Tag Archives: interrogation

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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Video of Massachusetts Detective Threatening to Kill; Plant Drugs on Teens Released (Update)

Last month, I blogged about the case of a Springfield, MA detective who threatened to beat and murder two teens. In addition, Detective Gregg Bigda stated that he would plant drugs on their bodies, in order to justify his actions. As point out in that first article, Det. Bigda has a history of misconduct and violent behavior, as well.

From that original post:

The threat to crush their skulls and then place cocaine in their pocket took place during an interrogation and was recorded by a video surveillance camera. The video has not been released publicly, supposedly to protect the identity of the teens he threatened to violently kill.

In spite of being caught red handed issuing these threats, Det. Bigda is not being charged with a crime, nor will he even be fired from the police department and forced to go work for a different department in another area of the state. Instead, he just received a suspension and will be back on the streets protecting and serving the shit out of the citizens of Springfield in 60 short days.

The two teens and another teen were accused of stealing an unmarked police car that another detective had left idling (and probably illegally parked) outside a pizza shop. As they were being arrested for that offense, an unnamed Springfield police officer kicked one of the teens in the face after he was already handcuffed and lying on the ground. There’s no indication that this officer received  any punishment at all for his assault on a defenseless teenager.

Now that video has been released by The Republican a Springfield area newspaper. And according to a post at Photography Is Not a Crime, they are as bad, if not worse than advertised:

During the videos, Detective Gregg Bigda makes a number of threats against the teens — neither of whom had an attorney or legal guardian present, or were read their rights.

The interrogations were conducted at the Palmer Police Station. Bigda tells both teens that he is eventually taking them back to the Springfield Police Station, which he stresses does not have cameras.

In the first video, he tells a 16-year-old boy in a red shirt: “See that camera up there? It don’t fucking exist [at the Springfield Police Station]. So anything happens to you at my place never happened. If I don’t write it in my report, it never happened.”

He later tells the teen: “You know I’m gonna beat the fuck out of you when you get back to Springfield right now, ’cause you just lied to my face … When we get back, I’m gonna tune you the fuck up, because you just lied to me. And I’m telling you in advance, and I’m being nice to you.”

In the second video, a teen wearing a gray-shirt says that his face hurts. Bigda responds: “You think it hurts now? You know where we’re going after this? We’re going back to fucking Springfield.”

He then explains how the Springfield Police Station doesn’t have cameras. He makes another threat to injure the teen’s face later in the video, even telling him it will require a trip to the hospital.

The threats continue: “I could fucking crush your skull and fucking get away with it.” Bigda then threatens to “fucking bring the dog back, let him fucking go after ya.”

And: “Don’t even fucking speak if you’re gonna lie to me, ’cause I’ll fucking kill you in the parking lot.”

And: “I’ll charge you with killing Kennedy and fucking make it stick … I’m not hampered by the fucking truth, ’cause I don’t give a fuck … I’ll stick a fucking kilo of coke in your pocket and put you away for fucking 15 years.”

In the third video, Bigda threatens the red-shirted teen again: [W]hen we get back to Springfield — I’m not even waiting for Springfield. When we get that fucking lying, I’m gonna bloody your body.”

In all three videos, Detective Luke Cournoyer is with Bigda and does not seem bothered by his threats and coercive interrogation techniques.

BTW, Det Bigda even had the nerve to complain about the measly 60 day suspension he received as “punishment” for his actions on those videos.

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Massachusetts Detective Caught on Video Threatening to Kill Teens & Plant Drugs on Them (Just) Suspended 60 Days

Detective Gregg Bigda, of the Springfield (MA) Police Department’s narcotics unit, threatened to murder two teens and then plant drugs on them to justify it. The threat to crush their skulls and then place cocaine in their pocket took place during an interrogation and was recorded by a video surveillance camera. The video has not been released publicly, supposedly to protect the identity of the teens he threatened to violently kill.

In spite of being caught red handed issuing these threats, Det. Bigda is not being charged with a crime, nor will he even be fired from the police department and forced to go work for a different department in another area of the state. Instead, he just received a suspension and will be back on the streets protecting and serving the shit out of the citizens of Springfield in 60 short days.

The two teens and another teen were accused of stealing an unmarked police car that another detective had left idling (and probably illegally parked) outside a pizza shop. As they were being arrested for that offense, an unnamed Springfield police officer kicked one of the teens in the face after he was already handcuffed and lying on the ground. There’s no indication that this officer received  any punishment at all for his assault on a defenseless teenager.

