State v. Knight

CourtUnited States State Supreme Court (New Jersey)
Citation878 A.2d 855,185 NJ 35
Decision Date08 June 2005

878 A.2d 855
185 NJ 35

STATE OF NEW JERSEY, Plaintiff-Appellant,


Supreme Court of New Jersey

Argued January 31, 2005

Decided June 8, 2005


Maura K. Tully, Deputy Attorney General, argued the cause for appellant (Peter C.Harvey, Attorney General of New Jersey, attorney).

Michael C. Kazer, Designated Counsel, argued the cause for respondent (Yvonne Smith Segars, Public Defender, attorney).

The opinion of the court was delivered by:


In this appeal we determine whether two trial courts properly denied defendant's separate motions to suppress his incriminating statements. Defendant made his initial statement to the police after being arrested for the fatal shooting of a taxi driver. A short while after his statement about the shooting, defendant admitted his involvement in several robberies. Defendant subsequently made separate motions to suppress those statements. In each case, the trial court denied the motion and found that defendant knowingly, intelligently, and voluntarily gave his statement. Defendant was tried for the shooting of the taxi driver and at the conclusion of his trial, a jury found defendant guilty of first-degree murder and other offenses. Defendant then entered into a plea agreement with the State and pled guilty to several robberies. On appeal, the Appellate Division reversed both convictions after concluding that defendant's confessions were involuntarily obtained. We granted certification and now hold that, under the totality of the circumstances, the trial court properly found that defendant's statement concerning the shooting was voluntary. We need not address the voluntariness of his confession to the robberies because defendant pled guilty to the robbery charges without reservation. R. 3:9-3(f).


We recite the pertinent facts developed at the hearings on the motions to suppress evidence, at the trial, and at the plea hearing. Between December 28, 2000, and January 23, 2001, defendant, Shamsid Knight, was involved in a series of robberies in Newark. On December 28, 2000, defendant robbed the Hudson City Savings Bank on Seventh Avenue; on January 4, 2001, he robbed the Valley National Bank on Ferry Street; on January 10, 2001, he robbed the Bank of New York at One Riverfront Plaza; and on January 23, 2001, he first robbed the West Market Laundromat while threatening the use of a firearm and then robbed the Gibraltar Savings Bank on South Orange Avenue. In all of those bank robberies, defendant gave the teller a note demanding money and, in the Valley National Bank robbery, defendant threatened the use of a shot gun.

Later on January 23, 2001, defendant was a passenger in a Lincoln Navigator taxi cab. Defendant had the taxi driver take him from a friend's house in Jersey City to New York City to buy drugs. When he returned to New Jersey in the early morning of January 24, 2001, defendant directed the taxi driver to stop at Kim Smith's residence in Newark. Upon arriving at the residence, defendant exited the cab and called for Smith's son to come outside. Smith, peering from the window, recognized defendant and was frightened by his conduct. She called 911 and reported the incident. Defendant returned to the Navigator.

Newark police officers Altemise Scott and Calvin Parkman responded to Smith's 911 call. When they arrived, they observed the Navigator pulling out of the driveway. The officers pursued the Navigator until it eventually pulled to the side of the road. Once the Navigator came to a halt, Officer Parkman exited his vehicle and approached, when suddenly a shot rang out from the passenger side of the vehicle. Both officers, thinking the shot was directed at them, returned fire. Another shot was fired inside the Navigator, and the vehicle pulled away, swerving down the road and striking the median. After traveling about three blocks, several more shots were fired from the direction of the Navigator. Finally, it stopped and again the officers approached the vehicle where they saw the bloody body of the driver slumped over the steering wheel. Defendant, who was positioned halfway between the driver's side and the passenger's side of the vehicle, was holding a firearm and was wearing only a short sleeve T-shirt and an athletic supporter. The officers instructed defendant to drop the weapon and get down on the ground. Defendant did so. The officers handcuffed defendant and placed him in the patrol car.

At approximately 4:30 a.m., Detective John Melillo arrived at the scene and observed defendant sitting in the patrol car. Defendant remained in the patrol car until he was taken to Newark Police Headquarters for interrogation. At the station, he was given a hospital gown and a pair of socks.

