Panel Upsets Conviction Over Miranda Warning

, New York Law Journal

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An appellate court has upset a Nassau County murder conviction because authorities read the suspect, a 17-year-old, Spanish-speaking native of the Dominican Republic, his Miranda rights in English. In suppressing Pedro Santos' videotaped confession, the Appellate Division, Second Department, said the statement was not knowingly and voluntarily given because the defendant's proficiency in English is questionable.

People v. Santos, 2012-02, arose from the defendant's 2012 conviction on second-degree murder and fourth-degree criminal possession of a weapon in connection with the stabbing of a rival gang member in Nassau County. Records show that a detective read Santos his Miranda rights in English and the defendant indicated that he understood. However, Santos also said he did not understand English "that much." After waving his rights, Santos was questioned in English and denied any involvement. He was then questioned in Spanish, and admitted he was present when another individual stabbed the victim.

In an unsigned decision, the panel said the prosecution "failed to establish that the defendant comprehended" the Miranda warnings, adding that, providing Santos with a Miranda rights card written in Spanish or asking the Spanish-speaking detective to apprise the defendant of his rights could have easily been accomplished.

Justices Leonard Austin (See Profile), Sandra Sgroi (See Profile), Jeffrey Cohen (See Profile) and Sylvia Hinds-Radix (See Profile) were on the panel. Leon Tracy of Jericho represented the defendant. Nassau County assistant district attorneys Tammy Smiley, Anthony Viola, Andre Cizmarik and Zachary Silverman appeared for the prosecution.

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