New York Defendant Unsuccessfully Asks Court to Suppress Incriminating Statement Made to Attorney

Earlier this month, a New York defendant convicted of attempted murder, appealed his guilty verdict before the Appellate Division of the Supreme Court of the State of New York. According to the defendant, the lower court violated his rights by allowing the State to enter into evidence a comment that he had made to his attorney in the presence of law enforcement officials. This statement, said the defendant, was meant to be part of a private conversation, and the lower court should not have let it in as evidence. The higher court reviewed the record and ultimately rejected the defendant’s appeal.

Facts of the Case

According to the opinion, the defendant was charged with several violent crimes, including assault in the first degree and criminal possession of a weapon in the second degree. Once charged, the defendant was taken to a holding room at the local police department. A police investigator stood about five feet outside the open door in full view of the defendant, including while the defendant met with his attorney in the holding room. At one point during the defendant’s conversation with his lawyer, he made an incriminating statement in a loud voice, and the investigator overheard the defendant make this statement.

The defendant argued before the lower court that this statement should not be used in court, given the statement was made to his attorney, was made after his right to counsel had attached and was not meant to be heard by the investigator. The lower court denied the motion to suppress, and the defendant appealed.

The Decision

On appeal, the higher court had to decide whether the defendant’s statement to his attorney should not have been allowed into evidence during the defendant’s trial. Here, said the court, the investigator that heard the statement did not pressure the defendant to say anything incriminating while he was in the holding cell. Also, while it is true that statements given to an attorney are usually protected under the privacy of attorney-client privilege, the defendant was not protected here because he knew that a third party was standing in the vicinity.

Given that the defendant made the statement loudly and in the presence of another person, the court decided that he waived his right to privacy with his attorney. Therefore, said the court of appeals, the lower court was correct in denying the defendant’s motion to suppress.

The court affirmed the trial court’s decision, and the defendant’s convictions and sentences remained in place.

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