Or... I'll Get The Reward and Post Your Bail!

I love it when people write to me to tell me how much they love the blog, that they are big fans, or that they want to be a public defender someday. I don't always write back, but that's because I really am unbelievably busy.

A week or so ago, "a big fan" wrote and referred me to this story out of Albany, NY.

It's an interesting read. Definitely sounds like the juicy kind of plot that doesn't come along that often. (Law & Order take note, you might have a potential plotline here.)

It seems that a woman, who was previously a man, has been arrested for killing her mother. When she was a man, she had been convicted of murder, so this is her second murder (but first as a woman). The police didn't have anything but a theory, so they brought in all of the suspects' crack-addicted friends and questioned them, all the while leaving a poster on the table which offered $150,000 for information leading to an arrest in the case. The poster also had, in small letters, "This is not real, you stupid crackhead."

The article seems to focus on the use of trickery, in the form of a poster. I don't have a real problem with that. I hope that most people know (and I wish that more people knew) that the police are allowed to lie to you or trick you in whatever way they can think of, to get you to talk.

I am slightly concerned that they thought they'd get anyone to talk to them after using the words "you stupid crackhead." I would hope that most of their witnesses would say, "Hey, I was going to tell you what I knew, but not after you insult me like that." But I guess it didn't stop someone from talking, so who am I to second judge?

More than that, I'm concerned that the police are making an arrest where they don't have any evidence besides the word of one of these "stupid crackheads." It seems a lot like the problem of the jailhouse snitch to me.

Finally, I'm most concerned with this:
Last week, Thompson was released on $100,000 bail after having spent the last seven months in Albany County jail. A grand jury has not reviewed any evidence in the case.
7 Months? They can hold someone for 7 months without an indictment? Knowing that you can indict a ham sandwich, they couldn't throw this case into the grand jury? Maybe someone who has practiced up in this area can shed some light, but that seems like an awfully long time to hold someone without an indictment. The only possibility I can think of is that her attorney waived her speedy trial rights in exchange for... her release on bail possibly?


  1. The "stupid crackhead" disclaimer is infuriating. This is a typical example of the police being a little too arrogant for their own good. I can understand the value of tricking in intransigent and uncooperative witnesses -- but do you have to insult them too? The "stupid crackhead" joke is a horrible trial fact for the prosecution. It makes the investigators look like arrogant, insensitive jerks who are making light of what is serious business -- not to mention that the state apparently views its own star witnesses as "stupid crackheads." The defense will have a field day with this. This is the kind of crap that used to make me crazy when I was a prosecutor. It's so unnecessary and basically hands a gift over to the defense.

    And information provided by a stupid crackhead in the belief that he will get a large monetary reward won't be too useful unless the information leads to independent corroboration that the suspect is guilty.

  2. "I hope that most people know (and I wish that more people knew) that the police are allowed to lie to you or trick you in whatever way they can think of, to get you to talk."

    So who can't lie to me to get me to talk? If I'm picked up for something and I want to make a deal, who can I trust?

    I guess the short answer is to get my own lawyer and let her work it out, but how do I get one in the middle of an interrogation? Is this the part where I assert my right to remain silent and ask for a lawyer? Can I get a PD?

    (Not that I'm planning a crime spree or anything...)

  3. Seven months without an indictment?


    I don't know about other jurisdictions, but in Georgia, there's no right to a speedy indictment; in fact, there's not really any right to an indictment at all.

    The state can arrest you and, assuming they can show probable cause (either by showing a little tiny piece of evidence that suggests guilt or, failing that, just making one up), can detain you for the length of the statute of limitations for the offense. That means four years for a felony and seven for a 10-year mandatory minimum felony like armed robbery or rape. On a murder, the state can theoretically hold you forever without charging you.

    All an unindicted defendant gets is the right to a bond after 90 days -- if bond is denied and the defendant hasn't been indicted in 90 days, a judge is required to set a "reasonable bond."

    As a practical matter, there are some limits on how long you can be held without being charged--eventually, a defendant will find himself in front of a judge that will reduce the bond to something they can make--but that's all up to the generosity and kind spirit of the folks on the bench. As a matter of right ... they're pretty much just out of luck.

    Seven months is a little unusual 'round here, but it certainly happens.

  4. Once you say, "I want to speak to a lawyer," the police will stop questioning you. (You might have to say it forcefully or repeat it a few times, depending on the police.) In some cases that means a lawyer will come meet with you right away, so the interrogation can continue (this mostly only happens on Law & Order), and in other cases this means the interrogation will just stop and either they'll have enough to charge you or they won't.

    I wouldn't advise it, but if you really want to speak to someone you can negotiate with, ask to speak to the prosecutor or D.A. I don't think that there are per se rules prohibiting them from lying to a suspect, but more likely they won't do it because they want to protect their integrity and credibility in front of a jury.

  5. In Kentucky, you have to invoke your Speedy Trial right specifically, and it most of the cases I worked on, no one did.