Tag Archives: false confession

LA Supreme Court: It’s Reasonable to Believe “Give Me a Lawyer Dog” was Request for a Dog Who is a Lawyer

Lawyer Dog Louisiana Supreme Court Canine Attorney

Lawyer Dog should really ask Grumpy Judge to recuse herself. #JusSayin

Recently, the Louisiana Supreme Court issued a ruling on a motion to suppress evidence against Warren Demesme, who is currently awaiting trial in New Orleans. By a 6-1 majority the court denied that motion, which maintained that statements Demesme had made should be thrown because the police had ignored his request for legal counsel during interrogations.

What’s gotten a lot of attention (and rightfully so) since that ruling is the courts’ contention that Demesme’s request was ambiguous and unclear. But even more so for the reasoning behind the ruling. Orleans Parish Assistant District Attorney Kyle Daly argued in his response to the motion that Demesme’s statement, “just give me a lawyer dog,” could be misinterpreted by a “reasonable officer” based on the use of the words “lawyer dog.”

In a brief accompanying the decision, Louisiana Associate Supreme Court Justice Scott J. Crichton agreed that the defendant’s use of “lawyer dog” could be misconstrued to mean something else and therefore did not qualify as a request for counsel.

Via the Washington Post:

Warren Demesme, then 22, was being interrogated by New Orleans police in October 2015 after two young girls claimed he had sexually assaulted them. It was the second time he’d been brought in, and he was getting a little frustrated, court records show. He had repeatedly denied the crime. Finally, Demesme told the detectives:

“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 punctuation, arguably critical to Demesme’s use of the sobriquet “dog,” was provided by the Orleans Parish District Attorney’s office in a brief, and then adopted by Louisiana Associate Supreme Court Justice Scott J. Crichton.

Demesme subsequently made admissions to the crime, prosecutors said, and was charged with aggravated rape and indecent behavior with a juvenile. He is being held in the Orleans Parish jail awaiting trial.

The public defender for Orleans Parish, Derwyn D. Bunton, took on Demesme’s case and filed a motion to suppress Demesme’s statement. In a court brief, Bunton noted that police are legally bound to stop questioning anyone who asks for a lawyer. “Under increased interrogation pressure,” Bunton wrote, “Mr. Demesme invokes his right to an attorney, stating with emotion and frustration, ‘Just give me a lawyer.’” The police did not stop their questioning, Bunton argued, “when Mr. Demesme unequivocally and unambiguously asserted his right to counsel.”

Louisiana Associate Supreme Court Justice Scott J. Crichton

Louisiana Associate Supreme Court Justice Scott J. Crichton

Orleans Parish Assistant District Attorney Kyle Daly responded in his brief that Demesme’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.” Daly added, “A reasonable officer under the circumstances would have understood, as [the detectives] did, that the defendant only might be invoking his right to counsel.”

Bunton’s motion to throw out Demesme’s statement was rejected by the trial court and the appeals court, so he took it to the state Supreme Court. The Supreme Court, in a ruling issued last Friday and first reported by Reason, could have denied the appeal without issuing a written ruling, which it does in most cases. But Justice Crichton decided to write a brief concurrence “to spotlight the very important constitutional issue regarding the invocation of counsel during a law enforcement interview.”

Crichton noted that Louisiana case law has ruled that “if a suspect makes a reference to an attorney that is ambiguous or equivocal . . . the cessation of questioning is not required.” Crichton then concluded: “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.”

So…

There’s a lot of things wrong with that decision. The most obvious issue is that they didn’t actually provide him with a dog who is a lawyer, as they claim they thought he had requested. It’s probably not the wisest move to request a dog to represent you in court, but if he’s a good boy and graduated from an accredited law school, who am I to cast aspersions?

Of course, that’s kind of the biggest problem with the “logic” of this ruling. They couldn’t give him a “lawyer dog” because, outside of memes on the internets, it’s not an actual thing. At this point in history, not one single dog has ever managed to pass the bar exam. Not Lassie, not Rin Tin Tin, not Benji, not even Snoopy. Scooby Doo is way to high to even think about taking the SAT’s, let alone the LSAT’s, and don’t even get me started on Marmaduke.

If any dog could have pulled it off, it obviously would have been Brian Griffin, but he died tragically after eating chocolate out of the garbage years ago. So, he’s not available right now.

