ALBANY, N.Y. — New York's highest court will consider whether to overturn a murder conviction because deputies did not read Miranda rights to a suspect who had wet blood on his clothes and a lug wrench in his hand.
A lower court split 3-2 in upholding the incriminating statements that Scott Doll made without an attorney present in the February 2009 beating death of friend and business partner Joseph Benaquist. Doll initially claimed he had been butchering a deer.
Genesee County deputies contended that the emergency exception to Miranda rights applied because deputies had "specific information" that someone lost a lot of blood and was in need of medical attention. Doll's attorneys argued that the deputies had no knowledge of any victim needing help, so the exception didn't apply.
Doll, now 51, is serving 15 years to life in prison.
The Court of Appeals, after hearing arguments Tuesday, is expected to rule next month.
"We believe they would grant a new trial, but it's not automatic," defense attorney Tim Murphy said. "The right to counsel can be violated, and you don't automatically get a new trial."
Murphy said the emergency exception has been used by police many times — for example, while searching a suspect for needles or weapons.
"One of the things for our case: Is there actually enough evidence to delineate this as an emergency?" Murphy said. "They did not have a missing-person report. Is there enough to trigger the emergency doctrine that the state right to counsel is suspended?"Comment on this story
Genesee County Assistant District Attorney Will Zickl said deputies were responding to a report of a suspicious person near a closed business in the town of Pembroke and found Doll with "an alarming amount" of blood on him and giving "patently false" answers that it was old blood from a butchered deer.
Deputies concluded there was somebody severely injured "and very likely to need immediate medical attention," Zickl said.
Even if the top court concludes Doll's rights were violated, prosecutors maintain there was enough other evidence, including the victim's blood on Doll and in his car, to convict him.