If you’re ever in St. John the Baptist Parish in Louisiana (and really, after reading this post you should avoid it at all costs),
. If you
call the police, pray to St. John the Baptist that you merely get arrested instead of shot and killed.
If you do go to St. John the Baptist Parish, and if you do call the cops and if you do somehow miraculously survive their almost-standard-issue shooting of you and you do end up arrested and alive, be aware that their Sheriff video records all private conversations you have with your attorney.
Scott mentions this recording in his post linked to above, but in an uncharacteristically muted way. I suspect there is some outrage fatigue here, so I’ll take up the cudgel:
[Former Deputy Police Chief and Attorney Tregg] Wilson claims that on or about May 14 this year, he “was informed that the employees of CID [the sheriff's Criminal Investigation Division] had discovered that there was a second set of cameras installed in the interview rooms at CID. The second set of cameras was set on a continuous loop and recorded the conversations of individuals in the interview rooms, including conversations between persons charged or suspected of a crime and their attorneys.
He claims that [Police Chief Mike] Tregre told him he would not stop the “secret videotaping.”
Tregre fired Wilson, Wilson filed suit. Tregre claims that he discovered the secret taping himself when he was elected and then dismantled it, but that seems to be belied by the fact that both the District Attorney and State Police have opened investigations into this.
This isn’t the first instance of Sheriffs and DOC officials recording phone conversations between individuals and their lawyers. These conversations are supposed to private, privileged and protected by the Constitution and rules of ethics and professional responsibility.
But of course, we live in a society where law and order is increasingly becoming militarized, we are carving out exceptions to our protections “on the daily” and ‘If you see something, say something‘ is not solely a bastardized quote from Nineteen Eighty-Four.
Now, to be sure, case law provides that the police cannot make use of information obtained from conversations that are supposed to be confidential and protected by the Constitution. See, for example, State v. Ferrell:
If access to an attorney is permitted by either of the latter avenues, due process requires that the accused have a right to consult with the attorney to the extent reasonably necessary to effectuate the protections guaranteed by the fifth amendment to the United States constitution and by article first, § 8 of the Connecticut constitution. Miranda v. Arizona, supra, 479; State v. Falby, supra.
As we stated above, the right to consult a lawyer before being interrogated is meaningless if the accused cannot privately and freely discuss the case with that attorney. Such discussion is only possible under conditions free from eavesdropping by the authorities. If the police have called the attorney, then they are obligated to provide an opportunity for a private consultation.
These rules neither greatly restrict the ability of the police to investigate crime, nor do they require that every person arrested be permitted immediate stationhouse access to an attorney. State v. Ledbetter, 185 Conn. 607, 609-10, 441 A.2d 595 (1981).
But once access is provided, privacy must be ensured. Statements obtained in violation of the privacy required to effectuate the Miranda rights may not be admitted into evidence against the defendant in the state’s case in chief without violating the defendant’s due process right to a fair trial. Conn. Const., art. I, § see also U.S. Const., amend. XIV.
That’s great for when you know you’ve been overheard and that information has been used against you. But how the hell are you going to find out in the first place if it’s done secretly and kept a secret, like, you know, the NSA? The vast majority of times you’re never going to find out. They’re going to use the information they get from you, backtrace it to find another source, put that in the warrant and pretend like the whole thing was legit from the start.
There are courthouses and jails in this state where you can’t have a conversation with a client without everyone within a 5 mile radius hearing every drop of spittle that drips from your lips. But we carry on still, pretending like they’re not there; like it’s all still “confidential”, like the COs and marshals are suddenly completely deaf, even when they clearly demonstrate that they’ve heard you.
For the most part, no one does anything with that information – that you know of – but all it takes is once disgruntled officer or one family member who happens to be working at the same facility to overheard a damning admission and call the prosecutor or police officer.
I’ve written before that the system is not a level playing field – nor should it be. By that I mean that it currently is horribly tilted toward the prosecution, when in reality it should be tilted the other way.
Getting convictions should be difficult because of the potential for abuse of power and significant consequences that stem from it. We’re not here to help the police put you in jail.
But this is what happens when we are obsessed with power and neglect the expense to the real individual lives who are victims of that power when it inevitably gets abused.
H/T: Maggie McNeill [Quite possibly NSFW] & Scott.
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