What it boils down to is, if somebody asks for legal council, as is their constitutional right under the Sixth Amendment, you shouldn’t just be able to pretend you didn’t understand them because they used some (not uncommon) slang. In fact, if for some reason they ask for a “lawyer dog,” but there aren’t any available (or willing to work pro bone-o), then you give them a lawyer human instead.

It’s hard to have a lot of faith in the U.S. Injustice System, especially after rulings like this (not to mention all the coerced confessions and false convictions they allow for). However, you would hope that some sense of common decency and shame would compel the next appeals court this goes in front of to render a proper ruling on this nonsense.

I have a suspicion this might be a big part of the reason why the State of Louisiana has the highest incarceration rate in the entire world.

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Denver Police Sued by Man Coerced Into Murder Confession at Age of Fourteen

When he was just fourteen years old Lawrence Lorenzo Montoya, was arrested on suspicion of having committed a murder. Initially, he continually insisted that he was innocent and other evidence also indicated that was the case.

In spite of that, Denver detectives concealed the evidence that would exonerate him and eventually bullied and coerced him into a confession. Montoya subsequently was convicted based on that false confession and ended up spending thirteen years in prison before his innocence was proven by DNA evidence and he was released.

Now he’s filed a $30 million dollar lawsuit against the Denver Police Department, as well as the city and county of Denver over the life sentence he received for the wrongful conviction in the murder of Emily Johnson, a Denver teacher, on New Years Day 2000.

Via Fox 31 Denver:

Denver homicide detectives grilled Montoya for 2 1/2 hours, most of the time without even a parent present.

Attorney Lisa Polansky said they were, “Yelling and screaming in his face, making up evidence, banging on the table and cornering him against the wall. Telling him he’s going to spend the rest of his life in prison and should say goodbye to his mother.”

Lawrence Lorenzo Montoya Denver DetectiveThe police interrogation tape shows detectives lying to Montoya about the evidence and statement from other teens. Montoya told police that he was joy-riding in the stolen car the next day but did not commit the crime, wasn’t there when it happened and did not know anything about it.

According to the lawsuit, at least 65 times Montoya told police he did not have anything to do with the death. Finally, sobbing, he told police what they wanted to hear.

“I without a doubt believe he was coerced,” Polansky said.

“He ends up being convicted of a crime because the police coerced him to confess,” attorney David Fisher said.

According to the lawsuit, the interrogation tape shows detectives coaching Montoya through the false confession. It accuses police of ignoring or lying about other evidence that cleared Montoya.

Montoya was charged as an adult, convicted and sentenced to life in prison.  He spent 13 years, seven months and 13 days behind bars until a judge vacated the conviction in 2014 after new DNA testing exonerated him.

Lawrence Lorenzo Montoya Denver False ConvictionFisher said it’s hard to understand why an innocent person would confess, but points out 44 percent of juveniles exonerated by DNA were coerced into false confessions.

“To me there’s nothing worse than a kid who at 14 years old went into an adult prison facility.  It could be avoided and it needs to be avoided,” he said.

Added Polansky: “The district attorneys need to admit their mistake and I think it’s more than a mistake. Their intentional conduct in fabricating and continuing this injustice.”

Not surprisingly, Montoya’s lawyer says that he is having a hard time readjusting to society after those Heroes from the Denver PD purposely cost him roughly half of his life up to this point, in spite of the fact they knew he wasn’t guilty of the murder and had evidence to show that.

And of course, regardless of what amount the taxpayers will be forced to pay Montoya once the lawsuit settles, they will not be punished in any way whatsoever for their intentional acts.

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Cop’s Lies Sent 14 Year Old to Prison for 9 Years, Even Though Real Killer Confessed Weeks After Sentencing

Davontae Sanford James Tolbert Detroit
On Tuesday, a Detroit man who had been in prison since the age of fourteen, due to false testimony by a Detroit police deputy, had his conviction overturned.

Davontae Sanford had received a sentence of 37 to 90 years in prison after being advised by the attorney that originally represented him to plead guilty to four counts of second degree murder for a quadruple homicide in 2007.

Just two weeks after Sanford was sentenced for the murders, the real killer confessed to those murders, along with eight others. In spite of that confession, Sanford remained in prison until his current age of 23. Vincent Smothers, a professional hitman, also signed an affidavit detailing his confession and stating that Sanford was in no way involved in the crime.

Now that his innocence has finally been established, the (unnamed) lawyer who advised him to plead guilty has been suspended from practicing law.

