Let me tell you a short story. This story is true and I can imagine all too common in America. It has a very simple moral: Never talk to the Police without a lawyer. So, it is May in Jacksonville at around 7:30AM. A white tourist couple is heading back to their room from breakfast when they are accosted by a tall black man with a gun. He takes the womans purse, shoots her and then runs away. The police arrive, the woman is sadly dead and the husband gives a description of the assailant. The description is something like : black, male, shorts, hat, with a gun, 20-30 years old.
The description goes out on the radio and an hour and a half later a patrolman pulls up to a first black male he sees on the street. A 15 year old kid heading to pick up a job application. He asks the kid if he can question him, puts him in the car and drives him to the crime site. At the motel the husband decides he is the killer (even though his description, other than black male, isn’t the same). The kid is taken to the station for questioning where they interrogate him for over 6 hours with no lawyer. Eventually they bring in another interrogator who after spending some more time with him, brings the kid out to the woods near the station and proceeds to threaten to kill him, beats him and finally gets him to sign a confession.
Would you like to know how this story turns out? I bet you would. This is the story of Brenton Butler and it’s told in the Oscar Winning documentary “Murder on a Sunday Morning” by Jean-Xavier de Lestrade. You may remember him as the maker of the amazing documentary I reccomended here and here “The Staircase”.
My central argument here is one that most people don’t seem to get. If you are ever arrested, and especially if you are innocent, don’t say a word to the police until you have a lawyer. People always seem to think “Well, I’m innocent, I’ve nothing to hide” but guess what, when the police (or law enforcement) want to get something out of you they will take advantage of every possible trick they can think of. I have heard first hand from law enforcement officers some of the dirty tricks they use on people who really don’t know any better. This film illustrates just one situation where your whole life can change in one simple instance of being in the right place at the wrong time.