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Conviction Reversed Because of Miranda Violation

06/22/2016

Gilbert Cleverin’s conviction of second-degree robbery and criminal possession of stolen property was based, in part, on statements he made to the police after purportedly waiving his Miranda rights.  At the suppression hearing, a psychologist for the defense testified that Mr. Cleverin’s IQ was 53 and that he was “mildly mentally retarded or ha[d] borderline intellectual functioning.”  This finding was consistent with his school records, which consistently scored his IQ at 40-50 and diagnosed him as “moderately mentally retarded, mentally retarded, or with borderline intellectual functioning.”  Other records established that Mr. Cleverin, who was born in Haiti, was “a nonreader of both English and Creole” and that his “listening comprehension skills” were “severely deficient.”

The People’s expert maintained that, since Miranda warnings are “part of the national culture,” people “who live in this country” can “understand the main meaning and immediate import of the warnings without necessarily knowing the exact meaning of the words.”  The expert also opined that being mentally retarded “did not preclude the possibility” of understanding the Miranda warnings and waiving Miranda rights.       

Holding that the People had failed to establish beyond a reasonable doubt that Mr. Cleverin knowingly, voluntarily, and intelligently waived his Miranda rights, and that the error in admitting his statements into evidence was not harmless, the Second Department reversed the conviction, suppressed the statements, and ordered a new trial.  

Anna Pervukhin briefed and argued the case on behalf of Appellate Advocates.