Court of Appeals to Determine Police Deception Limits

, New York Law Journal


Adrian Thomas waits alone in the interrogation room of the Troy police station
In a still from the documentary "Scenes of a Crime," Adrian Thomas waits alone in the interrogation room of the Troy police station in 2008.

Assistant Westchester County District Attorney Raffaelina Gianfrancesco and defense attorney David Weisfuse of White Plains are slated to argue the appeal.

Gianfrancesco said that in the early hours of the investigation police were at a distinct disadvantage.

"So, the police used a common and judicially approved interrogation strategy in furtherance of their duty to protect the safety of the public," Gianfrancesco said in her brief. "They lied."

Gianfrancesco maintains in her brief that there was nothing coercive in the tactics used by New Rochelle police.

Weisfuse countered that detectives "eviscerated any sense that the defendant may have had that he could safely exercise his privilege against self-incrimination."

Brooklyn Supreme Court Justice Barry Kamins (See Profile) said in a Law Journal article the New York courts "have traditionally been tolerant of deception in confession cases" (NYLJ, Dec. 3, 2012). Kamins said that in a long line of cases starting with People v. Wentz, 37 NY 303 (1867), the Court of Appeals has consistently held that "deception, in and of itself, will not render a confession involuntary."

Thomas and Aveni provide the court with an opportunity to revisit the issue and revise its rules. The Court of Appeals did not have to take either case and the matters are now in Albany as a result of leave grants by Judge Robert Smith (See Profile) in Thomas and Judge Eugene Pigott Jr., (See Profile) in Aveni.

Attorneys in the two cases have been allotted a total of one hour for oral argument. The arguments, which will be webcast through the Court of Appeals' website at, are slated to begin at roughly 2:45 p.m., but could be altered depending on the length of other arguments earlier on the calendar.

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