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Suspect who asked for a ‘lawyer dog’ did not receive legal advice because request too ambiguous

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Did he not mean ‘give me a lawyer, dog’?

The Louisiana Supreme Court has ruled a defendant’s request for a “lawyer dog” during a police interview was too ambiguous, meaning he was not denied his constitutional right to legal advice.

The judgment, courtesy of Justice Scott Crichton, found that Warren Demesme, 24, only “ambiguously referenced a lawyer” during the second of two voluntary interviews relating to allegations he sexually assaulted a minor.

According to the bizarre ruling, Demesme was apparently advised of his Miranda rights (vaguely known as the right to silence in the United Kingdom), stated he understood them and subsequently chose to waive them. He then told interviewing officers:

“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.”

Unfortunately it would appear Demesme’s liberal use of street vernacular was his downfall. Crichton — citing current Louisiana case law — ruled that if a suspect’s request for a lawyer isn’t sufficiently clear then officers can continue with the interview. He said:

“[I]f a suspect makes a reference to an attorney that is ambiguous or equivocal in that a reasonable police officer in light of the circumstances would have understood only that the suspect might be invoking his right to counsel, the cessation of questioning is not required.”

Concluding, Crichton said the defendant’s “reference to a ‘lawyer dog'” did not adequately constitute a request for legal advice. The US court eventually ruled six to one to deny Demesme’s appeal.

Legal Cheek wonders if the judges would have reached the same decision had Demesme’s speech been recorded as “just give me a lawyer, dog”.

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16 Comments

Anonymous

Maybe he was hoping to get a lawyer that works pro-boneo?

Anonymous

Woof justice if you ask me

s.32 Salmon Act 1986

Getting thrown in the dog house certainly gives one paws for thought. But surely this is a case of the tail wagging the dog?

Name (optional)

Seriously????

Glad I live in the UK!

Anonymous

Actually it would be asking for a lawyer, dawg.

LC trying to be a roadman is pathetic. Clearly listened to Stormzy once.

Not Amused

I find this in no way ambiguous and I don’t speak with a Louisiana accent (as both the officer and the judge will).

A British Judge making a similar finding would be rightly castigated (even better – sacked).

I think it is patently clear what the gentleman was asking for, what he needed and why he didn’t get it. I also think the law as worded is bad law and designed to discriminate against the vulnerable.

Anonymous

This is another case of injustice in the american legal system. It’s apparent that the police officers in this case cannot be considered reasonable police officers. Given the context clues, they should have known that he was asking for a lawyer. He clearly states that he didn’t do it and they should provide him with a lawyer. The american courts need to stop protecting police officers when they have clearly been negligent. A ruling of this nature shows that these kind of laws are not designed to protect everyone. Instead, people are deprived of their rights and ultimate justice simply because they are not as articulate as their neighbour, or culturally, they have a different way of expressing themselves. Let’s guess the socio economic background and race of the suspect. Deplorable!

Anonymous

Indeed! “Ambiguous” implies that there is more than one conceivable interpretation of what is being said. Is it seriously being maintained that he could have been asking for a canine attorney or canine generally. Obviously not!!!

Racist decision by a racially motivated court in a racist state

Anonymous

“Did he not mean give me a lawyer, dog”


Tom Tumbleweed Connelly strikes again.

Anonymous

“why don’t you just give me a lawyer” Is what the man said. The only possible interpretations are that the man was asking for a lawyer, or did not understand that he had a right to legal advice irrespective of what the officers ‘gave ‘ him, and therefore did not understand the Miranda whatever (sorry uk). Anything to do with dogs is a red herring.

Anonymous

Reading his statement, it doesn’t read like a request; I think the Supreme Court got it right.

To loosely paraphrase the accused, he stated “You say I did it, I say I didn’t, so why don’t you get me a lawyer because it’s not as you say it is.”

That to me is not an “unequivocal request for legal counsel”. It may be semantics but bear in mind that with double jeopardy and likely dismissal of all charges on procedural technicality, they would be forced to use semantics to keep the case, one of sexual assault on a minor, alive.

Anonymous

the thrust of your argument here seems to be “it’s okay that this man was denied his right to legal counsel given that he did a bad thing and is a criminal”

please spare us the concern trolling about “double jeopardy!” and “getting off on a technicality”, if they’d respected his right to legal counsel in the first place they wouldn’t be in a position where him getting off on a technicality was even possible!

Anonymous

Is this meant to be a joke? It couldn’t possibly be a more obvious example of an “unequivocal request for legal counsel”!

Ciaran Goggins

There is no right to silence in Airstrip One.

Anonymous

Perhaps a request for an assitence dog? Like they sometimes provide for children to make the process less intimidating?
If I remember correctly, such dogs are appointed canine officers of the court, just as K9 unit animals are members of the police force …

Anonymous

they don’t do this in the united states and people with disabilities that require assistance dogs are routinely denied access to those resources once they enter the criminal justice system.

this is systemic racism in action, plain and simple. they are using feigned ignorance of cultural vernacular to deny somebody their constitutional rights.

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