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"When cops administer the Miranda warning, they need to actually follow those rules," is the message the New Jersey Appellate Division reaffirmed loud and clear on Monday, tossing out a 40 year murder sentence, all because the detectives failed to honor the suspect's requests for an attorney.

Named for the U.S. Supreme Court's 1966 decision Miranda v. Arizona, these the Miranda warning is a type of notification customarily given by police to criminal suspects in police custody (or in a custodial interrogation) advising them of their right to silence and, in effect, protection from self-incrimination; that is, their right to refuse to answer questions or provide information to law enforcement or other officials.

The purpose of such notification is to preserve the admissibility of their statements made during custodial interrogation in later criminal proceedings. This is the message that the appeals court has now reaffirmed loud and clear.

In late 2018, a jury convicted Carlos McClean in the August 2015 death of Jonathan Vargas Matildes, and armed robbery of Jaime Esteban which took place in Irvington, New Jersey.

McClean was convicted of four counts charged in an Essex County indictment: first-degree armed robbery of Esteban, second-degree unlawful possession of a handgun, second-degree possession of a handgun for an unlawful purpose, and first-degree murder of Matildes during commission, or attempted commission, of a robbery.

McClean was sentenced to an aggregate prison term of forty years, subject to the No Early Release on the felony murder conviction.

However, he will now get a new trial because detectives did not cease his police interrogation when he asked for a lawyer, Appellate Division Judges Gilson, Rose and Gummer ruled.

Two other people were with Matildes, and two other young men were with McClean, authorities and the appeals decision say.

Prosecutors contend McClean, who is now 32, was the gunman. Testimony throughout the case differed as to who allegedly did what.

In a police interview, McClean acknowledged he, Dorian Moody and another man were driving around that night looking to “jump out and do a quick robbery.”

After finding the victims, McClean said he was armed with a handgun but did not fire it during the holdup. The third man fired a revolver at Matildes, McClean said. (The third man is identified in the appeals decision, but he was never charged in the crime.)

Another of the victims identified McClean as the shooter, but the pizzeria owner said Moody was “the person who committed the homicide,” the decision says. (Moody took a plea deal for robbery and a firearm charge and is currently serving a 14-year prison term.)

McClean repeated at trial his statements to police after the judge denied his lawyer’s motion to suppress his statements to detectives.

The judge was wrong. The jury should never have heard McClean’s version of events, the appeals court said.

Two Essex County prosecutor’s detectives repeatedly failed to conclude McClean’s key, second interview, in which he placed himself at the crime, after he asked for a lawyer.

After being read his Fifth Amendment Miranda rights, McClean asked for a lawyer several times, using different words and phrases, and each time, detectives Carlos Olmo and Tyrone Crawley inquired and pressed McClean.

Olmo specifically said, “So am I to interpret that you want a lawyer at this time?” And McClean said “Yes.”

Then, “I just want to ask you clearly is that what you want at this time?” McClean said “Yes.

And, “You want your lawyer. You’ve got to speak up.” McClean responded: “Yes, yes, I want you to have a lawyer here,...”

The detectives even said they would stop the interview, but eventually got McClean to say it was alright to proceed without a lawyer.

The detectives should have actually stopped the interview, and their failure to do so was a violation of McClean’s rights.

After a suspect or police halt an interview, a suspect can reinitiate and ask to talk to police, but there has to be an actual stop. Quoting case law, the appeals decision said, “just as one cannot start an engine that is already running, a suspect cannot ‘initiate’ an on-going interrogation.”

The Essex County Prosecutor’s Office argued McClean had reinitiated, and that due to the “(overwhelming)” evidence, any error in the judge admitting McClean’s statements were harmless.

The appeals court found no merit in that argument, finding that the Miranda interview blunders were enough to order a new trial.

Brian P. Keenan, a state public defender, argued McClean’s case.

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