Don’t Talk to Police

posted by Crane-Station

This week I read a disturbing ABA Journal article titled, Cops seek DNA information from and 23andMe. Police are now engaging in DNA fishing expeditions that reach beyond the law enforcement DNA database, and utilize the likes of DNA information in layperson ancestry databases – to develop various hunches about potential suspects – by searching through the DNA of the suspects’ kinfolks.

According to the article, this is how a man named Micheal Usry became a suspect in a cold-case murder that he did not commit. Apparently, Mr. Usry’s father had placed his DNA into a Mormon ancestry database for personal research. The father was excluded as a match to the DNA preserved from the murder but one thing led to another, and police, connecting dots in a manner consistent with their own version of DNA math, decided that Mr. Usry’s DNA must be kinda similar to his father’s DNA, which must therefore be kinda enough similar to the DNA found at the murder scene in the cold case, for an arrest.

The cops then used a ruse to get the (factually innocent) murder suspect to 1) talk to them at length and 2) provide a DNA sample. They told Mr. Usry that they were investigating a recent hit-and-run in the area, and could he please just help them out a bit by answering some questions? Mr. Usry, having nothing to hide, agreed. In the car ride on the way to the police station, things got weird, and Mr. Usry found himself involved in a conversation about his whereabouts years prior, on the night of the murder.

Eventually, Mr. Usry was cleared of any wrongdoing. Since his consent was obtained under false pretenses, he may have enough of a basis for a lawsuit for all of his trouble, which may have involved ruining his reputation as well as his job security.

This brings me to a point that never gets old and cannot be overstated: Don’t talk to the police. Ever. If you have nothing to hide (or even if you do), don’t talk to the police. The best talk I have ever seen on this subject is by Professor James Duane in the video that follows. If you have not seen it, I recommend that you make time, and share it with others. It is packed with information about how police coerce people into talking, and how potentially devastating this can be, even for folks who have done nothing wrong and “just want to help.”

On a lighter note, “So you got a DUI…”

40 Responses to Don’t Talk to Police

  1. ed nelson says:

    Hi Crane STay, I love to talk to you, because you are on my wave link for sure… I am really glad to hear from you Crane Stay!

  2. ed nelson says:

    hell they could have killed me, but they were real decent guys, the giirl, not too sure what she’s up to…… and here momis a no good bitch… for sure! I mean… she don’t even want to be reall or talk to me, deal with me… We have a common fence…. I built it… when it falls down… I won’t be able to talkk to the scsewwball bittch
    Marylyn Jaffe

  3. ed nelson says:

    I kind of went off track like I tend to do… anyways… that neighbor… she is not much good, in my humble opinion: She brought in a Baby from Peru… Not having her own kin… she imported one.

    Fine and dandy, well but the little girl is not what I would call real great. She had all these Marines over there watching war porn!

    I went over at aboiut 2 am and told them they should knock it off I can’t sleep, but the guy said ”hey come in, want a drink? I was nutralized right there.

    These guys were marines and they were about to deployed to Afganistan, One of of em told me he had already been there and was going to go back again for another deal

    these were real nice kids… I hope they got back in good shape.

  4. Here is a situation where a woman got herself arrested, just because she couldn’t keep her mouth shut. Watch what happens at this traffic stop:

    • Malisha says:

      The officer exhibited restraint and courtesy. I doubt you could find that kind of restraint and courtesy against an African American woman who had cussed at and screamed at a cop at a valid traffic stop. And her citing the laws of some Confederacy: what confederacy would that be?

      • gblock says:

        I think I’ve heard of something like this before… Some group that claims that certain people residing in the U.S. can declare themselves to be “free inhabitants”. I think that the purpose of this claim was to declare that they were not subject to certain court rulings. I didn’t think that anybody was stupid enough to REALLY believe this, but it looks like someone told this girl about it and she was ignorant enough to believe it.

        • Malisha says:

          She actually claimed that these “free inhabitants” had “all the rights” afforded by US law but none of the responsibilities. Sorry, but that doesn’t sound like “free inhabitants” to me; it sounds like Republicans.