Via WAMC.org, a Massachusetts public radio affiliate:

A video of the interrogation, during which Bigda reportedly threatened to crush the skull of one of the teens and  plant a kilo of cocaine in his pocket, was provided to defense attorneys who are now using it to impeach Bigda’s credibility in pending drug cases.

Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno said he supports the commissioner’s decision to suspend Bigda because of the likelihood firing him would not survive a civil service appeal and the city would be ordered to rehire the cop with back pay.

” I am not happy about it. This is what was recommended,” Sarno said. ” It is a most severe suspension of 60 working days without pay and retraining.”

Barbieri told The Republican newspaper that Bigda will be reassigned to uniform duty on a day shift when his suspension ends.

Springfield City Councilor Justin Hurst, joined by four of his colleagues at a news conference, complained the punishment given Bigda is too lenient.

” I think we have to ask when it comes to this case, at what point, at what standard is there when the commissioner feels a cop should be terminated,” asked Hurst?

Of course, Hurst brings up a good question. Especially since, like many other Bad Apples, Bigda has a history of misconduct, including violent acts, that all of the Good Cops in his department have a history of minimizing or simply ignoring. He even had two restraining orders issued against him for breaking into an ex-girlfriend’s house, threatening her, and engaging in a “physical altercation” against her. Det. Bigda was also involved in an illegal search of a UPS truck in 2005.

According to Mayor Sarno:

“We have to protect the integrity, professionalism, and brave efforts of our police department and in turn make sure our residents have complete confidence in our police department.”

Obviously, these sort of examples of “accountability” for cops caught (numerous times) committing misconduct and making threats or even engaging in assaults against citizens does the opposite of both those things, though.

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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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Update: Arkansas Police Chief that Arrested Man For Open Carry Burned His Own Truck; Stole From Department

In August of last year, I wrote a post about a video that had been submitted by a Cop Block reader showing a police chief in Bald Knob, Arkansas questioning Richard Chambless, a Second Amendment activist who had been arrested while legally open carrying a hand gun.

During that video, Chief Erek Balentine was very insistent that open carrying actually wasn’t legal in Arkansas and even eventually berated Chambless in an angry outburst toward the end of the interrogation. He also had some sort of issue with the fact Chambless was carrying a police scanner at the time of his arrest, implying that it was an indicator of criminal intentions.

A month later, Chief Balentine resigned, presumably under public pressure as a result of the publicity generated by the video featured in the first post, stating he was in “fear for his family’s safety.” However, this is where things really start to get interesting.

According to Balentine, someone had spray painted “2 Amendment” on both sides of his truck and then lit that truck on fire. Obviously, this was some whacky, extremist gun nut retaliating for Chief Balentine’s arrest of Chambless for something that wasn’t just legal, but was expressly protected within the Constitution. Right?

Bald Knob Police Chief Balentine Resigns

Former Bald Knob Police Chief Balentine

Now the real truth has come out, though. Former Bald Knob Arkansas Police Chief Erek Ballentine is a big filthy liar and a thief on top of that. And, although this is the least shocking revelation involving this story, he’s just not a very smart or well thought out criminal mastermind, either.

Not only has he joined the ranks of cops who have staged an “attack” against themselves as part of the Fake War On Cops, but he also joined the very crowded ranks of cops who have committed fraud and stole from their own department.

In fact, the entire burned truck incident was intended to somehow distract from the fact that he had stolen a shotgun, which had been donated to the police department for a fundraising auction and then sold it and pocketed the cash. The fraud part of the equation is based on him having filed a insurance claim on the truck he actually burned.

Of course, no story about a criminal cop (I realize that’s a bit redundant and that I’m not supposed to use double negatives) and the Good Cops he works with holding him accountable would be complete without that Bad Apple getting the typical Policeman’s Discount.

After initially being charged with federal felony charges of arson, mail fraud, and possession of a stolen firearm (which he was in possession of because he stole it), Former Chief Balentine was allowed to plead guilty to the single charge of possessing the stolen firearm and promise to pay restitution to Progressive Insurance for the false claim. As part of that deal the Feds agreed not to pursue the more serious charges of arson and fraud.

Original Video of Man Arrested in Bald Knob, Arkansas for Legally Open Carrying a Gun

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