Could it be possible that the Louisiana Supreme Court was that desperate to avoid holding invocation of the right to counsel that it burned Warren Demesme over a comma?
“If y’all, 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.”
That was Warren Demesme talking to the police after he voluntarily agreed to be interviewed over accusations he sexually assaulted a minor. In an opinion concurring with the Louisiana Supreme Court’s decision to deny the man a writ of certiorari, Justice Scott Chricton insists that Demesme only “ambiguously referenced a lawyer.”
Well yes, it could. But it didn’t. The “lawyer dog” cuteness comes not from the 6-1 majority opinion, but Judge Scott Cricton’s concurrence.
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 and does not violate Edwards v. Arizona,
Silly and myopic, bordering on absurd? Obviously, but also not the basis for the holding. One characterization of the statement is that by omitting a comma, which would make it “lawyer, dog,” it changed the meaning of the invocation. Elie Mystal also suggests that the spelling missed the boat, that Demesme said “dawg,” not “dog.” This seems pretty clear, but wasn’t the basis for denying suppression.
It has been brutally clear that an invocation of the right to counsel must be clear, unequivocal and unambiguous. There was nothing about Demesme’s invocation that met the test, with two conditional prefaces before the “dog” question.
It’s not that judges are too stupid to grasp that his purpose was to invoke his right to counsel. It’s that judges don’t want to suppress statements, and the Supreme Court has set up a trap for the unwary, knowing full well that most people under interrogation will try to wiggle their way through by moderating their request so as not to come off looking too guilty. People have this bone in their head that makes them think they can still talk their way out of their predicament, so they qualify their request, use what they believe to be plausibly ambiguous wording, to both ask for a lawyer while not appearing uncooperative.
It doesn’t work. The Supreme Court has made sure of it. It is not because they don’t get it, but because they don’t want to relieve a suspect of the taint of his words if there is any way to avoid doing so. And most of the time, suspects make it easy.
Memorize the magic words. Teach your clients, your children, your neighbors and friends, these magic words.
I do not want to answer questions.
I want to speak with my attorney.
Forget nuance or politeness. Forget trying to fudge the line between getting your face smashed by the agent who doesn’t think well of your assertion of rights that will make his life more difficult. Either get the words out of your mouth exactly as shown or kiss it good-bye.
And despite the fact that you’ve been told a million times to STFU, that comes after you’ve spoken the magic words, because silence is not an invocation of your right to remain silent or your right to an attorney.
Dogs are cute. Dawgs too. But that wasn’t the problem or the issue, even though it makes for the cuter post. Blame the Louisiana Supreme Court (and the big one as well) for gaming the Fifth and Sixth Amendments, but better to learn how to properly invoke your rights than gripe about missing commas or how courts hate dogs.