New Jersey v. S.S.

In an interlocutory appeal, the New Jersey Supreme Court determined: (1) what the appropriate standard of appellate review of a trial court's factual findings was based solely on the court's viewing of a video-recorded police interrogation; and (2) whether defendant invoked his right to remain silent during the interrogation. In 2011, defendant S.S. was tried before a jury and convicted of first-degree aggravated sexual assault of his six-year-old daughter, and second-degree endangering the welfare of his child. The trial court sentenced defendant to a fifteen-year prison term on the sexual-assault charge, subject to the No Early Release Act, and to a concurrent five-year term on the endangering charge. The Appellate Division reversed those convictions for reasons unrelated to this appeal and ordered a new trial. The Supreme Court denied the State's petition for certification, and defendant's cross-petition. Relying solely on a review of the video-recorded interrogation, the trial court found that defendant asserted his right to silence when he said, "that's all I got to say. That's it." The trial court suppressed all statements made after that utterance because the investigators failed to honor defendant's invocation of his right to remain silent in violation of Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436 (1966). A panel of the Appellate Division engaged in a de novo review of the video-recorded interrogation and reversed, making its own factual findings based on defendant's tone of voice and the flow of the interview, concluding that defendant did not assert his right to remain silent. The Supreme Court found the trial court's factual determination, based solely on its review of the video-recorded interrogation, was supported by sufficient credible evidence in the record. Although the Appellate Division and trial court drew different inferences from the record, the Supreme Court concluded that the inferences drawn by the trial court were reasonable and that the trial court's ultimate determination was not clearly mistaken. View "New Jersey v. S.S." on Justia Law