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People v. Guilford

Court of Appeals of New York

June 4, 2013

The PEOPLE of the State of New York, Respondent,
James E. GUILFORD, Appellant.

Page 206

[969 N.Y.S.2d 431] Hiscock Legal Aid Society, Syracuse (Piotr Banasiak of counsel), for appellant.

William J. Fitzpatrick, District Attorney, Syracuse (James P. Maxwell and Victoria M. White of counsel), for respondent.

Page 207


LIPPMAN, Chief Judge.

[991 N.E.2d 205] Defendant appeals from an order of the Appellate Division affirming a judgment convicting him of murder in the second degree. The uncontested circumstance at the root of this appeal is that, before confessing to a detective that he had killed his former paramour, Ms. Nugent, defendant was subjected to a custodial interrogation lasting 49 1/2 hours. It is not now suggested that this evidently uniquely lengthy interrogation was proper, or that the trial court erred when it granted defendant's pretrial suppression motion to the extent of deeming inadmissible the statements made in its course on the ground, among others,[1] that they had been " involuntar[y] ... in the ‘ traditional due process sense’ ." The question posed is rather whether the exclusionary consequence of this marathon interrogation was correctly limited by the trial court to the statements made during the interrogation itself, or whether defendant's suppression

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motion should have been granted to the further extent of suppressing his subsequent inculpatory statements.

The Appellate Division held that defendant's subsequent statements, the first and most significant of which— " I killed her" — was made some 10 hours after the 49 1/2 -hour interrogation had concluded and in the presence of appointed counsel, had been shown sufficiently attenuated from the prior interrogation to permit the conclusion that they were not the product of official compulsion (96 A.D.3d 1375, 1377, 945 N.Y.S.2d 825 [2012] ). Two Justices disagreed, noting their view that neither the break in questioning nor the entry of counsel satisfied the People's burden to prove that the coercive effects of the interrogation had been neutralized so as to return defendant " in effect, to the status of one who is not under the influence of questioning" ( id. at 1384, 945 N.Y.S.2d 825 [Lindley and Martoche, JJ., dissenting], quoting People v. Chapple, 38 N.Y.2d 112, 115, 378 N.Y.S.2d 682, 341 N.E.2d 243 [1975] ). One of the dissenting Justices granted defendant permission to appeal, and we now reverse and direct a new trial.


It was, of course, the People's burden to prove the voluntariness of defendant's statements beyond a reasonable doubt as a condition of their receipt at trial ( People v. Anderson, 42 N.Y.2d 35, 38-39, 396 N.Y.S.2d 625, 364 N.E.2d 1318 [1977]; People v. Valerius, 31 N.Y.2d 51, 55, 334 N.Y.S.2d 871, 286 N.E.2d 254 [1972]; People v. Huntley, 15 N.Y.2d 72, 78, 255 N.Y.S.2d 838, 204 N.E.2d 179 [1965] ). [991 N.E.2d 206] [969 N.Y.S.2d 432] Principally at issue here, however, is not the assignment of the burden or the generally applicable standard of proof, but precisely what had to be shown and whether that showing was sufficiently made.

Proof of voluntariness compatible with due process, we have said, will depend upon the particular circumstances— " the totality" — of each case ( Anderson, 42 N.Y.2d at 38, 396 N.Y.S.2d 625, 364 N.E.2d 1318, citing Clewis v. Texas, 386 U.S. 707, 708, 87 S.Ct. 1338, 18 L.Ed.2d 423 [1967]; Fikes v. Alabama, 352 U.S. 191, 197, 77 S.Ct. 281, 1 L.Ed.2d 246 [1957]; see also Dickerson v. United States, 530 U.S. 428, 434, 120 S.Ct. 2326, 147 L.Ed.2d 405 [2000] [" The due process test takes into consideration the totality of all the surrounding circumstances— both the characteristics of the accused and the details of the interrogation" ] [citation and internal quotation marks omitted] ). In some situations— where, for example, Miranda warnings have been timely given— the requisite inference of voluntariness may be relatively easily drawn. But where there has been official illegality potentially impairing the voluntariness of a subsequent admission, the inference will naturally require a more exacting showing.

Page 209

We have recognized this principle most frequently in cases involving late Miranda warnings. In People v. Chapple, 38 N.Y.2d 112, 378 N.Y.S.2d 682, 341 N.E.2d 243 (1975) we held that the late interposition of those warnings would be " too late" unless there was a demonstration of a " pronounced break" in interrogation adequate to justify a finding that the defendant was no longer under the sway of the prior questioning when the warnings were given ( id. at 115, 378 N.Y.S.2d 682, 341 N.E.2d 243). We have since reaffirmed the need for this more precise showing under our state constitution ( People v. Bethea, 67 N.Y.2d 364, 368, 502 N.Y.S.2d 713, 493 N.E.2d 937 [1986]; People v. Paulman, 5 N.Y.3d 122, 129-130, 800 N.Y.S.2d 96, 833 N.E.2d 239 [2005] ), notwithstanding federal precedent (i.e., Oregon v. Elstad, 470 U.S. 298, 310-311, 105 S.Ct. 1285, 84 L.Ed.2d 222 [1985] ) suggesting that, in the absence of actual coercion, Miranda warnings will ordinarily suffice to demonstrate the voluntariness of statements subsequently made. A less demanding rule, we ...

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