I’m putting this post up today and leaving it throughout the weekend because I believe it is so important that everyone watch the videos at the bottom.
These long must-watch videos are in two parts: the first part is by a defense attorney discussing the unbelievable complexity of the law, especially federal law, and the difficulty of simply going through life without knowingly or unknowingly breaking some kind of law. And he discusses the dangers of talking to the police without a lawyer present. The second part is a talk by a police detective confirming everything the attorney says and, fascinatingly, discussing his own tricks, learned in over 25 years of police work, to get people to talk to him and even to confess to crimes.
I’ll probably alienate any readers who are involved in law enforcement, which isn’t my intention. I’m sure that if any law enforcement officials were suddenly under investigation, they wouldn’t say a word without their lawyer present. The rest of us need these same protections.
I’m not presenting these videos for any criminals who may be reading, but for the average citizen who happens to get crosswise with the police. Every single police officer I know (and I know a half dozen or so) are hard working, dedicated, responsible, and even kind-hearted folks, but they can make mistakes. I make mistakes, so I figure they can too. The officer speaking on the last part of this video says that he doesn’t really interrogate people that he doesn’t think are already guilty. So, you are basically assumed guilty if you’re under investigation for whatever. And if the officer is mistaken, you can be in real trouble. You can’t talk your way out of it; you can only make it worse. When you watch these videos, you’ll see what I mean.
Martha Stewart spent six months in a federal prison not because she did anything wrong during her alleged insider trading, but because she lied to a federal official. And it’s easy to lie unintentionally. Let me give you an example.
When MD and I lived in Little Rock after we had gone into practice, we lived in two different houses. In the first house, I played a practical joke on her brother out on the front porch that we’ve all laughed about for years. The joke involved a wallet MD’s dad had left at our house that her brother was coming by to pickup to take back to her father. (The joke involved inside family information and wouldn’t make sense if I described it. But it was hilarious – to me anyway. I’m sure her brother may not have felt the same way about it. Come to think of it, he never came around much after that.) MD’s father died a couple of years later, and a year or two after that, MD and I moved into the house we lived in for the last 15 years we were in Little Rock. Not long ago, MD was telling someone visiting from Little Rock about this joke. As I listened, it dawned on me that MD was telling this story as if it had happened at the last house we lived in. Later I asked her about where she thought we lived when this happened. She said ‘on Riverview Point’ (the last house, #2 Riverview Point). I told her that it had happened in the previous house. She told me that I was crazy and that I should know better by now than to question her memory. (She’s right. She has a unbelievably phenomenal memory. Probably the best I’ve ever been around. Whenever I question it, I am almost invariably wrong. So I seldom question it any longer.) She said she remembered her brother coming to the door, the joke, and us laughing about it in the Riverview Point kitchen. I then told her that it couldn’t have happened in the Riverview Point house because her dad had died before we ever moved there. After a long pause, she said, I know you have to be right, but I remember so clearly that all happening on Riverview Point.
The above story is a benign example of the kind of misremembering that we all have done. But what if MD were being questioned by the police about the incident and she swore it happened on Riverview Point? When she would be found to be wrong, it would look like she were intentionally lying. And if she did so to a federal investigator, she could go to prison. Remembering incorrectly and lying are two different things, but it’s easy for law enforcement officials trying to make a case to believe that a flaw of memory is an intentional lie. Especially if spoken with authority.
The tragic Jon Benet Ramsey murder took place right after MD and I had moved to Boulder, CO, so we were keenly aware of all that went on with that. Living in Boulder, you couldn’t avoid it. I’ve driven a hundred guests by the Ramsey house, which, by the way, isn’t a mansion as was reported by virtually all the national media, as in ‘the Ramsey mansion.’ It’s smaller than our house, which certainly isn’t a mansion. The Ramsey house is an upper middle-class house in an upper middle-class neighborhood that sits cheek by jowl with all the other such houses on the street. There isn’t 30 feet between adjacent houses on the Ramsey’s street, which is certainly not the case for mansions, at least not as I think of mansions.
As I’m sure everyone remembers from the constant media exposure, the Ramsey family wouldn’t speak to the police without their attorney present. Everyone (including yours truly) figured that one of the Ramsey’s (probably the son) had committed the murder, and that the Ramsey’s were protecting the guilty family member. Why else wouldn’t they speak with the police? They were smart. They did just what the lawyer in this video recommends for all the reasons he recommends. And it saved their bacon. I believe that the Boulder police believed that one of the Ramsey’s were guilty, and the Boulder police were under huge pressure to solve the crime. But the police could never get any traction in the case because of the Ramsey’s attorney. Had the Ramsey’s spoken freely with the police, one of them may well have been charged with the crime simply because of a slip of the tongue. A misremembrance that the police categorized as a lie. As it turns out, DNA evidence has recently exculpated the Ramseys. But at the time, they were in peril because public opinion had it that one of them was guilty. And I’m sure the police were predisposed to charge them.
Most clever career criminals know to never speak to the police without an attorney. The stupid criminals don’t make it long as criminals before they’re locked up. It’s the non-criminals, the category into which I hope most readers of this blog fall, who need the protections these videos describe. Don’t think your smart enough or clever enough to intellectually steamroll over an investigator. They are very, very good at what they do. It’s their world, and you are totally a fish out of water in that world.
Watch and learn. I hope you never need the lessons from these videos, but if you do, you’ll be glad you took the time to watch. Plus, it’s entertaining. Both speakers are excellent in completely different ways.
In Part I of the 2 video series, Mr. James Duane, a professor at Regent Law School and a former defense attorney, tells you why you should never agree to be interviewed by the police.
In part II, an experienced policeman, Officer George Bruch, who is now a law student, tells you why you should never agree to be interviewed by the police.
Addendum: I came across an article about an Austin, TX attorney’s business card. I don’t know anything about his ethics or ability, but the back of his card gives some pretty sound advice.