Homicide Investigator Richard Gregory arrived at the scene of the shooting around 5:10 a.m. By then defendant was no longer present. During the investigation, Gregory and Melillo noticed the victim's body was still in the Navigator. In addition, they found a gun and clothes scattered nearby.

Gregory returned to headquarters around sunrise. Before interviewing defendant about the incident, Gregory advised defendant of his Miranda1 rights. Defendant agreed to speak with the police. The precise time the interview began is not in the record, but the initial interrogation concluded around 9:45 a.m., when Gregory left to interview another witness. Gregory returned to continue the interview at around 10:45 a.m.

By 12:00 p.m. Gregory believed he had enough information to take a formal statement. He again advised defendant of his Miranda rights and at 12:10 p.m. defendant signed the Miranda waiver form. Gregory would later testify that before beginning the formal questions and answers, he gave defendant a soda and a bag of chips. From 12:15 p.m. to 3:20 p.m. defendant gave a statement in question and answer format to Melillo. In that statement, defendant admitted that when the police officers began following the Navigator, he flashed his gun and instructed the driver not to stop the vehicle. He said the driver tried to take the gun from him and a single shot was fired from his gun. He also told the police that he intended to fire the first shot at the driver, which struck the driver on the right side of his head. As the driver slumped over, defendant leaned over to control the vehicle and he fired several accidental shots in the direction of the driver. After the police began shooting at his vehicle, defendant decided to undress and toss his clothes out the window. He explained that he removed his clothes to pretend he had been robbed, and because he was hot from having "smoked a couple of blunts." When he completed his statement around 3:20 p.m., defendant was taken to a cell.

Meanwhile, Detective Michael DeMaio noticed a photograph of defendant on another detective's desk and recognized him as a suspect in several bank robberies. Sometime between 4:15 p.m. and 4:30 p.m., DeMaio visited defendant's cell, advised him of his Miranda rights, and displayed a photograph from a bank surveillance camera depicting defendant robbing the bank. Defendant agreed to give another statement. He was again advised of his Miranda rights. Conceding that he was the person in the picture, defendant signed the back of the photograph. That interrogation began a few minutes after 4:37 p.m. and lasted until 12:40 a.m. DeMaio and another investigator questioned defendant about five robberies and defendant confessed to four of them.

Defendant's first statement, which related to the January 23, 2001, robbery of the Gibraltar Savings Bank, was given between 4:37 p.m. and 5:40 p.m. DeMaio transcribed the interview by typing the questions and defendant's answers. At some point, defendant was provided with a soda and a turkey sandwich, of which he ate half. Although one of defendant's arms had been handcuffed to his chair during the initial robbery interrogation, the handcuffs were removed during the break. The interview resumed at around 6:30 p.m. and continued until 7:45 p.m. At that time, defendant admitted that two weeks before he had robbed the Bank of New York. Defendant also identified a surveillance photograph that showed him robbing the bank. Following a break between 7:45 p.m. and 8:45 p.m., DeMaio asked defendant additional questions about the handgun he carried during the Bank of New York robbery.

The third statement was taken from 9:15 p.m. to 10:20 p.m. and concerned the robbery of the Valley National Bank on January 4, 2001. The fourth statement was taken between 10:35 p.m. and 11:20 p.m. and concerned the robbery of the Hudson City Savings Bank on December 28, 2000. Defendant again identified a surveillance photograph of himself at the scene of the robbery.

Finally, from 12:15 a.m. until 12:40 a.m., defendant clarified some of his statements about the clothing he wore during one of the robberies. According to DeMaio, defendant was allowed to eat, drink, take a bathroom break, and smoke several cigarettes at various times during the interrogation process.



On March 30, 2001, defendant was charged under an Essex County indictment with first-degree murder, N.J.S.A. 2C:11-3(a)(1) & (2); two counts of second-degree aggravated assault, N.J.S.A. 2C:12-1(b)(1); third-degree unlawful possession of a weapon (handgun), N.J.S.A. 2C:39-5(b); second-degree possession of a weapon (handgun) for an unlawful purpose, N.J.S.A. 2C:39-4(a); and second-degree eluding, N.J.S.A. 2:29-2(b). In a separate Essex County indictment, defendant was charged with second-degree conspiracy to commit robbery, N.J.S.A. 2C:5-2 and N.J.S.A. 2C:15-1; three counts of second-degree robbery, N.J.S.A. 2C:15-1;...

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