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People v. Jeremiah

Supreme Court of New York, Third Department

February 23, 2017

THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF NEW YORK, Respondent,
v.
ISAIAH M. JEREMIAH, Also Known as EYES, Appellant.

          Calendar Date: January 18, 2017

          Teresa C. Mulliken, Harpersfield, for appellant.

          John M. Muehl, District Attorney, Cooperstown (Jason P. Weinstein of New York Prosecutors Training Institute, Inc., Albany, of counsel), for respondent.

          Before: McCarthy, J.P., Garry, Lynch, Devine and Mulvey, JJ.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          GARRY, J.

         Appeal from a judgment of the County Court of Broome County (Cawley, J.), rendered December 14, 2012, upon a verdict convicting defendant of the crimes of murder in the first degree, murder in the second degree (two counts), robbery in the first degree and criminal possession of a weapon in the second degree.

         After concerned relatives asked police to check on the victim's welfare, his dead body, with a gunshot wound in the head, was found in an apartment in the City of Binghamton, Broome County. Two days later, detective Carl Peters and investigator Charles Woody Jr. of the Binghamton Police Department traveled with other officers to Brooklyn. In the course of the investigation, they interviewed Kevin Kennedy, who ultimately gave a statement implicating defendant in the crime. Woody, Peters and two or three other officers went to the Brooklyn apartment of the mother of defendant's girlfriend, who advised them that defendant was present. Peters spoke with defendant in the apartment before transporting him to the 79th Precinct in Brooklyn. Following an interview there, defendant was transported to Binghamton, where he was interviewed again that evening and the following morning. At the close of the morning interview, defendant provided a written statement in which he admitted that he had shot the victim, but claimed to have done so accidentally.

         Following a jury trial, defendant was convicted of murder in the first degree, two counts of murder in the second degree, robbery in the first degree and criminal possession of a weapon in the second degree. County Court sentenced him to concurrent prison terms of 25 years to life upon his convictions for murder in the first degree and murder in the second degree, 25 years with five years of postrelease supervision upon his conviction for robbery in the first degree and 15 years with five years of postrelease supervision upon his conviction for criminal possession of a weapon in the second degree. Defendant appeals.

         We reject defendant's contention that his motion to suppress his written and oral statements to police should have been granted. First, County Court properly found that Miranda warnings were not required before police spoke with defendant in the Brooklyn apartment, as he was not in custody. A defendant is subjected to custodial interrogation, triggering his or her rights under Miranda, when "a reasonable person innocent of any wrongdoing would have believed that he or she was not free to leave" (People v Paulman, 5 N.Y.3d 122, 129 [2005]; accord People v Ortiz, 141 A.D.3d 872, 874 [2016]). Factors to be taken into account in this analysis "includ[e] the location, length and atmosphere of the questioning, whether police significantly restricted defendant's freedom of action, the degree of defendant's cooperation, and whether the questioning was accusatory or investigatory" (People v Chaplin, 134 A.D.3d 1148, 1150 [2015] [internal quotation marks and citations omitted], lv denied 27 N.Y.3d 1067');">27 N.Y.3d 1067 [2016]). A court's determination that a defendant was not in custody "is accorded great weight and will not be disturbed unless clearly erroneous" (People v Strong, 27 A.D.3d 1010, 1012 [2006] [internal quotation marks and citation omitted], lv denied 7 N.Y.3d 763');">7 N.Y.3d 763 [2006]).

         The suppression hearing testimony established that the investigators had no reason to suspect that defendant was in the Brooklyn apartment when they went there, planning to interview his girlfriend. After the mother advised them that defendant was sleeping in a bedroom, defendant was asked to come out [1] and Peters spoke with him in the kitchen for about half an hour about his recent presence in Binghamton. Another detective stood at the other end of the kitchen for part of the interview, while the remaining officers searched the apartment with the mother's consent. Defendant was cooperative during the conversation. He was not placed in handcuffs or otherwise physically restrained, no weapons were displayed, and the kitchen and apartment doors were not guarded or blocked. Several other people who were present in the apartment were permitted to speak with defendant during the interview.