        • They call themselves ‘sovereign citizens’ by which they mean their ancestors settled in the colonies before the revolution and were citizens when the new nation began (i.e., that would be white). They believe themselves entitled to all of the rights and privileges of citizenship. More relevant, they also see themselves as individual sovereign states rather like the individual states and they claim they are not subject to any laws passed after the Articles of Confederation. They believe, for example, that the US Government is illegitimate and they do not have to obey the traffic laws or pay taxes.

          In other words, they are crazy racist right-wing wackos. The FBI regards some sovereign extremists to be domestic terrorists.

          For more information, go here.

          • gblock says:

            But in fact, being a citizen of some other country normally does NOT mean that, if you are in that country, you are not subject to their laws and traffic regulations. It is hard to see the claim that someone can declare that a generally agreed upon jurisdiction does not apply to them.

          • Yep, their argument is ridiculous and no amount of passionate belief that it’s right changes that fundamental fact.

      • I totally agree on your take. On the woman’s claim, I suppose she was claiming that she is a sovereign citizen. Her citations have historical interest, but she is quite dated because her version of the law was replaced by the Constitution in the 1700s, right?

        Anyway, yeah, she’s lucky to have gotten that officer and not one who killed her, beat her half to death or threw dope in her car. The stop could have been a lot worse, and her mouth was not helpful.

  5. ed nelson says:

    Man are you ever right on that point proffesor! Don’t say nothing!

    I have a horrible neighbot who is a retired ”social worker”, and she hates… the males of the species, I guess… anyways, any guy will do, and she moved in there, and she concocted a cock and balls story against me, and it has gone all around the town! Finally, a new commer around the corner, told me ”the story about me”, I have been here for 40 years Fred, I bought this poor little dump when I was 29 years old, My Norwegian gal friend and her 3 kids, were coming to visit, and I needed to have a place, and I had about 5k$ just enough to seal the deal on a lilapidated dump, but I couldn’t see those kids of hers in SF getting killed by the bastards down there!

    And believe me, if I had the 5K$ in my pocket, she would spend it for me!!!

    Well back in the ’70’s European woman were still thinikng that they could hook in to a wealthy American…. Sorry lady, not too wealthy!

    • Hi Ed! Crane-Station here. Whenever people start to gossip about someone, I always really wish they wouldn’t, and I think it says a lot more about the person spreading stories than it does about the subject of the rumor.

    • Gossip is the silent killer.

      • ed nelson says:

        Hell yeah, I even know the story: She concocted this story about me being some kind of ”Peepibng Thom” pervert!

        I sure ain’t one of those…. yet!
        This neighbor who moved in about 14 years ago, (I have been in this place for 40years honey,most of my life honey!

        I hope you don’t minf if i use that….. endearment: honey…. I always hated it when people said that to know as a kid…I hated that word!

  6. The Raven says:

    And how can there be policing if no-one will talk to the cops?

    Look, I get that our police departments have got a lot of autocratic dicks in them. I get that #blacklivesmatter. I get that we need police reform. But I’ve been on the internet for decades, and I know that lawlessness is no better. We still need policing.

    • Please watch the video posted, because the law professor answers your questions in it. Notably, the last part of the video features an experienced police officer/detective, agreeing with the law professor one hundred percent.

      Heads up. This post has to do with the Fifth Amendment. It has zero to do with ‘policing.’ Also, there is no mention of #BlackLivesMatter in the post or in the video, and the comment about being on the internet for decades resulting in a gain of in-depth knowledge of “lawlessness” is off-topic.

      Again, this post concerns the Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution.

    • The author did not say anything about policing. The Fifth Amendment provides that no one can be compelled to be a witness against himself (i.e., right to remain silent) and the Sixth Amendment provides that the accused has a right to counsel. The accused in every case must be presumed innocent and the prosecution is required to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. These rights have been part of our law since the beginning of our republic.

      Please watch the video. A police officer agrees with the law professor explaining why he is right.

      If you still disagree, please go ahead and attempt to talk your way out of a traffic ticket when the cop asks you how fast you were driving.

      The point is you can rarely, if ever, help yourself by attempting to talk a cop out of giving you a ticket and your chances of prevailing decrease geometrically as the crime in question increases in severity.

