We all here generally support the police and therefore would like to see judges rule in their favor when cases are reasonably close calls. So perhaps there can be a little leeway given to Louisiana Supreme Court Justice Scott Crichton for doing his best to interpret state law in favor of police detectives attempting to solve a crime.
“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.”
Chricton notes that under current legal precedent in Louisiana, if a suspect makes an “ambiguous or equivocal” reference to a lawyer—one where a “reasonable” cop could conclude that that the suspect only “might” be invoking his right to an attorney—police can continue their interrogation. “Maybe I need a lawyer,” for example, is considered too ambiguous.
The first paragraph of Crichton’s concurring opinion, which goes a little further than the main body of the court (Demesme’s writ was denied on a 6-1 vote by the justices, with Jeff Hughes as the only dissent), gives a bit more context to what’s at stake…
I agree with the Court’s decision to deny the defendant’s writ application and write separately to spotlight the very important constitutional issue regarding the invocation of counsel during a law enforcement interview. The defendant voluntarily agreed to be interviewed twice regarding his alleged sexual misconduct with minors. At both interviews detectives advised the defendant of his Miranda rights and the defendant stated he understood and waived those rights. Nonetheless, the defendant argues he invoked his right to counsel. And the basis for this comes from the second interview, where I believe the defendant ambiguously referenced a lawyer— prefacing that statement with “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.”
Demesme, 24, was arrested in October 2015 on allegations that he sexually assaulted two juvenile victims, including the rape of one preteen girl. He faces a mandatory life sentence if convicted of the rape charge.
Demesme, represented by the Orleans Public Defenders, sought to suppress a purportedly incriminating statement made to NOPD sex crimes detective Nijel Baddoo. According to arrest documents, Demesme admitted to sexually assaulting one of the child accusers, but denied doing so to the other.
The other five justices just denied Demesme’s writ without issuing an opinion. You may read elsewhere that Crichton speaks for the majority of the Supreme Court, but he doesn’t. It’s a concurring opinion, and one which probably didn’t need to be written.
Demesme hasn’t gone to trial yet. He’s just trying to suppress his confession. At this point one imagines a plea deal is in his future, and his case will be forgotten in due time.
But the memes arising from Crichton’s suggestion that a reasonable cop might have thought Demesme was seeking a lawyer dog…well, those won’t go away so soon.
And our favorite…