Also, Detroit Police Deputy Chief James Tolbert, whose false testimony was largely responsible for Sanford being charged in the case, was fired. Prior to that, he had been hired as the police chief in Flint, Michigan.

Via USA Today:

Davontae SanfordThe announcement of Sanford’s release comes after Michigan State Police launched an investigation into the killings last year and submitted their findings to (Prosecutor Kym) Worthy’s office last month.

That report included a recorded interview with Detroit Police Deputy Chief James Tolbert in which the cop contradicted testimony that Sanford had drawn a detailed diagram of the crime scene, including location of the victims’ bodies, when the boy was questioned by police in 2007, according to the prosecutor’s office.

“This called into question Tolbert’s credibility in the case,” the Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office said in a statement.

Tolbert, who went to serve as the Flint, Mich., police department chief in 2013, was fired from that position earlier this year.

Sanford — who was assisted in his legal battle by Dykema Gossett, the Michigan Innocence Clinic, the Northwestern Center for the Wrongful Convictions of Youth, and Michigan’s State Appellate Defender’s Office — could be released from prison as early as Wednesday.

James TolbertIncidentally, Tolbert was a subject of controversy almost immediately after he was hired as the police chief in Flint in 2013. At the time, he was being sued by a Detroit detective who claimed he had blocked his efforts to investigate the killing of a stripper.

The stripper, Tamara Greene, was supposedly murdered to help cover up a scandal involving a party at former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick’s home. The lawsuit claimed that Tolbert and other Detroit police officials prevented Odell Godbold from doing a full investigation of the murder in order to protect Kilpatrick.

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“Crowd-Pleasing, Gun-Toting, Tough-Talking” Colorado Sheriff Facing 6 Felonies, Including Extortion And Kidnapping

Last week, Terry Maketa was indicted on nine charges, including six felonies. Less than two years ago, Maketa was the sheriff of El Paso County in Colorado and a powerful Republican “rising star” within local politics.

Along with Former Sheriff Maketa, Former Undersheriff Paula Presley and Former Sheriff’s Office Commander Juan “John” San Agustin were also indicted by the same grand jury. Presley faces the same charges as Maketa, while San Agustin faces two felony charges.

Maketa and Presley were both charged with extortion, conspiracy to commit extortion, tampering with a witness or victim, conspiracy to commit tampering with a witness or victim, second degree kidnapping, false imprisonment, and three separate counts of first degree official misconduct. San Agustin was also included on the kidnapping and false imprisonment charges. A PDF of the grand jury’s indictment can be found here.

Via Gazette.com:

The criminal investigation, led by the Colorado Bureau of Investigation, turned up wide-ranging allegations involving abuses of power and reprisals against political rivals. Among the charges leveled at the three were that they conspired to force a domestic violence victim to recant her story to protect a deputy she accused of punching her – eventually causing her arrest and wrongful incarceration.

In another alleged scheme, Maketa threatened to pull a $5.2 million contract with the jail’s healthcare provider unless the company fired an employee who refused to run Presley’s aborted campaign for sheriff in 2013. The sheriff, who is married, was accused by subordinates of having an affair with Presley, which the pair have denied.

The grand jury also found that Maketa and Presley led a series of internal investigations in 2013 that accused or sought to accuse sheriff’s employees of stealing an internal affairs file belonging to then-sheriff’s candidate Bill Elder – igniting a controversy that threatened to end Elder’s political hopes and instead put the candidate of Maketa’s favor into office.

The grand jury panel met in secret at the El Paso County courthouse in a process overseen by prosecutors with the 18th Judicial District, comprising Arapaho, Elbert, Lincoln and Douglas counties. District Attorney George Brauchler declined to say how many people were on the panel, how many times they met, or what the final split was on the nine counts.

The county has paid more than $300,000 in claims against Maketa and other former Sheriff’s Office employees. Another $400,000 had been paid in fees for financial and personnel investigations and for the three Sheriff’s Office commanders put on paid leave.

Even though they are facing numerous felonies, their bail was set at just $10,000. All three of them have posted that bond and are currently free awaiting trial.

El Paso County Sheriff's Office Indictments

Along with various financial improprieties, at the heart of those charges is a case in which members of the El Paso Sheriff’s Office at Maketa’s direction (just doing their job) caused the girlfriend of a deputy to be arrested after she reported being assaulted by that deputy in order to cover up for him.

Via Gazette.com:

A woman’s face and jawline swelled – allegedly from a punch – and her arm showed bruises.

