Beauregard public defenders suing sheriff - KPLC 7 News, Lake Charles, Louisiana

Beauregard public defenders suing sheriff

Public defenders in Beauregard Parish are suing the sheriff's office there-- because they say they cannot meet privately with clients in jail.   The suit says that violates the rights of the accused, including their right to remain silent.

Beauregard Public Defender David Wallace draws on a yellow legal pad to show how the nurse's room at the jail might be remodeled. so public defenders could share the space and still have privacy for their clients.

"We were asking them to put a separate entrance way into this room and basically, shut it off from any traffic that would be going into the nurse's room.  In other words, using the same space, but just putting some partitions up," explained chief Beauregard Public Defender David Wallace, showing a diagram he's drawn on a yellow legal pad

Anyone charged with a crime has the right to an attorney, and if they cannot afford one, one will be appointed.  But public defenders in Beauregard Parish say their clients rights are being violated-- because attorney client meetings in the Beauregard Jail are often not private. 

Wallace says members of law enforcement often come and go while PDO attorneys or staff are meeting with defendants.

"We just need to have something private that we know we're going to have available each and every time that we or our representative is there," said Wallace.

Another problem says Wallace, is that after clients invoke their right against self incrimination, he says law officers sometimes still question the inmates.

"We even have one event where our representative was actually in the jail, had just interviewed and our office had been appointed and then detectives came down and said, 'We need to interview Mr. So and so.' And she said, 'No, he has a lawyer.' And they said, 'Well, he can tell us that upstairs,' and took him upstairs. And once you say that, I want to assert my fifth amendment privilege,  my appreciation of the law suggests that law enforcement shouldn't be interviewing you without permission of counsel for sure," said Wallace.

Also, the suit says the sheriff's office should be held in contempt of court since it's been more than two years since the judges ordered that a private meeting space be provided.

"This amended order was signed October 11, 2011.  We also asked the court, as a possible sanction, against the sheriff's office, to be held in contempt," said Wallace.

Sheriff Ricky Moses says they don't' discuss pending lawsuits. There's a hearing on the lawsuit at 3 p.m. Tuesday in DeRidder.

To hear more of our interview with David Wallace look for our web extra at kplctv dot com.

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