Fourth Amendment

He Said He Wanted a 'Lawyer[,] Dog'; The Court Ruled That Was Too Vague

The Louisiana Supreme Court denied an appeal by a defendant claiming police ignored his request for a lawyer.


Know Your Meme

"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 set by Davis v. United States, 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.

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. (And they had to have understood—if they didn't, why would they have been assigned to the questioning?)

Chricton's argument relies specifically on the ambiguity of what a "lawyer dog" might mean. And this alleged ambiguity is attributable entirely to the lack of a comma between "lawyer" and "dog" in the transcript. As such, the ambiguity is not the suspect's but the court's. And it requires willful ignorance to maintain it.

The court ruled 6-1* to deny the writ. Only Associate Justice Jefferson Hughes voted against the denial. He has not filed a dissent yet.

*A previous version of this article incorrectly said 8-1. Apologies.

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  1. The court needs to find that stewardess who speaks jive.

    1. That film is still funny after all this time!

      And I think it might have been in the sequel, where the guy takes he stand in court and they run subtitles for jive. At one point he says, “Well sheee-it!” and they translate it as “Golly!”

      1. Guess I picked a bad day to quit Cocaine!

        1. No, I’ll never get over Macho Grande.

      2. Did U know that Samuel L. Jackson was on the Jive talkers & Leave it to Beaver’s Mother, Barbara Billingsley was the white woman who translated?

        1. Yes, but she wasn’t a stewardess just another passenger. She improvised the “I speak jive” bit, the black actors went with the gag and the director was smart enough to keep the cameras rolling.

      3. What still cracks me up is the court stenographer turning into Stevie Wonder while the black guy is testifying, in the sequel.

  2. Chricton’s argument relies specifically on the ambiguity of what a “lawyer dog” might mean. And this alleged ambiguity is attributable entirely to the lack of a comma between “lawyer” and “dog” in the transcript.

    I wonder if these squares could have figured it out if the transcript properly read “dawg”.

  3. Dog, there’s nothing even remotely confusing about his statement: (If you think I did it, I didn’t so why not give me a lawyer because I need one because you think I’m guilty)

    1. Cops feigning ignorance of a vernacular they hear every day so as to make that collar? Naw, dog.

    2. That’s definitely what he meant, but that’s not an unambiguous request for a lawyer.

      1. In that man’s situation, I’d have made every effort to ensure the cops understood that I wanted a lawyer. Why did he keep talking when they didn’t bring him one?

    3. Look at how this statement can read: “If you think I did it, I didn’t so why not give me a lawyer? Because I need one because young think I’m guilty?” I agree with this decision. I am all for complying with Miranda but seriously, how hard is it to say: “I want a lawyer.” I advise people to have an exact name as well. Pick one out of the phone book or grab a business card.

  4. What happens when a state court makes something up and then relies on that creation to rule against a person? Are federal courts able to step in?

    1. I believe if the guy files an appeal with the Feds and the court feels their is enough grounds to continue he could sue because his constitutional right to a lawyer was violated. I believe that is how the right was extended/clarified in the first place in Gideon v Wainwright, a supreme court case.

      – not an attorney.

      1. Gideon at least asked the court directly to appoint him an attorney, which the court refused to do under the law as it stood at the time (Gideon was not charged with a capital offense).

        That said, the defendant spoke the magic word (“lawyer”) and the interrogation should have stopped

  5. “if you think I’m guilty, give me a lawyer”. Clearly he was being presumed innocent, as the law expects. Learn to speak in 2nd grade, get bitches get paid.

    1. Um, no, this is Louisiana, where the law the law gets to be more flexible with “rights”

    2. you don’t have a constitutional duty to speak the queen’s english.

  6. When I was in the military (but during the Cold War days), we were advised that if we were taken prisoner by the enemy we were required to give them only the following information: name, rank, serial number (SSN). Who ever thought ‘the enemy’ would be our fellow citizens?

    1. Haha. No cops aren’t “citizens”.
      That’s their word for us – the tax serfs.

    2. most states require a person to identify himself. apart from that, my advice is to explicitly invoke rights of silence and council and stfu.

  7. Willful ignorance? Such legalese. Down here we call it “playing dumb”.

  8. “assuming the officers involved understood Demesme’s vernacular. (And they had to have understood?if they didn’t, why would they have been assigned to the questioning?)”

    Well, here is the catch-22.
    If they understand the black man, it is cultural appropriation.
    If they assign interrogators that do understand the black man, specifically because they DO understand the black man, it is racism.

    Besides, accusation equals guilt in sex crimes, every college student knows that. Why waste time on an interrogation?

  9. Another good reason to stay away from Louisiana…

    1. Are there any bad reasons to stay away from Louisiana?

      1. Because you don’t like gumbo. If you say that you’re just wrong.

  10. Don’t want to be treated like a thug, don’t speak common vernaculars like a thug.

    1. That’s right, dog.

  11. The police would have knew exactly what the suspect wanted if he would have said, “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 pig cause this is not what’s up.”

