Any crime show worth watching incorporates a dramatic arrest scene where the officer pulls out the handcuffs and puts the criminal in the back seat of the squad car, all while reciting, “You have the right to remain silent…” as the scene fades to black. This first line of what are known as Miranda rights is so commonplace in TV dramas and movies that nearly everyone can recite it by heart.
But these rights are not just good for closing lines. They are critical to the criminal justice system. As a recent case in New Jersey demonstrates, failure to warn a suspected criminal defendant of his Miranda rights or a failure to uphold them could result in a new trial or in the dismissal of a case.
In August, the New Jersey Supreme Court issued a ruling that overturned a conviction for Michael Maltese, a man from South Brunswick who was charged with strangling his parents to death in October of 2008. According to the court’s determination, the police violated Maltese’s constitutional right to not incriminate himself during their investigation.
In October of 2008, Maltese allegedly strangled and killed his 58-year-old father, Michael Maltese, after the two men got into an argument, and then he killed his 54-year-old mother, Kathleen. According to the investigation records, Maltese’s girlfriend, Nicole Taylor, restrained Kathleen while Maltese strangled his father.
Once he had killed them both, Maltese took their bodies to the bathroom and placed them in a tub with bleach. He and Taylor then buried the bodies in Friendship Park, according to the prosecution.
After his parents were reported missing by his siblings, Maltese was brought in for questioning. He provided two different stories as his alibi. During a taped interrogation on October 24, 2008, Maltese admitted to killing both his parents. He first underwent a polygraph examination after police read him his Miranda rights.
When he denied knowing where his parents were, the officers told him that they knew he had the information because of his polygraph test results. Maltese then asked to speak to his uncle about 10 times before police allowed him to do so.
Maltese stated that he did not want his conversation with his uncle to be recorded, but the officers, after communicating with Maltese’s uncle, left the device on and recorded the confession he made to his uncle that he was responsible and that one other person had been involved. This confession was used to illicit a second confession once the police were in the room.
Now, the Supreme Court justices have ruled that it was clear that Maltese had invoked his right to remain silent and that the officers violated that right. They also made him ask repeatedly to speak to his uncle before ending the interrogation. “Once [Maltese’s] Fifth Amendment right was asserted, the interrogation nonetheless continued when police engaged defendant’s uncle to assist them in the interrogation,” Justice Solomon stated. “Under those circumstances, defendant’s Miranda rights were not scrupulously honored.” The court ordered a new trial.
Know Your Rights
At Helmer, Conley, and Kasselman, PA, we represent anyone whose rights have been violated during a criminal investigation. For more information on Miranda rights and your legal options, contact a New Jersey criminal defense attorney at HCK today.