NEW ORLEANS (CN) – Without addressing the possibility that a man’s slang was mangled in court transcripts, the Louisiana Supreme Court found it too ambiguous to say that the man invoked his right to counsel when he said, “I need a lawyer dog.”
The state’s high court voted 6-1 on Friday to deny suspect Warren Demesme’s writ application, finding his use of the word “dog” obstructed his request for counsel.
Demesme, who is black, faces life in prison if convicted of first-degree rape and indecent behavior with a juvenile under 13.
“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,” he said, according to the court’s transcript of Demesme’s 2015 questioning by police.
Demesme voluntarily agreed to two police interviews about his alleged sexual misconduct with minors, court documents show. During both interviews, he was read his Miranda rights, said he understood those rights, and agreed to waive them.
“Nonetheless, the defendant argues he invoked his right to counsel,” Justice Scott J. Crichton wrote in an opinion concurring with last week’s denial. “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.”
The justices’ interpretation of Demesme’s statement does not address the possibility that a comma between the words “lawyer” and “dog” would have cleared up the request, or that slang may have been involved.
Merriam-Webster’s dictionary offers two uses of the word “dawg” – one of which is slang to mean “man, buddy or dude.”
Quoting a prior decision by the Louisiana Supreme Court, Justice Crichton concluded, “[i]f a suspect makes a reference to an attorney that is ambiguous or equivocal in that a reasonable police officer in light of the circumstances would have understood only that the suspect might be invoking his right to counsel, the cessation of questioning is not required.” (Emphasis in original.)