Cops Can’t Keep Lawyer From Client, Court Rules

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Criminal investigators may not keep a lawyer waiting at the jailhouse door while his or her client is inside being questioned by police, says the Indiana Supreme Court. The Indianapolis Star says the ruling means that police officers can’t extract a confession from a suspect while his lawyer is waiting at the front desk. Defense attorneys in Indiana say it’s not uncommon for police to keep the two separated while investigators try to get the suspect to waive the right to speak with a lawyer.

The ruling stems from the a man who was sentenced to 155 years in prison for the murder of a nurse. Her body has not been found. The issue was whether the suspect should have been told during a jailhouse interview that a lawyer hired by his family was waiting to see him. The lawyer was told he was giving a statement to the FBI and was denied access. Though they upheld his conviction, the justices ruled the man’s right to counsel under the Indiana Constitution was violated.

At the Marion County Sheriff’s Department, Lt. Bob Hendrickson admits it’s possible lawyers have been kept away from suspects. He said the department makes it clear to investigators that suspects are to be told if there’s a lawyer waiting for them — and if there isn’t, one can be obtained for them. “You can’t play that game,” he said. “You have to follow the rules, or you could lose your case in court. Most cops know that.”


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