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Suspect’s Request for ‘Lawyer Dog’ Is Taken Literally
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Summary: The Louisiana Supreme Court ruled that a suspect’s request for a “lawyer dog” during an interrogation did not mean he wanted a human lawyer.

Dog’s may be smart, able to learn several tricks like opening doors, ringing bells, bringing you the newspaper, and sniff out bombs but they aren’t to the level of being a lawyer. A Louisiana court felt differently when a suspect asked for a “lawyer dog.”

  
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A suspect was being interrogated by detectives when he said, “Just give me a lawyer dog.” The suspect was likely using the common slang where “dog” is added at the end of a statement like “See ya later dog.” However, the Louisiana Supreme Court ruled that the suspect was, in fact, asking for a dog that was a lawyer, thus not invoking his constitutional right to counsel. Maybe lawyer dogs are a common thing in Louisiana and readily available to help out humans with legal issues.

The Louisiana high court ruling will have serious implications for the suspect, who is charged with raping a minor. Back in October 2015, Warren Demesme, then 22, had been brought in for the second time by the New Orleans Police Department regarding the accusation of two young girls that he raped them. Demesme repeatedly denied the crime, becoming frustrated and finally telling the 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.”

The Orleans Parish District Attorney’s office provided the argument, which was accepted by Louisiana Associate Supreme Court Justice Scott J. Crichton. The ruling allows the incriminating statements he made to be used as evidence in his trial, which is pending. The ruling clarified the issue that a request for a canine attorney was not a reason for police to stop questioning someone.

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Demesme made admissions to the crime after asking for the lawyer dog. He was charged with aggravated rape and indecent behavior with a juvenile. He has been held in the Orleans Parish jail until trial.

The public defender assigned to the case from the Orleans Parish, Derwyn D. Bunton, had filed a motion to suppress his statement. In the brief, Bunton wrote, “Under increased interrogation pressure, Mr. Demesme invokes his right to an attorney, stating with emotion and frustration, ‘Just give me a lawyer.’” The police continued questioning Demesme when he “unequivocally and unambiguously asserted his right to counsel.”



Assistant District Attorney Kyle Daly’s response to the brief was that the suspect’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. A reasonable officer under the circumstances would have understood as they did, that the defendant only might be invoking his right to counsel.”

The trial court and appeals court rejected Burton’s motion to have the statement thrown out. This left Burton with one last option – the state Supreme Court. While the court could have denied the appeals without providing a written ruling but Justice Crichton wrote a brief concurrence “to spotlight the very important constitutional issue regarding the invocation of counsel during a law enforcement interview.”

He noted that state case law says “if a suspect makes a reference to an attorney that is ambiguous or equivocal…the cessation of questioning is not required.” He added, “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.”

Do you think the ruling was reasonable? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below.

To learn more about the Louisiana Supreme Court, read these articles:

Photo: flickr.com



 

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