NJ’s top court overturns double-murder conviction over illegally obtained confession

New Jersey's Supreme Court justice hear arguments in May. (AP file photo)

New Jersey's Supreme Court justice hear arguments in May. (AP file photo)

New Jersey’s Supreme Court has unanimously overturned the conviction of a South Brunswick man for murdering his parents in 2008.

Police secretly recorded a private conversation between Michael Maltese and his uncles when Maltese admitted strangling his parents and burying their bodies. Police advised Maltese of his rights, then got him to confess again.

The Justice ruled because that statement was obtained improperly it was inadmissible.

The ruling is a powerful affirmation of defendants’ rights, said Bob Williams, a professor at Rutgers Law School in Camden.

“It indicates how important the court feels it is for law-enforcement officials to respect these constitutional rights to remain silent and the right not to incriminate oneself and that the court will go to fairly extreme lengths to protect that right,” Williams said Monday.

The right against self-incrimination appears only in the U.S. Constitution, not in New Jersey’s.

“This case seems to be based on the U.S. Constitution. Therefore, it’s possible that the state will apply to the United States Supreme Court to review the constitution,” he said. “So that may be the next step before the case goes back to the trial court.”

During a retrial the trial court will have to determine whether additional evidence would have been discovered without the improperly obtained confession.

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