“Sorry to disrupt, but I’m here for Mr. Innocent.”
One of my favorite things to do at this job is to show up at police stations. If a client is inside an interrogation room, manages to wade through the coercive Reed Technique garbage and get a call out to me, I’ll drop almost anything I’m doing and try to get there if I can. It hardly every happens, though.
Cops play all sorts of games to prevent it- despite what the Constitution says.
If I can talk to the cop directly, they’ll do everything they can to interfere. My favorite is when I ask “You’ve arrested Bob Innocent, my client…” to which the response is always, “No, sir, Mr. Innocent has not been arrested“, Because, as you know, even though a man is handcuffed and locked in a police interrogation room, he might be arrested to you or me, but that’s not “arrested” to the cops.
So, you have to say “detained”. That’s the magic cop word that means “arrested” to everybody else. If you don’t use their magic words, they play dumb.
Most of the time, though, the call doesn’t come from a client- but somebody in their family. When I get those, I immediately call the police station and ask for the detective who’s doing the questioning. Of course, the call never goes directly to them, and usually goes something like this:
“Investigations, this is Detective Smith.”
“Hi, Mr. Smith, my name is Matt Haiduk, I’m a lawyer for Bob Innocent, and I’d like to talk to Detective Jones.”
“Who are you? What’s your name, again?”
“I’m Haiduk. An attorney. I’d like to talk to Jones.”
“Jones is busy, he can’t come to the phone.”
“Right, he’s talking to Bob Innocent. I represent Bob Innocent.”
“I don’t know who Bob Innocent is… no record of him here. How do I know you’re an attorney, anyway?”
“My ARDC # is 6272339 and I’ll fax you a copy of my bar card and photo ID right now…”
“That doesn’t mean anything. Anybody could fake one of those…”
And we go on and on and on, and round and round and around (during which time I’m usually faxing them a demand to stop talking to my client while we speak, then documenting it with notes of the call in my file).
Never wanted to talk to anybody as bad as I want to talk to you.
The constitution, or at least the theoretical version we’re taught about, tells us that people in custody have the right to counsel from an attorney. It seems simple and easy enough: client asks for an attorney, or an attorney shows up for a client, and they get to talk.
Cops- especially those in “Investigations” do everything they can to make that process long, painful and difficult, though. They play games on the phone. They hide behind locked doors on off-hours. They don’t have time for that pesky constitution.
On that note, I’m not surprised to the article in the Guardian today. The Chicago Police have taken the “mess with lawyers” even a step beyond pretending they don’t know who is in custody and can’t connect a lawyer with his client. Get arrested in Chicago, and you get “terrorist treatment.”
The Chicago police department operates an off-the-books interrogation compound, rendering Americans unable to be found by family or attorneys while locked inside what lawyers say is the domestic equivalent of a CIA black site.
The facility, a nondescript warehouse on Chicago’s west side known as Homan Square, has long been the scene of secretive work by special police units. Interviews with local attorneys and one protester who spent the better part of a day shackled in Homan Square describe operations that deny access to basic constitutional rights.
* * *
Unlike a precinct, no one taken to Homan Square is said to be booked. Witnesses, suspects or other Chicagoans who end up inside do not appear to have a public, searchable record entered into a database indicating where they are, as happens when someone is booked at a precinct. Lawyers and relatives insist there is no way of finding their whereabouts. Those lawyers who have attempted to gain access to Homan Square are most often turned away, even as their clients remain in custody inside.
“It’s sort of an open secret among attorneys that regularly make police station visits, this place – if you can’t find a client in the system, odds are they’re there,” said Chicago lawyer Julia Bartmes.
America wins the race to treat Americans poorly.
Nearly 15 years ago, when we began our war on terror, I remember wondering why people in Guantanamo and other “non-enemy combatants” didn’t get real trials with real rights and real due process. After all, we believe in “Due Process” as an important component to getting at things like “justice” and “truth.” There’s even an amendment in the bill of rights that ensures due process to every “person.”
Subsequent Supreme Court decisions have, unsurprisingly, explained to me that “persons” aren’t really “persons” unless they’re American “persons” or on American soil. With respect to all of those “other” persons, I guess, we don’t don’t believe in due process as being important to justice, truth and similar such pesky ideas.
My fear at the time was that some other foreign country would start snatching large numbers of U.S. citizens off of foreign soil, subject them to some sham process, call them terrorists- and our hypocritical selves couldn’t really complain.
This Guardian post, however, shows me just how wrong those thoughts were. Foreign countries don’t need to scoop up Americans and cut off their Due Process rights, because we’re already doing it with our own people here.
Wrongfully arrested? Want to talk to your lawyer? Want to find your Mom who has been taken away by the cops? Good luck with that. Good luck with your Due Process, America.