She blamed it on violent beatings at the hands of her boyfriend – but a month later, she was the one in jail, court documents show.

In 2013, to protect a deputy, then-El Paso County Sheriff Terry Maketa directed a domestic violence victim to change her story and say she was the aggressor, a grand jury found in indicting the former sheriff and two others on Wednesday. Maketa then stood by as the woman was arrested and wrongfully jailed.

The deputy’s girlfriend also said she had been dragged inside their house, as well as pushed and hit on her head over the previous four months, the affidavit said. Some bruises were visible, according to Kaiser’s report.

When Kaiser pressed (Deputy Travis) Garretson on the allegations, he said “it was possible” he hit his girlfriend the previous night, the affidavit said. He also admitted to leaving a string of obscenity-laced voicemails on her phone, including one where he threatened, “I know what you are doing, I will get you back.”

Garretson was arrested and booked into the El Paso County jail on suspicion of third-degree assault and harassment, both misdemeanors.

What followed, however, was a plot to place the blame on Garretson’s girlfriend, Kellie Trull, 45, according to the indictment.

Garretson asked Maketa for help keeping his job in light of his arrest, the indictment said.
The sheriff responded by telling Trull to claim responsibility for starting the fight, for which she would not be arrested, the grand jury found. Presley reiterated those instructions – and the promise Trull would not be arrested, the indictment said.

Kaiser, the same sheriff’s detective who detailed Trull’s swollen face and bruises a month earlier, took the woman’s new confession in September 2013.

However, key details appear to be missing from that affidavit – a document that law enforcement officers must use to justify arrests.

Those details include:

– No mention the couple had worked at the El Paso County jail when the altercation took place. Garretson was a deputy there and Trull worked for Correctional Healthcare Companies, which provided medical services at the jail, the indictment said.

– No mention that Trull followed her about-face confession with the claim that Maketa and Presley told her to recant her statement and accept blame for the fight.

The affidavit largely focused on Trull’s admission that she instigated almost every altercation with Garretson, leaving him scratched and bruised. She also claimed to have been drunk when she drove to a friend’s house, the affidavit said.

Trull was arrested and booked into the Douglas County jail on suspicion of harassment and driving under the influence. She was held more than 24 hours, the grand jury found. Maketa and Presley later assured Garretson that “this could help” him with his own case, the indictment said.

Three Sheriff’s Office employees – Bureau Chief Al Harmon, then-Sgt. Robert Jaworski and Kaiser – said they did not think Trull should have been arrested.

Kaiser said she was following orders. Jaworski said he feared for his job. Harmon denied ordering the arrest, but nevertheless expressed fear about disobeying orders. (Emphasis added.)

Creepy Sheriff MaketaIncidentally, it was the combination of a sex scandal involving affairs Sheriff Maketa, who is married, was having with three female employees of the sheriff’s office, including Presley, and accusations of abusive treatments from other employees that started the whole investigation leading to those indictments.

And as is the usual case, a shirtless selfie ultimately led to his dramatic downfall.

Via Gazette.com:

For years, rumors circulated about improprieties in the Sheriff’s Office, but it was an article accompanied by a shirtless selfie of Maketa on the front page of The Gazette that brought to light accusations of sexual misconduct and abusive treatment of employees.

The article outlined complaints written by three Sheriff’s Office commanders. The complaints, submitted May 12, 2014, to the Board of El Paso County Commissioners and the federal Equal Employment and Opportunity Commission, accused Maketa of discrimination, creating a hostile work environment and financial mismanagement.

The complaint named three women alleged to have had sexual relationships with Maketa: Undersheriff Paula Presley, Comptroller Dorene Cardarelle and the head of training for dispatchers, Tiffany Huntz. Maketa was married at the time. The Gazette also obtained more than 500 emails and text messages between Maketa, Cardarelle and Huntz.

The messages to Cardarelle were explicit.
“Wish you were with me” message accompanied this selfie of Sheriff Terry Maketa sent to a female subordinate.

In one message, a photo of a shirtless Maketa includes the message “wish you were with me.”

The fallout was immediate. County Commissioner Darryl Glenn said Maketa’s alleged affairs were the “worst-kept secret in town.” He said the rumors hadn’t been acted on because there had been no proof.

“This is the first time we’ve been presented evidence from people willing to put down their names,” Glenn said at a press 2014 conference.

Within a week, Commissioner Peggy Littleton called for Maketa to resign, citing a “lack of integrity” in his office.

