted to shooting the victim. After defendant completed his written accounts of the shooting, he was provided with a meal, consumed it and then felt ill, but did not request medical treatment. Defendant agreed to give a videotaped confession and at approximately 1:30 a.m., on June 10, 2002, an assistant district attorney again advised defendant of his Miranda rights, this time on videotape. At the conclusion of the Miranda warnings, defendant for the first time requested counsel, at which time the videotaping ceased.

At the suppression hearing, defendant asserted that the pre-Miranda exchange with the police constituted an interrogation. Defendant further claimed that there was no attenuation between the initial interrogation, the subsequent administration of Miranda rights and the "Mirandized" statements.

Supreme Court initially ruled that although there was probable cause to arrest defendant based upon the domestic dispute, the detectives' actions were accusatory and, therefore, the request for defendant to tell his "side of the story" before the administration of Miranda warnings tainted his subsequent statements. The court further held that the 15 to 20 minute break between the pre- and post-Miranda actions was insufficient to purge the taint from the post-Miranda statements because defendant remained at all times in the presence and custody of the same detectives who made the initial accusations. The court expressed concern that the People failed to sustain their burden to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that defendant's statements were voluntary and that he had been properly provided with food and bathroom facilities during his detention before questioning commenced.

Upon the People's motion to renew and reargue, Supreme Court vacated, in part, its initial ruling, holding that defendant's pre-Miranda statements should remain suppressed, but the court reversed its decision as to the post-Miranda statements, finding them admissible. At the close of proof, the jury convicted defendant of second degree murder, and the court sentenced him to an indeterminate prison term of 22 years to life.

On appeal, defendant asserted that the court should have suppressed, as involuntary, his post-Miranda statements because they were the result of a continuing custodial interrogation that began before the administration of Miranda warnings. Defendant further asserted that suppression of the post-Miranda statements was warranted under People v. Chapple, 38 N.Y.2d 112, 378 N.Y.S.2d 682, 341 N.E.2d 243 (1975) as the statements were given without a pronounced break. The Appellate Division affirmed the conviction, concluding that defendant had been subjected to "a brief period of custodial interrogation or its functional equivalent" (40 A.D.3d 662, 663, 836 N.Y.S.2d 204 [2007]). However, because defendant made "no inculpatory statement, or any statement relating to his conduct in connection with the crime under investigation, until after warnings had been properly given and waived," the court, relying on People v. Paulman, 5 N.Y.3d 122, 800 N.Y.S.2d 96, 833 N.E.2d 239 (2005), held that there was "no need to determine whether the pre- and post-Miranda sessions were part of a `single continuous chain of events'" (id.). A Judge of this Court granted leave to appeal, and we now affirm on different grounds.

Discussion

In Chapple, we held that in order for Miranda warnings "to be effective . . . [they] must precede the subjection of a defendant to questioning. Later is too late, unless there is such a definite, pronounced break in the interrogation that the defendant may be said to have returned, in effect, to the status of one who is not under the influence of questioning" (38 N.Y.2d at 115, 378 N.Y.S.2d 682, 341 N.E.2d 243).

In Paulman, we stated that in order

"[t]o determine whether there is a `single continuous chain of events' under Chapple, New York courts have considered a number of factors, including the time differential between the Miranda violation and the subsequent admission; whether the same police personnel were present and involved in eliciting each statement; whether there was a change in the location or nature of the interrogation; the circumstances surrounding the Miranda violation, such as the extent of the improper questioning; and whether, prior to the Miranda violation, defendant had indicated a willingness to speak to police. No one factor is determinative and each case must be viewed on its unique facts. The purpose of the inquiry is to assess where there was a sufficiently `definite, pronounced break in the interrogation' to dissipate the taint from the Miranda violation. If so, the Mirandized statement is admissible at trial despite the prior, unwarned statement" (5 N.Y.3d at 130-131, 800 N.Y.S.2d 96, 833 N.E.2d 239 [emphasis added and citation omitted]).

Defendant here made no statement that was either inculpatory or related to the shooting until after the Miranda warnings had been properly administered by Byrne and after he had properly waived his Miranda rights. As we held in People v. Kinnard, 62 N.Y.2d 910, 912, 479 N.Y.S.2d 2, 467 N.E.2d 886 (1984), "the absence of any incriminating responses to . . . police questioning" can be one of several factors supporting a conclusion that post-Miranda confessions are not tainted. The absence of pre-Mirandized inculpatory statements alone cannot, however, preclude an inquiry as to whether the pre- and post-Miranda sessions were part of a continuous chain of events as suggested by the Appellate Division.

Applying the Paulman factors and examining the circumstances surrounding the Miranda violation, defendant's post-Miranda statements are admissible. In contrast to Chapple and People v. Bethea, 67 N.Y.2d 364, 502 N.Y.S.2d 713, 493 N.E.2d 937 (1986), where defendants were...

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