Lawyer Dogs and the Right to Counsel

The Lousisiana Supreme Court held this week that a suspect who asked for a “lawyer dog” did not invoke his right to counsel.

Or did he ask for a “lawyer, dawg?” Maybe Louisiana Associate Supreme Court Justice Scott J. Crichton, who wrote the opinion, was unfamiliar with the term “dawg.” Maybe he thought there was a thing called a “lawyer dog,” or that the suspect was spouting nonsense about “lawyer dogs.”

Those explanations don’t really seem likely, do they? Usually the most reasonable explanation is true. For example, that the Louisiana Supreme Court intentionally misinterpreted the record to deny a black man’s right to counsel?

Willful, Racist Misinterpretation of the Record

What the defendant said:

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, dawg] ’cause this is not what’s up.

Based on the facts as described in the appellate opinion, we can assume that the confusion began when the court reporter transcribed what was said in court as “lawyer dog” when it was exceedingly clear from the context that the defendant actually said “lawyer, dawg.” If not, what follows is even more troubling…

The Orleans Parish District Attorney’s office used the language “lawyer dog” in the brief that they filed, and that language was then adopted by the Court in their appellate opinion.

The police, the court reporter, the district attorney, the trial judge, and the Supreme Court all knew or should have known that what the suspect said was “lawyer, dawg,” which is fairly common slang particularly among black people. The twisting of the phrase to the nonsensical “lawyer dog,” on the part of each of the above-listed participants in the criminal justice system, is a shining example of institutional, not-even-thinly-veiled racism in Louisiana’s courts.

A Request for Counsel Must be Unequivocal

It is true that the U.S. Supreme Court has held repeatedly that a request for counsel must be unequivocal. For example:

Maybe the Court could have kept a shred of credibility by basing the decision on the suspect’s use of the word “if” instead of the slang terminology that he used? I still think the decision would be wrong, but “if you think I did it, then I want a lawyer, dawg” could be interpreted as equivocal and a basis to deny his motion to suppress.

Instead, Louisiana Associate Supreme Court Justice Scott J. Crichton chose to adopt the more racist and ridiculous ground for his decision:

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 and does not violate Edwards v. Arizona, 451 U.S. 477, 101 S.Ct. 1880, 68 L.Ed.2d 378 (1981).

I’m sure Chrichton had a good laugh as he violated a black man’s constitutional rights based on the justice’s professed ignorance of black-people-speak.

In the future, suspects in Louisiana will not only need to make an unequivocal request for counsel, but they will need to do so using only words that white southern jurists are comfortable with, to avoid being made fun of as the Louisiana Supreme Court denies their constitutional rights:

Officer, I am unequivocally asserting my constitutional right to counsel before answering any questions.

Every citizen must now learn the magic words before a police encounter. In truth, only the well-educated citizens who read caselaw and commentary will know how to properly invoke their right to counsel.

Be sure to use the word “unequivocally,” and, for God’s sake, do not ask for a “lawyer dog.”

What is a Lawyer Dog?

I can’t get over how ridiculous this is. Consider:

I’ll hit you up later, dawg becomes I’ll hit you up later dog.

What’s up, dawg? beomes What’s up dog?

You know it, dawg! becomes You know it dog?

Dayum it’s hot, dawg! becomes Day, um, it’s a hot dog!

“Lawyer Dog” Lacey Thompson accepts exclusively criminal defense cases in Myrtle Beach, Columbia, and Lexington SC courts. Call at 843-444-6122 or fill out our online contact form to set up a free consultation.

 

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  • Where My Lawyer At? - Charleston Criminal Defense :

    […] that Jett “might” want an attorney and was therefore ambiguous is ridiculous. It echoes the Louisiana Supreme Court’s recent declaration that asking for a “lawyer, dawg” was ambiguous – according to Louisiana Associate Supreme […]

    11 months ago

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