Two days later, the commissioners gave him a unanimous “no confidence” vote, stating “we believe that leadership within the Sheriff’s Office has been compromised along with the functionality within the office.”

Maketa refused to step down, and instead ordered meetings to discuss employee morale. When one employee told The Gazette about the meetings, Maketa released the personnel file of the person he suspected of leaking the information.

In September 2014, the Colorado Bureau of Investigation confirmed it was investigating the sheriff with the help of the FBI. In December, Maketa submitted retirement paperwork, with plans to leave two weeks before the end of his third term.

Settlements given to Sheriff’s Office employees stand at more than $300,000, with another $400,000 spent by the county for investigations.

Remember folks, shirtless selfies are never a good idea. Neither is extortion, convincing domestic violence victims to lie in order to protect a deputy who beat her up and then kidnapping and falsely imprisoning her after she does so, or even cheating on your wife; especially with people you supervise at work. But above all else, if you feel the urge to take a shirtless selfie, fight it with every fiber of your being. Nothing good will come of it.

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Prisons Can’t be Exonerated of Their Role in The Police State

This post was written by and originally published at the Center For a Stateless Society (C4SS) under the title “You Cannot Exonerate Prisons.” Posts and other content can be submitted to the CopBlock Network via the CopBlock.org Submission Page. (Note: some links have been inserted, although no edits to the original text were made.)

A recent study conducted by The National Registry of Exonerations found that in 2015 there were a total of 149 people who were exonerated for a myriad of reasons. The exonerations revolved around convictions that were based on police misconduct, false confessions and in some cases, the fact that no crime had occurred.

In addition, the study notes a racial element to the exonerations in that “more than two-thirds were minorities, including half who were African American.”

Among the 149 exonerations, 27 of the original convictions were based on a false confession, most based on police misconduct. This misconduct included pressuring supposed witnesses who just so happened to usually be mentally handicapped or children.

On average, the people who were exonerated had already served nearly 15 years. And even though there are some states where the wrongfully convicted can get restitution from the state, the process, says NBC, is difficult and often gets the wrongfully convicted nowhere.

The study also notes that while exonerations were once a public spectacle, due to their rarity, they are now more commonplace. This is partly because of Conviction Integrity Units (CIUs) which are, “a division of a prosecutorial office that works to prevent, identify and remedy false conviction.”

Of particular note are New York and Texas where 17 and over 50 exonerations were found, respectively. In these states the CIUs had a greater ability to look into closed cases. Exoneration rates aren’t necessarily tied to population size, so much as a suitable review process. California, for instance, only had 5 exonerations in 2015 out of a population of nearly 40 million.

Even with the increase in exonerations, University of Michigan law professor Samuel Gross says, “We know very little about the sorts of mistakes we make,” or “how frequently they happen.”

And according to U.S. District Judge John L. Kane, “Ninety-seven percent of federal convictions and ninety-four percent of state convictions are the results of guilty pleas.”

It is absurd to claim the criminal justice system works when such a high percentage of convictions result from people accepting the assigned social role of “guilty.” Many people take plea bargains because they can’t afford to fight the courts, they may fear the process, or because the prosecutor is coercing them into taking the deal by threatening potentially harsher penalties at trial.

It isn’t surprising then that most convictions stem from plea bargains. Violence, intimidation and coercion are some of the main tools in the state’s arsenal. Whether it’s forcing people to come to court, forcing people into tiny cells to rot, or forcing people to take special medicine that will kill them for crimes they committed, the state’s modus operandi is just that — force. The state thrives on violence and the criminal justice system, such that it is, isn’t much different.

Prisons are the most obvious and barbaric aspect of the criminal justice system. They are torture regimes in which individuals are treated as disposable.  A prisoners’ character is reduced to one or a handful of incidents that may have happened in a fit of rage, after poor exercise in judgment, being involved with the wrong people, or because they’ve simply angered the right ones.

Whatever the case, prisons are places where people waste away their lives. This form of punishment denies any possibility of reformation. Being surrounded by other criminals often leads to future criminal activities being plotted from inside jail. This is just one of the many reasons why recidivism is often so high.

This leads us to a broken criminal justice system that is based on coercion, lies and manipulation of the disadvantaged. It’s nice that more prisoners are being exonerated, but the prisons are not innocent. This system of brutality, confinement and restraint of individuals’ liberty can never itself be exonerated.

There is no exonerating an institution that thrives on treating humans as disposable

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