    The police have dogs and they shoot people’s dogs, but they are not “your dog”.

    At least police recorded something, which we all know they don’t like to do. Shoot, even the FBI does not record interviews.

    1. I’m not your dog, buddy!

      1. I’m not your buddy, guy!

    2. If there is a recording, could the court have asked to hear it, instead of relying on a transcript?

    3. “would have knew”?

  12. Learn how to speak English, dawg. And when you ‘aks’ for a lawyer and don’t get one, stop answering their questions.

    1. ^This, exactly. The only words that should ever come out of your mouth, at any time you are in custody (or even anywhere near an interview that you’re “free to leave at any time”) are “I want a lawyer.” Do not pass go, do not collect $200, just “I want a lawyer.”

      I’m more angry than shocked every time I see the interview footage of some dumb kid sitting behind that interview table running his mouth off when they play good cop/bad cop.

      If we want to teach our poor disadvantaged youths something truly helpful, it would be “shut the f*ck up around cops.” Make the pigs work for their investigation instead of handing them a confession, especially if you didn’t do it. Same goes for those who think they have nothing to lose by talking to the FBI because they didn’t do anything wrong, until they’re indicted for lying to the FBI.

  13. And it requires willful ignorance to maintain it.

    Unfortunately, projections of peak willful ignorance have failed to pan out.

  14. Did they coerce him or could he just not control himself? Presumably he said something other than “I didn’t do it”.

  15. Why the fuck is the burden on the accused here? The cops should have to make damn sure that the suspect is voluntarily waiving the right to an attorney and is aware of what that means before interrogating anyone.

  16. Conservative or liberal, can’t we mostly agree that our criminal justice system has become too geared to locking people up instead of finding and following truth?

  17. How do you know “dog” wasn’t his pejorative for the cop interrogating him? As in “…get me a lawyer pig…”

  18. More woodchippers dog.

  19. The legal profession has decided a suspect (everybody not in authority) is not entitled to some rights if they don’t ask for them. The police, so-called protectors of rights, may violate some rights. What rights & when? That varies with the jurisdiction, the suspect’s political power, and is constantly expanding without warning. The expansion of police power is subtle and gradual but essentially relies upon public acceptance, i.e., the expansion will continue until the public stops it. No sense of morality or decency on the part of TPTB will stop it. It is up to the public to protect their rights. No so-called representatives will do so. See recorded history for evidence of the continual struggle of the citizen against authority. The stronger the ruler, politician, executive, judicial is allowed to be by the citizen being weak will determine the oppression. The stronger the citizenry the weaker the authorities. No authority is freedom.

  20. unfortunately this is fully in line with 5th amendment miranda jurisprudence. invocations of the right to an attorney have to be explicit; waivers can be determined by conduct.

    1. This was explicit. The word “dog” is surplusage.

      1. This idiot’s problem wasn’t that he he told them to give him a “lawyer dog” it’s that he never actually asked for or demanded a lawyer. All he did was ASK the cops “why don’t you give me a lawyer”, which would be no different than asking the cop if you need a lawyer and he replies “only if you’re guilty” and kept questioning away.
        Honestly, I have no pity for this moron. It’s about as stupid as the witness in an old Perry Mason episode who just breaks down under Mason’s cross examination and admits to a crime someone else is being tried for. If the cops already suspect you and are questioning you why would you say anything other than “I want a lawyer”. Or, perhaps, just to piss the cops off, respond to every question with the word “lawyer”!

  21. BFYTW

    The point of such obvious lies is to tell us we have no power, and they can do whatever the fuck they like to us.

    1. “They” (DemoGOP politicians spending tax money on subsidized teevee) tell “us” (idiots too dumb to vote libertarian) “we” have no power. Is this the mutha of all self-fulfilling prophesy or what?

  22. What did he say? Was he obviously guilty?

    1. Is (or should be) irrelevant at the interrogation. Any waiver of Miranda rights is supposed to be knowing and voluntary, without reference to the “obvious guilt” of the accused.

    2. Hell, yes, he was obviously guilty! They arrested him didn’t they?

  23. What if he’d said “give me a lawyer man?” Would he have been demanding a male lawyer?

    Or “Give me a lawyer officer?” A cop that passed the bar?

    Or “give me a fucking lawyer?” A lawyer who worked as a prostitute on the side?

    Or “give me a lawyer pig?” A law swine?

    Or “give me a lawyer asshole.” Would that have just been redundant???

  24. Clearly what is needed is a fifth amendment permit, like the second amendment permits. (sometimes referred to as carry permits, or concealed carry permits)

    It would also have to be at the state level, issued by the local sheriff.
    All you have to do is show the permit, and everyone will know you are asking for your fifth amendment rights.
    Of course, to assure equal protection, it will be necessary to require a background check paid for by the applicant; a full set of fingerprints, paid for by the applicant; a four or five hour course on proper use of the fifth amendment, paid for by the applicant; and if the permit application is denied by the sheriff, no appeal.

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