    • ed nelson says:

      ”JFK and the Unspeakable: Why He Died and Why It Matters”

      sorry that was a previous comment that I made yesterday, It is a good book about JFK murder though… I was pissed off about these cartoon things that you have put in your post… especially the one down below, it is offensivre in its abusse of the womans stuff! Even an old salt like me is insulted.

      I don’t go for that kind of ”humor”, ”

    • The Raven says:

      That video was posted in 2008. I saw it years ago. It impressed and scared me then, and it still does. But every witness to a crime is also potentially a suspect, and if all witnesses protect themselves by not talking to the police, then police investigations become near-impossible.

      • There is a difference between a witness who sees an event happen and a suspect in a case.

        Are you suggesting that we need to do away with the Fifth Amendment? We have gotten along just fine with the Fifth Amendment in place, right? I mean, the US is the world’s largest jailer.

        But let me ask you: How much should people be waiving Miranda, blowing off counsel, and freely talking to the cops, in your scenario? Consider this though. Let’s say Miranda was never offered. It was just a casual chit-chat about some crime. But THEN you become a suspect. In fact you ARE the criminal! Here’s the deal, the first motion to suppress that your lawyer files will be to render those statements inadmissible at trial. This is a setup for a person who is factually guilty to walk free, because he has a defense, not on the facts, but on the law. Do you really want that to happen?

      • We need to return this discussion to the real world where most guilty people confess and plead guilty and even innocent people confess to crimes they did not commit. The problem isn’t and never has been that people do not talk to police. They talk too much.

        The argument you are making was rejected by the SCOTUS in Miranda v. Arizona, 384 US 436, 86 S. Ct. 1602, 16 L. Ed. 2d 694 (1966).

        The sky hasn’t fallen in the 49 years since Miranda was decided. People are still confessing and crime rates are very low. Your theoretical argument carries zero weight because it does not reflect reality.

        The reality is police are so good at playing mental games to elicit confessions that they occasionally elicit a false confession. False confessions by innocent people are not unusual. They are one of the leading causes of wrongful convictions.

        If called as an expert in criminal law and procedure, which happened in Washington State several times, I would testify that a lawyer would be committing malpractice regardless of the circumstances, if he advised his client to talk to police.

        The right to remain silent that is protected by the Fifth Amendment isn’t likely to go away.

        • The Raven says:

          Hey. Hey, hey, hey. I never said or implied any of that. I made a point of saying just the opposite in my original remarks. If you check my history here, you know I am entirely sympathetic to your concerns. And, yes, if the police call you out of the blue and ask to interview you, it’s best to seek counsel (if you can afford it!)

          I’m not the bird you’re looking for. You want that guy with the crewcut down the street.

          Yet if no-one talks to the police, how is there to be policing? A culture in which no-one talks to the police is one removed from the law. Not talking to the police is a defense of black communities which have excellent reasons not to talk to the police, fair enough. But it was also the defense of lynch mobs and, in the form of omertà, the old mafia.

          BTW, Prof. Duane is something of a brilliant crank. His academic credentials are impressive—cum laude Harvard Law—but he is a jury nullificationist, advisor to the Fully Informed Jury Association. For me, at least, that makes his other work, including this video, questionable.

          • Common Ground: “And, yes, if the police call you out of the blue and ask to interview you, it’s best to seek counsel (if you can afford it!).”

            A problem that comes up for police in many cases they investigate is to decide whether a person is merely a witness to a crime, a participant in the crime or the perpetrator of the crime. Witnesses usually are not in jeopardy and don’t need counsel. Perpetrators are in jeopardy and need counsel. A participant may or may not be in jeopardy, depending on whether the police believe they acted with intent to assist the perpetrator to commit the crime. This person definitely needs counsel.

            Without access to the police investigation file to determine the potential legal jeopardy of a client, a lawyer cannot reliably determine what it may be. Therefore, the lawyer must err on the side of caution and advise the client to claim the Fifth.

            The Miranda rule only applies to custodial interrogations. ‘Custodial’ in this context means under arrest. Even if they intend to arrest a person, police delay telling them that they are under arrest to avoid triggering the requirement to advise them of their rights. To prevent police from circumventing Miranda, the SCOTUS has defined ‘arrest’ as whether a person in the suspect’s situation would reasonably believe he was not free to terminate the contact and walk away. This rule doesn’t work very well because most people are too timid to ask if they are free to leave. They assume they aren’t and attempt to talk their way out of the situation. They end up implicating themselves, if not actually confessing guilt. Many judges will go to extraordinary lengths to find that a person was free to go when they ‘voluntarily’ confessed. We see a lot of ends-justify-the-means reasoning driving their analysis.

