With two dissents in a NYS Supreme Court ruling upholding the murder conviction of Scott F. Doll, one of Doll's attorneys said in the wake of the ruling that the defense will request that the NYS Court of Appeals review the case.
Timothy P. Murphy, of the Buffalo firm Lipstiz, Scime, Cambria, said the ruling expands the so-called "emergency doctrine" beyond what previous courts ruled.
"We're obviously disappointed with the results," Murphy said. "But there were two dissenting votes, so we will be an appeal with the Court of Appeals in Albany."
On a 3-2 vote, the justices found that statements made by Doll to the deputies and investigators he spoke to Feb. 16, 2009 were admissible as evidence against Doll.
The statements in question were made before the body of Joseph Benaquist, 66, was found bludgeoned on the driveway of his Pembroke home.
The court also ruled that statements Doll made to a friend in the presence of an investigator were also admissible.
The two dissenting justices disagreed with the majority on the use of the "emergency doctrine" regarding statements made before the murder was discovered, but agreed that the Doll's statements to a friend back at the Sheriff's Office were admissible.
The emergency doctrine allows police officers to detain and question a person when they believe the life of a person or persons may be in jeopardy. In an emergency situation, where lives may be at stake, police are not required to read a person his rights.
The majority's opinion upheld every aspect of the prosecution's case that was appealed, including the investigative work of the Sheriff's Office.
"We think (Doll) was properly convicted and the proof was there," Sheriff Gary Maha said. "They (deputies and investigators) did a great job. They were very thorough. It was a job well done by our people to make sure they covered all the bases."
Maha said he never had a doubt that his staff handled the case appropriately and that the court would back up his department.
"They're well trained," Maha said. They know that their jobs for those type of situations. They were following the law. I know the defense wants to put doubt in the jurors' minds. That’s their job, but our officers did their job and followed the law correctly."
District Attorney Lawrence Friedman said he was also pleased, but not surprised by the ruling.
"We were expecting this result based on the attitude expressed by the judges at the appellant division when the case was argued," Friedman said.
While Friedman praised the work of the entire Sheriff's Office staff on the case, he singled out Deputy James Diehl for exceptional work.
Diehl had only recently started working for the Sheriff's Office in February 2009 when he was dispatched to investigate a suspicious individual ducking behind cars at an old gas station at Main Road and Lake Road in Pembroke.
After arriving on scene, he encountered Doll, who immediately dropped what later turned out to be a car jack and he had a lug wrench in a pocket.
As Diehl interviewed Doll, he notice Doll had fresh blood on his jumpsuit, his hands and his face.
When questioned, Doll said he was butchering deer.
Diehl was immediately suspicious of Doll's story and when a witness approached and identified Doll as the suspicious subject seen at the gas station, Diehl cuffed Doll and told him he was being detained until things could be sorted out.
"From the start, Deputy James Diehl did an excellent job of perceiving a suspicious situation and following up on it," Friedman said. "From our perspective, he did everything right. If he didn't follow through on it, we might never had made our case."
It was Diehl's actions, along with Deputy Patrick Reeves, who was second on scene, that came under scrutiny in the appeal by the defense team, however.
The defense contends that Doll should have been given a Miranda warning ("You have the right to remain silent, etc.") and when he asked for an attorney, all questioning of Doll should have stopped until an attorney was present.
Friedman argued that the preponderance of evidence available to deputies was that a person or persons had been seriously hurt. The amount of blood on Doll, and his inconsistent story about butchering deer and then going to see a friend and being involved in a car transaction, gave the deputies reason to believe a person or persons may be in serious trouble and that Doll had been in close proximity to whatever it was that caused a person or persons to bleed profusely.
The majority of the Fourth Judicial Department judges agreed with Friedman.
"... the deputies did not violate the defendant's right to counsel or his Miranda rights under the unique circumstances of the case," wrote the majority in their opinion. "The amount of blood present on the defendant's face, hands, clothing and van, and on the ground, along with bloody gloves on top of a nearby car, indicated that one or more persons had been grievously injured and that the defendant had been in close contact with the person or persons."
The court also found that given Doll's inconsistent statements to deputies, "they were justified in concluding that one or more persons had been injured and were in need of assistance or rescue."
The dissenting judges argued that the deputies did not have enough information to conclude there was a human victim and found that Doll's statement that he had been butchering deer was plausible.
Defense attorney Murphy said that in his initial ruling at trial in May 2010, Judge Robert C. Noonan expanded the scope of the emergency doctrine and though the Fourth Department upheld Noonan, Murphy believes the proper scope of the emergency doctrine can be reestablished in the Court of Appeals.
Both majority and dissent judges agreed that a friend who visited with Doll in the presence of Investigator Kris Kautz was not working in collusion with police and therefore Doll's statements could be used against him at trial.
The court also rejected a defense argument that Doll's van was seized without a probable cause and that the prosecution properly obtained business records of Doll's.
Doll is currently serving 15 years to life for the murder of Benaquist at the Sullivan Correctional Facility in Fallsburg.
For all of our previous coverage of the Scott Doll case, click here.