Transcript's Missing Comma Costs Suspect in Court

Warren Demesme seemed to ask for a 'lawyer, dawg,' but court reads it as 'lawyer dog'
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 1, 2017 10:35 AM CDT
Court Rules Against Suspect Over 'Lawyer Dog' Ambiguity
Warren Demesme   (Orleans Parish Sheriff's Office)

A Louisiana man being questioned by police in the sexual assault of two juveniles at one point said the following, per a police transcript: "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." As Elie Mystal writes at Above the Law, it seems obvious that the transcript should more accurately read, "I know that I didn't do it so why don't you just give me a lawyer, dawg, cause this is not what's up." But the Louisiana Supreme Court disagrees and has rejected Warren Demesme's claim that police rejected his right to counsel, reports the Times-Picayune of New Orleans. And its decision hinged on that all-important distinction between "dog" and "dawg," and the lack of a comma in the transcript.

"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," writes Justice Scott Crichton. That is, the court ruled that because Demesme seemed to ask for a "lawyer dog," it was unclear that he wanted an actual lawyer, and so all his statements are fair game. The ruling doesn't take into account the possibility that the police transcript of Demesme's statement was off the mark. The 24-year-old is awaiting trial on charges of first-degree rape and indecent behavior with a juvenile under 13, and he faces a mandatory life sentence if convicted on the rape charge. (More criminal justice system stories.)

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