NEW ORLEANS – Did the suspect ask for a lawyer dog? Or did he call a detective "dog," while seeking a lawyer?
A Louisiana Supreme Court justice appears to side with the canine lawyer interpretation.
Defense lawyers say the confession of Warren Demesme, 24, in a New Orleans rape case should be suppressed because he asked for counsel during an October 2015 interrogation. He told investigators, "Why don't you just give me a lawyer dog ..."
Louisiana's Supreme Court allowed the confession. The majority issued no written ruling, but in a separate opinion Justice Scott Crichton said Demesme's "equivocal reference to a 'lawyer dog'" didn't merit stopping interrogation.
Online court watchers have ridiculed Crichton's opinion, which went beyond prosecutors' arguments.
"Even setting aside that this errs on the side of law enforcement rather than on the side of the accused, there is nothing in Demesme's statement that is ambiguous, assuming the officers involved understood Demesme's vernacular," editor Ed Krayewski wrote in a post on Reason.com.
"Suspect Asks for 'a Lawyer, Dawg.' Judge Says He Asked for 'a Lawyer Dog'" was the online headline on Slate.
According to prosecution filings, Demesme at one point told interrogators:
"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 whats up."
Prosecutors, in their response to the defense request for a Supreme Court review, had argued that Demesme's statement was not an unequivocal request for an attorney and that his later confession was, therefore, admissible.
But they did not focus on the word's "lawyer dog."
They focused on the words "if y'all think I did it," as evidence of equivocation.
They also said Demesme, who had been advised of his rights, was immediately advised again that "whether he wanted a lawyer was his choice," and that he continued answering questions.
Demesme's reference to a lawyer didn't clearly invoke his right to counsel, "because the defendant communicated that whether he actually wanted a lawyer was dependent on the subjective beliefs of the officers," prosecutors wrote.
Demesme is jailed on one count of aggravated rape and one of indecent behavior with a juvenile. Prosecutors say the charges are related to the sexual abuse of two younger female cousins. A hearing in his case is set for Jan. 12. There is currently no trial date.