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Court of Appeals Argument: Is the Queens Pre-Arraignment Interrogation Program Unconstitutional?

September 19, 2014|   By : Leila Hull

In 2007, the Queens County District Attorney began a pre-arraignment interrogation program in which thousands of uncounseled defendants were questioned by district attorneys in Central Booking immediately prior to their arraignments. Jermaine Dunbar, Collin Lloyd-Douglas and Eugene Polhill were three of those thousands.  In each case, members of the Queens District Attorney’s office read the defendants a set script before reading their Miranda rights.

The script informed each defendant that this was his “opportunity” to speak to the district attorneys and to “tell” his “story.” He was instructed that, if he wanted the district attorneys to investigate, he “ha[d] to tell” them “now.” He was advised to “give” “as much information” as he could and told that this was his “only opportunity” to do so before going to court. After these instructions, the interrogators read each defendant his Miranda rights. Each defendant made a statement that the lower court judge refused to suppress and that the People introduced into evidence at trial.

On appeal, the Appellate Division unanimously found that the statements in each case should have been suppressed because the pre-Miranda script prevented the Miranda warnings from being effective (Dunbar, Lloyd-Douglas, Polhill)

The People sought leave to appeal and the Court of Appeals heard arguments on Thursday. 

Allegra Glashausser and Leila Hull argued the case for respondents Mr. Dunbar, Mr. Lloyd-Douglas, and Mr. Polhill. Details of the argument can be found in the New York Law Journal article, “Queens DA's Suspect Interview Policy Gets Interrogated” by Joel Stashenko (subscription required).