Syracuse police detectives took James Guilford into custody at about 11:30pm on March 20, 2007, on suspicion of murdering his ex-girlfriend. He was then interrogated non-stop by a rotating team of detectives for the next 49 hours, with no sleep and little food, at the end of which he told a detective, "I'll give everybody what they want" in exchange for a plea deal and an attorney. As described by the dissenters,
The interrogation occurred inside a locked room that was 10 feet by 10 feet. Except for bathroom breaks, during which defendant was accompanied by a detective, defendant spent the entire 49 1/2-hour period in the interrogation room. As the suppression court noted in its findings of fact, the only food consumed by defendant during his continuous interrogation was a single sandwhich, which he consumed early in the evening on March 21. That was approximately 20 hours after he was taken into custody and 40 hours before he confessed on the morning of March 23, a point that bears emphasis. From early Saturday evening to Monday morning when he confessed, defendant ate not a morsel of food.
In addition, as the suppression court further stated in its findings of fact, there is no evidence that defendant slept during his 49 1/2 hours in the interrogation room. [...] The suppression court set forth in its findings of fact that defendant had an "opportunity to sleep" in th holding cell, but there was no evidence adduced at the hearing that defendant actually slept or that the conditions in the holding cell were such that it was even possible for defendant to sleep. Thus, it appears that defendant may have been awake for 50 hours immediately preceding his confession. That does not take into account the fact that defendant was picked up by the police at 10:30 p.m. on March 20 and probably had been awake for quite some time on that day.
(People v Guilford, 2012 NY Slip Op 04475 (Lindley and Martoche, JJ, dissenting.)
After talking with a lawyer and being held in a holding cell for 8 hours, defendant confessed to killing his ex-girlfriend. A majority of the Fourth Department upheld the confession, holding that the 8 hours in the holding cell and the chance to speak with an attorney was enough to cure the illegal marathon interrogation. In so holding, the Court attributed almost super-human powers to the attorney appointed to represent the defendant, and in whose presence the final confession was taken. From the majority's decision:
In particular, we note that, once an attorney was appointed for defendant and defendant had the opportunity to consult with the attorney before again speaking with the detectives, in the presence on an attorney, it cannot be said that the statements were involuntary or the "product of compulsion."
(Id. at __.)
As a criminal defense attorney, I can assure you that it is sometimes impossible to convince even well-fed, fully rested clients not to do stupid things (like confessing to murder), never-mind attempting to reason with a client who just endured almost 50 hours of quasi-torture. The investigators in this case spent an entire weekend breaking the defendant down, depriving him of food and sleep, and in the end convinced defendant to "give everybody what they want" in exchange for an attorney and a few years off his sentence. It is naive and a bit disingenuous to think that an hour or two talking to a defense attorney would be enough to repair the psychological fracture that was the intended and inescapable result of draconian police conduct. As the dissenters note, "the presence of defense counsel did nothing to improve defendant's cognitive functioning, which necessarily was adversely affected by the prolonged lack of food and sleep." (Id. at __.)
Justice Scudder filed a separate concurrence, and would have found that the presence of the attorney alone was enough to validate the confession, even without the 8 hour break in the holding cell from almost 50 straight hours of Geneva-convention-violating interrogation. I can only assume this was done to lend a patine of reasonableness to the majority's holding.