The Louisiana Supreme Court Creates New Species
You may not have heard about an unusual creature that lives among us. So far it’s only been found in Louisiana, but it may soon be migrating to other states. The name of this elusive animal? The lawyer dog.
Why, you may ask, have you never heard of this peculiar dog breed before? That’s because we were only just clued into the lawyer dog’s existence by the Louisiana Supreme Court.
According to a report by Reason, the story begins back in 2015 when the New Orleans police were interviewing 22-year-old Warren Demesme after two young girls said that he had sexually assaulted them. In his second interview, Demesme became frustrated and said, “…I didn’t do it so why don’t you just give me a lawyer, dog, ’cause this is not what’s up.”
Police continued to interview Demesme and he subsequently made incriminating statements that resulted in his being charged with aggravated rape and indecent behavior with a juvenile. Demesme’s public defender filed a motion to suppress his client’s statements that were uttered after he requested “a lawyer, dog.” Because, as anyone knows who’s ever watched an episode of “Law & Order”, all interrogation must cease the minute a suspect invokes his right to counsel.
Now the case has gone all the way to the State Supreme Court, and it may all be because of the omission of a comma. You see, when the Orleans Parish D.A. presented his brief to the Supreme Court, he printed Demesme’s quote as “give me a lawyer dog” instead of “give me a lawyer, dog.” In the brief, the D.A. stated that whether the defendant actually was requesting a lawyer was dependent upon the “subjective beliefs of the officers.” The Supreme Court agreed and ruled that since Demesme said “lawyer dog”, it was an “ambiguous an equivocal reference to an attorney” and that, therefore, police did not have to stop questioning him.
In other words, the police would have had to believe that a “lawyer dog” was an actual being and could logically be confused with a plain old “lawyer”. Because of its ominous implications for precedent, this case will no doubt proceed to a higher court.
My high school grammar teacher always told me that punctuation was important. Boy, was she right.