Sexual Assault Case Hinges On Voluntary Confession
- May 4, 2014
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In State v. R.P. the defendant was convicted of sexual assault by sexual penetration of a blood relative between the ages of 16 and 18 (N.J.S.A. 2C:14-2(c)(3)(a)); fourth degree criminal sexual contact (N.J.S.A. 2C:14-3(b)); and one count of endangering the welfare of a child (N.J.S.A. 2C:24-4(a)). The defendant was sentenced to 8 years each on counts one and two to be served consecutively with the remaining sentences to be served concurrently with count one resulting in a total sentence of 16 years. Defendant lived with his biological children and his wife. His wife suspected defendant of being unfaithful and placed a recording device in their bedroom and, days later, found a recording of the defendant and his daughter in what seemed to be sexual acts. The defendant’s wife contacted the Bergen County Prosecutor’s office who interviewed the defendant’s 17 year old daughter who advised the prosecutor sexual acts had occurred between her and the defendant. Detectives visited R.P. at his residence, notified him he was the subject of an investigation and requested that he go to the Prosecutor’s Office with them for questioning. The defendant went with the detectives, was Mirandized and waived his Miranda rights. During an 8 minute videotaped interview the defendant stated that for approximately 6 months he and his daughter would lie, in their underwear, on the bed defendant shared with his wife and watch television while the defendant hugged and kissed his daughter’s body. He also admitted to putting his mouth on her vagina but denied ever having sexual intercourse. The matter was originally heard in Bergen County Superior Court. At trial, defendant’s wife indicated she was under a great deal of stress when she thought the voices were her husband and his daughter and later realized the voices were her cousins who had been visiting that weekend. The daughter provided the same testimony she had originally provided to the detectives. The taped confession was provided to the jury and admitted into evidence without objection by defense counsel. The defendant appealed the matter based on lack of the voluntariness of his confession for failure of the court to comply with N.J.R.E. 104 relating to voluntariness of the confession and N.J.R.E. 403 balancing test to determine whether the probative value of defendant’s statement was substantially outweighed by the prejudice it would cause against defendant. R.P. claimed his confession was “false because it was made in a stressful and inherently coercive situation.” State v. Cook, 179 N.J. 533 (2004), State v. Jordan, 147 N.J. 409 (1997) and State v. Kelly, 61 N.J. 283 (1972) are among a long line of cases indicating that confessions obtained under coercive circumstances are inherently unreliable. The NJ Appellate Division remanded the matter for a Rule 104 hearing in which the state must demonstrate the voluntariness of the defendant’s confession beyond a reasonable doubt. The appeals court did not agree with the State that the evidence against defendant was “overwhelming” and found the failure to conduct a Rule 104 hearing to be plain error. The Appellate Court further considered the fact that admission of the confession, if it was involuntary, could certainly produce an unjust result. If you are charged with a sex crime you are subject to incarceration, registration as a sex offender and the accompanying stigma which will affect where you may live, where you may work and how others will treat you and possibly even civil commitment. It is critical that you obtain experienced criminal defense counsel to assist you with these charges. For more information about rape, endangering the welfare of a minor, sexual assault, criminal sexual contact and other sex crimes in New Jersey visit HeatherDarlingLawyer.com. This blog is for informational purposes only and not intended to replace the advice of an attorney.