Filed Under:  OpEd, Opinion

How about a little justice, dawg?

27th November 2017   ·   0 Comments

By now, I’m sure you heard the story about the young Black male who was arrested by New Orleans police and was denied his constitutional right to speak to an attorney because of the words he used to request legal counsel.

“Why don’t you just give me a lawyer dawg?” 24-year-old Warren Demesme asked NOPD investigators during an October 2015 interrogation.

The cops, members of the new and constitutionally compliant NOPD ignored the rape suspect’s request for a lawyer and the state Supreme Court allowed the confession gained from the interrogation to be used against Demesme.

Needless to say, the story went viral on the Internet, sparking outrage across the U.S. and giving Louisiana’s reputation another black eye.

NOPD investigators and at least one state Supreme Court Justice acted as though it was not clear if Demesme was using the word “dawg” to refer to one of the cops or whether the suspect wanted an actual canine who graduated from law school.

Demesme’s full statement from the interrogation makes it clear what he meant when he made his request for legal counsel.

“‘If y’all, this is how I feel, if y’all think I did it,” he said. “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.”

Not to be outdone, New Orleans prosecutors got in on the act, doing whatever they could to improve their odds of adding another conviction to their scoresheets. Demesme’s reference to a lawyer didn’t clearly invoke his right to counsel, “because the defendant communicated that whether he actually wanted a lawyer was dependent on the subjective beliefs of the officers,” prosecutors wrote.

Demesme is jailed on one count of aggravated rape and one of indecent behavior with a juvenile. Prosecutors say the charges are related to the sexual abuse of two younger female cousins. A hearing in his case is set for Jan. 12. There is currently no trial date.

“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,” editor Ed Krayewski wrote in a post on

So much for sweeping criminal justice reforms in Louisiana. Obviously, the problem goes a lot deeper than allowing prison inmates who are eligible for early release to get a shot at starting a new chapter in their lives.

The entire system in Louisiana is corrupt and exploitative from top to bottom and needs to be completely dismantled in order for justice to finally take root.

Mind you, this happened after more than three years of implementation of a federally mandated NOPD consent decree aimed at bringing the department up to federal standards for constitutional policing.

It would be even worse if the mayor and police chief had their way. You may recall that the mayor tried to toss out the consent decree several times over the past five years or so. While he initially praised it and acted like it was all his idea, he later came back and tried to have it tossed out because he thought the consent decree-negotiation process was tainted by the involvement of several key federal prosecutors who were caught up in an online posting scandal and ultimately lost their jobs in the U.S. Attorney’s Office. When the judge didn’t buy that, the mayor said that the city could not afford to pay for both NOPD and Orleans Parish Prison consent decrees. Then the mayor’s childhood pal, then NOPD Superintendent Ronal Serpas, stepped up to try to convince the federal court that the City of New Orleans didn’t need a NOPD consent decree because it had already begun reforming itself. Again, the judge wasn’t buying any of that nonsense.

So here we are, three years into the NOPD consent decree, on the other side of statewide criminal justice reforms still waiting for justice.

No justice, no peace, dawg.

Anyway, I got a few questions for y’all. Here we go:

• What are we going to do about the steady stream of Black folks who offer themselves up to the powers that be to be used to dismantle, destroy and undermine Black institutions, traditions and practices that have strengthened Black families and communities for generations?

• Refresh my memory, why are we still allowing Black folks who have sold us out with regard to public education, state politics and city government to even fix their mouths to suggest that they speak for us or represent our interests?

• If extraterrestrial creatures landed in your back yard and told you to take them to “your leader,” where would you take them?

• How much input on the City of New Orleans’ Tricentennial Celebration will the current City Council and mayor allow the newly elected council members and mayor-elect to have?

• Would you vote for a political candidate because a mayor, governor, state legislator or former elected official who doesn’t have a very good record of coming through for people who look like you told you to?

• After this past weekend’s international reparations conference in New Orleans, how much time and energy do you plan to commit to seriously studying the issue and figuring out how you can contribute in a positive way to the global effort?

• When was the last time you took a tour of Black New Orleans or made an effort to learn more about the history of Africans living in Louisiana before the Civil War?

• Why is there little to no talk about Tulane University’s ties to slavery and the Confederacy?

• What do you suppose is the real reason New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu took his sweet time returning to New Orleans after the Aug, 5 flood even after top members of his administration begged him to, as has been reported by a number of media outlets?

• If a considerable amount of local tax dollars are used to lure new companies to majority-Black New Orleans, is it really that unreasonable to expect those companies to have a work force and management team that reflects the diversity of this city?

This article originally published in the November 27, 2017 print edition of The Louisiana Weekly newspaper.

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