In the latest round of #Facts that prove the court system does not work for black people—especially those who lack resources—a Louisiana high court ruled that a man who said, “Give me a lawyer, dog” was asking for a “lawyer dog.”
That’s right—the Louisiana Supreme Court recently ruled that when Warren Demesme, 22 at the time, was being questioned by police and said those words, he was asking for a canine and not counsel.
The Washington Post reports that Demesme was charged in October 2015 with sexually assaulting two young girls. It was the second time he had been brought in for a crime he continually denied. According to records, this is what he said to police:
This is how I feel, if y’all think I did it, I know that I didn’t do it so why don’t you just give me a lawyer dog ’cause this is not what’s up.
After making that statement, Demesme later admitted to the crimes and was charged with aggravated rape and indecent behavior with a juvenile.
His public defender, of course, filed a motion to suppress his statement, since it was made after he asked for legal counsel.
“Under increased interrogation pressure,” Derwyn D. Bunton wrote, “Mr. Demesme invokes his right to an attorney, stating with emotion and frustration, ‘Just give me a lawyer.’” He added, “Mr. Demesme unequivocally and unambiguously asserted his right to counsel.”
But the Orleans Parish, La., district attorney says that the police wouldn’t know that based on Demesme’s verbiage.
Prosecutor Kyle Daly responded that Demesme’s “reference to a lawyer did not constitute an unambiguous invocation of his right to counsel, because the defendant communicated that whether he actually wanted a lawyer was dependent on the subjective beliefs of the officers.”
And though a trial court and an appeals court rejected Demesme’s appeal, Bunton took the matter all the way to the state Supreme Court, which sided with the lower courts’ ruling.
In a ruling issued last Friday, Louisiana Associate Supreme Court Justice Scott J. Crichton wrote a brief “to spotlight the very important constitutional issue regarding the invocation of counsel during a law enforcement interview.”
Crichton wrote that Louisiana case law has ruled that “if a suspect makes a reference to an attorney that is ambiguous or equivocal ... the cessation of questioning is not required.”
Meaning that folks might want to just “remain silent” in the face of questioning by police.
Judge Crichton also wrote, “In my view, the defendant’s ambiguous and equivocal reference to a ‘lawyer dog’ does not constitute an invocation of counsel that warrants termination of the interview.”
Read more at the Washington Post.