Wednesday, February 1, 2023

#32 / Some Pretty Good Legal Advice

As far as I know, Farhad Manjoo is not a lawyer. He is, in fact, an opinion columnist for The New York Times. This does not, of course, mean that Manjoo can't provide worthwhile legal advice. And he has!

In a column that ran in The New York Times on January 26, 2023, Manjoo tells his readers that "Alec Baldwin Didn’t Have to Talk to the Police. Neither Do You." As Baldwin is now finding out, Baldwin should obviously not have sat down with the police to talk about how a gun Baldwin was holding managed to kill someone on the movie set on which Baldwin was working:

Shortly after a prop gun Alec Baldwin was holding fired a bullet that killed a cinematographer and wounded a director on the set of the movie “Rust,” in October 2021, he told the police in New Mexico that he’d be willing to do whatever they requested, including sitting for an interview at the station.

In an interrogation room later that afternoon, detectives began by informing Baldwin of his rights: He had the right to remain silent. Anything he said could be used against him in court. He was free to consult with an attorney; if he could not afford an attorney, one would be appointed for him. And he could stop the interrogation at any point he wished.

“My only question is, am I being charged with something?” Baldwin asked.
Not at all, the police said. Reading his rights, one detective told him, was “just a formality.”
Baldwin did not ask the police whether Baldwin could ever  (in the future) be "charged with something." And, of course, he could. He is, in fact, now charged with involuntary manslaughter. Baldwin's interview with the police can (and will) be used against him.  
In that first police interview, Baldwin told interrogators that Gutierrez-Reed handed him the gun and assured him it was safe: “She said, ‘Do you want to check?’ — and I didn’t want to insult her, we never had a problem. I said, ‘I’m good.’”
Baldwin's, "I'm good" (I don't need to check) statement may not play well with the jury in his criminal trial. And he did say it. It's on tape. 
Unlike Manjoo, I am an attorney, though no specialist in criminal defense. However, you don't really need to be a criminal defense lawyer to know that Manjoo's legal advice is spot on. 
If you are ever involved in anything, and the police want to talk to you, here's some pretty good legal advice. Get a lawyer, and talk to your lawyer first, before you talk to anyone else, and have that lawyer right with you in all future occasions in which law enforcement personnel, or anyone else, might want to discuss the incident that "might" give rise to criminal liability. 

We are talking here about the "Fifth Amendment." That is the provision of our Constitution that says that no person can be compelled, in any criminal case, to be a witness against him or herself.

Those who wrote our Bill of Rights weren't so dumb. We shouldn't be dumb, either! 
Take it from Farhad Manjoo:
"Alec Baldwin Didn’t Have to Talk to the Police. Neither Do You."
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