            What about pre-arrest silence? What happens if a person, who is not under arrest, refuses to answer questions? Should their silence be admissible against them as evidence of guilt?

            Under some circumstances it can be, according to the SCOTUS. For example, in one case where a defendant, who was charged with murder for stabbing the victim to death, claimed self-defense, the SCOTUS upheld a trial court’s decision permitting the prosecution to comment on the defendant’s failure to report the incident to police. The decision was controversial and many states have refused follow it by deciding that their state constitutions provide more protection than the Fifth Amendment.

            Some courts draw a distinction between refusing to answer questions and asserting a right to refuse to answer questions. Depending on the jurisdiction, a refusal may be deemed admissible unless the right to refuse is invoked.

          • Raven, you’d probably benefit from taking the free online Coursera class from the University of Pennsytvania, Presumed Innocent?: The Social Science of Wrongful Conviction. It will really open your eyes to everything Fred and Crane have commented on here.

  7. Malisha, here’s that Xtranormal (one of them, lol!). This guy just passed the bar, and he is trying to find a job:

  8. gblock says:

    DNA matches are based on finding matches between the two samples at a certain number of points. Since crime-scene samples are often imperfect, a few of the points may be missing in a given sample, in which case the DNA techs will try to get a match on the remaining points. Unfortunately, this increases the chance of getting a match on the remaining points. Even more unfortunately, the larger the size of the database that you are searching, the greater the likelihood of finding a match, and the greater the likelihood of finding a false match.

    It is useful and appropriate to use DNA samples to get matches on people known or strongly believed to have been at a crime scene, or against someone believed to be a suspect for other reasons. When police go trolling DNA databases based for possible suspects, there is a much higher chance of a false DNA match. And the odds of a false match go up even further when police go trolling DNA databases of person who are not known to have committed any crime, especially if the database is large. Since jurors are likely to be in awe of DNA technology and not appreciate these distinctions, we need laws to prevent inappropriate uses of DNA matching.

    • Yes, yes yes, and thank you for pointing this out. These problems are already happening. For instance, the DC Crime Lab earlier this year:
      National accreditation board suspends all DNA testing at D.C. crime lab

      “In their initial findings earlier this year, experts contracted by the U.S. attorney’s office said the problem came to light when an outside expert reviewed the DNA analysis conducted in a rape case. The biggest mistake involved the analysis of DNA found on a stolen car’s gearshift, prosecutors said. D.C. analysts looking at the evidence found that the car owner’s DNA could have been on the gearshift and said the chance that a randomly selected person had the same genetic traits was 1 in 3,290. The outside experts said the more accurate finding was 1 in 9.”

      In court, the flawed ‘DNA math’ goes like this: “His DNA is a match! And ladies and gentlemen of the jury, we all know that DNA never lies.”

  9. Malisha says:

    Professor, that second YouTube video you have posted, with the animated attorney and client speaking about the DUI, that same kind of video has another episode where a guy is telling the lawyer that he didn’t do anything and it ends up in the interview that he shot a guy and ran over an old lady, and it’s hilarious. Can anybody tell me where to find that other one? It’s probably created by the same folks who created this one.

  10. GB says:

    All very true. One other thing, if you DO foolishly decide to talk to cops, don’t lie, a jury can take easily that as a sign of guilt.

    Topical Examples:

    Lester Bower : innocent, executed in June after lying to cops.
    Richard Glossip : innocent, nearly executed last month after lying to cops.
    Jodi Arias : innocent, nearly sent to death row after lying to cops.

    • This is an excellent point. It’s such a terrible idea to lie. Also, people need to know that statements, no matter what they are, are subject to stuff like cops ‘losing’ the tape, prosecutors editing the tape…you know ….and then it’s always your statements, sort-of, after they’ve been cherry-picked, edited, twisted, interpreted and summarized, according to the cop, so that innocuous statements look like admissions of guilt.

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