Monday, January 24, 2005

People v. Gonzalez (Cal. Supreme Court - January 24, 2005)

With all due deference to the unanimous decision of the California Supreme Court in this case, there's a fair bit of difference between a suspect saying "Maybe I want a lawyer" (and even "I think I want a lawyer"), on the one hand, and saying "If, for anything, you guys are going to charge me, I want to talk to a public defender too, for any little thing."

The Supreme Court in Davis v. United States held that the former didn't invoke the right to counsel because it was ambiguous and equivocal. Fair enough. However, that's quite a bit different than the "I want to talk to a public defender [], for any little thing" at issue in Gonzalez. Gonzalez wanted a lawyer. Not just "maybe". He didn't just "think" about wanting one; rather, he "wanted" one ("for any little thing," even). It's fairly clear what the guy wanted once the police told him that he was being booked for murder. This case simply isn't Davis.

Maybe the holding here is influenced heavily by the fact that Gonzalez blew away a police officer in cold blood (for utterly no reason, at that). But bad cases make bad law. The case is hardly as simple as the court makes it out to be.