         As for police testimony to the effect that defendant would have been stopped if he had tried to leave - which he did not do - "[a] police [officer's] unarticulated plan has no bearing on the question whether a suspect was in custody at a particular time... [and] the subjective intent of the officer... is irrelevant except insofar as it is conveyed to the individual" (People v Ripic, 182 A.D.2d 226, 234 [1992] [internal quotation marks, brackets and citation omitted], appeal dismissed 81 N.Y.2d 776');">81 N.Y.2d 776 [1993]). As there was no evidence that any intent to prevent defendant from leaving was communicated to him, we find no error in County Court's conclusion that his statements during this conversation did not result from a custodial interrogation (see People v Vieou, 107 A.D.3d 1052, 1053 [2013]; People v Hook, 80 A.D.3d 881, 882-883 [2011], lv denied 17 N.Y.3d 806');">17 N.Y.3d 806 [2011]).

         We agree with County Court that defendant knowingly and intelligently waived his Miranda rights during his subsequent interviews with police in Brooklyn and Binghamton. At the end of the conversation in the Brooklyn apartment, the officers asked defendant to accompany them to the 79th Precinct, and he agreed to do so [2]. Woody and Peters testified that defendant was placed in an interview room upon his arrival, where Woody attempted to read the Miranda rights from a form that listed the pertinent warnings, followed by a summary statement to the effect that defendant understood his rights and a signature line. However, defendant interrupted before Woody was able to read the complete list, stating that he was willing to speak with police but did not "want anything to do with the paper, " which he said was not used by Brooklyn police. When Woody attempted to explain the form and complete the reading, defendant continued to insist that he was willing to talk but did not want to use the form. At defendant's request, a Brooklyn detective was brought into the room. He explained that the form was simply a procedure used in Binghamton, but defendant continued to object, and Woody eventually handed the form to defendant to read to himself. Defendant reviewed the form and then objected to the word "statement, " which appeared in the text near the end of the document. He reiterated that he was willing to speak with officers but did not want to use the form or sign anything. Woody then set the unsigned form aside and began the interview.

         The interview was not recorded because, according to Peters, the necessary equipment was not available; County Court credited the account provided by Woody and Peters, and we defer to that assessment (see People v Carter, 140 A.D.3d 1394, 1395 [2016], lv denied 28 N.Y.3d 969');">28 N.Y.3d 969 [2016]). They stated that the total interview lasted for about 45 minutes, that the Miranda discussion occupied the first 20 minutes of this time and that, despite defendant's interruptions, Woody was able to verbally outline all of the Miranda rights contained on the form, although not necessarily in the same order as they appeared on the document. The officers stated that they believed that defendant was able to read and understand the form because he took an appropriate amount of time examining it and because of his objection to a specific word in the text [3]. His refusal to sign the form neither constitutes "an implicit invocation of his... Miranda rights" nor precludes a finding that he waived them (People v Carrion, 277 A.D.2d 480, 480 [2000], lv denied 96 N.Y.2d 757');">96 N.Y.2d 757 [2001]; see People v Setless, 213 A.D.2d 900, 900-901 [1995], lv denied 86 N.Y.2d 740');">86 N.Y.2d 740 [1995]). In view of the officers' testimony and defendant's repeated statements that he wished to speak with police, we agree with County Court that he waived his Miranda rights (see People v Ortiz, 141 A.D.3d at 876).

         As for defendant's subsequent statements, "[w]here a person in police custody has been issued Miranda warnings and voluntarily and intelligently waives those rights, it is not necessary to repeat the warnings prior to subsequent questioning within a reasonable time thereafter, so long as the custody has remained continuous" (People v Lowin, 36 A.D.3d 1153, 1154 [2007] [internal quotation marks, brackets and citations omitted], lv denied 9 N.Y.3d 847 [2007]; accord People v Booker, 141 A.D.3d 834, 836 [2016], lv denied28 N.Y.3d 1026');">28 N.Y.3d 1026 [2016]). The police testimony established that they transported defendant to Binghamton immediately after the Brooklyn interview and that defendant slept through most of the six-hour trip. Immediately after their arrival in Binghamton at approximately 9:00 p.m., defendant was interrogated by Woody and another Binghamton detective in a video-recorded interview that lasted for approximately three hours. Woody did not reread the Miranda rights, but reminded defendant at the outset of the interview that the same rights applied that had been previously discussed, and stated that the form would not be presented to defendant again as he had not wished to sign it earlier. The other detective asked defendant, "You did see and hear your rights, right? You got to see that form? You understood it?" Defendant confirmed that he had. As the lapse of time between the ...


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