On appeal, Dunbar argued, among other things, that the pre-arraignment script rendered his Miranda waiver involuntary.
But the prosecution defended the program's constitutionality, saying it was primarily designed to obtain "exculpatory information from the innocent."
During oral arguments, Skelos observed that the prosecution lost "credibility with the court when saying the purpose is to get exculpatory information" (NYLJ, Sept. 5, 2012).
In his ruling, Skelos pointed to case law holding that warnings to defendants do not have to follow exactly the form laid out by the U.S. Supreme Court in Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436 (1966). But where there are deviations, the courts must ask if the warnings given "reasonably conve[yed]" a suspect's rights.
Here, Skelos said the script at question failed to do thatfor example by "suggest[ing] a sense of immediacy and finality which impairs suspects' reflective consideration of their rights and the consequences of a waiver."
Skelos later added, "In essence, although suspects interviewed pursuant to the Program are told, through the Miranda warnings, that they have the right to remain silent, the preamble suggests that invoking that right will bear adverse, and irrevocable, consequences. Such a suggestion conveys that suspects have a right to remain silent only in the most technical sense."
Ordinarily, Skelos said, questions about the knowing and intelligent waiver of rights against self-incrimination revolve around factors such as a defendants's age, background and intelligence.
But that was not the issue in the appeal.
"Rather, the problem is that the defendant never received a clear and unequivocal advisement of his rights," said Skelos.
Pointing to various rulings, prosecutors argued Miranda warnings do not have to be the first words said by law enforcement during interrogation.