In a shocking and absurd decision, the Louisiana Supreme Court ruled against granting an attorney to a suspect who said, “Just give me a lawyer, dog.” The suspect made the statement to detectives during an interrogation, and the court ruled that “lawyer dog” was not a sufficient means of “invoking his constitutional right to counsel.”
Warren Demesme was being interrogated by New Orleans police in October 2015. He was a suspect in multiple sexual assault cases. After growing frustrated with the detectives’ line of questioning, Demesme made his unfortunate utterance. “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,” he said, according to a transcript provided by the Orleans Parish District Attorney’s office. Demesme subsequently admitted to the crimes.
Derwyn D. Bunton, the parish’s public defender, took on Demesme’s case and filed a brief to suppress his client’s statement that implicated himself — made when police continued questioning Demesme after he “unequivocally and unambiguously” asked for an attorney.
In response, Orleans Parish Assistant District Attorney Kyle Daly said the detectives were right to continue questioning because they understood that Demesme “only might [have been] invoking his right to counsel.”
After Bunton’s motion was rejected by the trial court and appeals court, he took the case to the state’s Supreme Court. The Supreme Court rejected the appeal and took the extra, unusual step to issuing a written ruling. “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,” wrote Associate Supreme Court Justice Scott J. Crichton.
All of this procedural madness occurred, sadly, because of the omission of a comma between “lawyer” and “dog” in the transcript. Demesme is now awaiting trial in an Orleans Parish jail.
(Via Washington Post)