“The system keeps perpetuating the same faulty norms about us.”
January 31, 2019 6:08 PM   Subscribe

Are Philly court reporters accurate with black dialect? Study: Not really.
For a forthcoming study in the journal Language, researchers evaluated how well Philadelphia court reporters transcribe dialect. The team, which includes University of Pennsylvania linguists, a New York University sociologist, and a co-founder of Philadelphia Lawyers for Social Equity, tested 27 court reporters for both accuracy and comprehension. Roughly 40 percent of the sentences the court reporters transcribed had something wrong. Sixty-seven percent of attempts at paraphrasing weren’t accurate. And 11 percent of transcriptions were called gibberish.

More:
from the Atlantic: Could Black English Mean a Prison Sentence?
via All Things Linguistic: John Rickford gave an amazing Presidential Address at the LSA in Washington DC about how people who speak marginalized dialects face discrimination in the courtroom, especially speakers of African American English. (Key quote: “Jeantel’s dialect was found guilty before Zimmerman was found innocent.“)
posted by Lexica (44 comments total) 36 users marked this as a favorite
 
A justice on that court wrote that the man had not made a clear request for counsel, arguing that “lawyer dog” was “ambiguous,” as if, reports noted, the man could’ve been asking for a pet.

It's bad enough that court reporters are misunderstanding black people to the extent that they are, but this is to the point where I have to believe that it was a purposefully legalistic misinterpretation towards explicitly racist ends.
posted by invitapriore at 6:37 PM on January 31 [53 favorites]


It's bad enough that court reporters are misunderstanding black people to the extent that they are, but this is to the point where I have to believe that it was a purposefully legalistic misinterpretation towards explicitly racist ends.

That's exactly what I thought.
posted by mr_roboto at 6:45 PM on January 31 [2 favorites]


I’m a Southerner who grew up with “fixing to” as an integral part of my lexicon, so I am seriously (without snark) interested in understanding how “he finna shoot me” could plausibly be construed as past tense. Can anyone explain this?

I mean, I’ve gotten some REAL BLANK STARES in my life when a “fixin’ to” popped out in the wrong part of the country. But I don’t understand the past tense argument. As best I can tell it’s as willful and absurd as the lawyer dog.
posted by telepanda at 6:55 PM on January 31 [20 favorites]


It's almost as if our legal and policing system, especially since oh 1865 or so, consistently acts to disproportionately imprison minorities.
posted by axiom at 6:55 PM on January 31 [18 favorites]


how “he finna shoot me” could plausibly be construed as past tense.

If you think finna is an abbreviated finally instead of a contracted fixing to.
posted by zamboni at 7:00 PM on January 31 [2 favorites]


Testifying While Black, a blog post by one of the paper's authors (Taylor Jones), which covers the study's methodology, results, and suggested actions. There's an aside on finna:
Transcriptions are also used in appeals. In fact, one appeal was decided based on a judge's determination of whether "finna" is a word (it is) and whether "he finna shoot me" is admissible in court as an excited utterance. The judge claimed, wrongly, that it is impossible to determine the "tense" of that sentence because it does not have a conjugated form of "to be", claiming that it could have meant "he was finna shoot me." If you know AAE, you know that you can drop "to be" in the present but not in the past. That is, you can drop "is" but not "was". The sentence unambiguously means "he is about to shoot me," that is, in the immediate future.
posted by zamboni at 7:15 PM on January 31 [19 favorites]


I wouldn't be at all surprised to find there's a huge age factor at play here. AAVE is more and more common in popular music, movies, and TV... but it's younger people who are consuming these things. As a (white) millennial I didn't even remotely need the 'translations' of the AAVE phrases.
posted by reductiondesign at 7:18 PM on January 31 [5 favorites]


I'm honestly surprised that the court reporters are paraphrasing things. I am under the impression that reporters in my county just do their best to do a verbatim transcription, including nonstandard phonetics. Court proceedings in my county are also audio recorded so there would be an original source to resolve any kind of dispute. Obviously writing police reports is different, but my training has always been that if I'm going to put something in quotes it needs to be verbatim.

I do have to say that from my decidedly lay perspective it seems like this responsibility should be more on the attorneys than on the court reporters or jury? If someone on the stand says "he stole off me," I don't think you can really expect the reporters to interrupt proceedings for clarification (that phrase means "he hit me" and will typically mean "punched me in the face"). And you really can't rely on a court reporter interrupting as the mechanism by which the jury is educated. Whether on initial or on cross I think it seems like the responsibility of the attorneys to make sure that any ambiguous phrases are clarified explicitly. Compare with an expert witness with scientific training of some sort. Will the attorney just let her testimony stand or will she be asked clarifying questions regarding specialized technical terms she used?

Regarding "lawyer dog," I don't think that the argument is actually that anyone believed Demesme was asking for a dog. Here's a link from an actual attorney that does a good job of explaining what the issue is. Basically the prosecution was arguing that Demesme was engaging in a rhetorical ploy to convince police of his innocence rather than invoking his right to counsel. Maybe you don't buy that argument, but I think it's important to at least be accurate about what the decision was and was not and I would characterize the reference to it in the FPP link as bordering on bad faith.

In general the courts have pretty consistently agreed that invocation of your 5th and 6th amendment rights must be explicit. So for example sitting silently in a room is not sufficient to invoke your 5th amendment rights, you must make some kind of a statement that you wish to remain silent. Ideally you would say something like "I am using my 5th amendment right to remain silent and I want to speak to my attorney."

@telepanda if something is not your dialect it can be hard to understand. It's easy when you're looking at an article to isolate a single phrase and go "oh of course I understand that." It can be more difficult to follow unfamiliar dialect as it's being spoken, especially in the weird environment of courtroom proceedings.
posted by firebrick at 7:18 PM on January 31 [9 favorites]


Coming from Newfoundland, which ABSOLUTELY has its own dialect and “improper” grammar, I can empathize with this completely - growing up, there was all manner of classist horsecrap espoused around the “Newfie” accent, and it’s only acquired a respectability in the wake of things like “Come From Away”. Take that classism, add layers of racism, both conscious and unintentional, and you have a situation like the one described in the article.
posted by tantrumthecat at 7:21 PM on January 31 [8 favorites]


How is it that there are "grammatical traits, which are universal in Black English nationwide, despite local differences." Are there migration patterns that make African-American communities so homogenous? Do these traits predate changes in White speech? Is there a strong leveling effect caused by Black popular culture? What's causing this effect?
posted by Joe in Australia at 7:25 PM on January 31


I wouldn't be at all surprised to find there's a huge age factor at play here.

People overestimate how much they understand, though, especially when it comes to grammatical distinctions. For example, I gave an AAVE comprehension quiz in an introductory linguistics course that I taught last summer, and the only students who got most of it right were the students who actually spoke AAVE. Some of them were surprised at how hard it was - they really thought they'd do better. The questions weren't esoteric or technical, either, they were things like identifying whether an event was in the past or not.

(It was adapted from a quiz by Nicole Holliday, which I can't find a link to ATM.)
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 7:27 PM on January 31 [23 favorites]


@reductiondesign were you aware of what it means to say someone "stole off" you prior to my first comment? What are "squares," "wet" or "wetsticks," and how are "wetsticks" different from just "sticks"? If "stick" and "pipe" are synonymous what does that refer to? If I say I'm going to "blow" or "blow at" someone, what does that mean? If I promise something "on the fin" what am I doing? What are the wild 100s? If you know the answers to those questions can you guarantee that the answers in your region are the same as the answers in my region?

Squares = cigarettes
Wet = PCP
Wet sticks = cigarettes or blunt dipped in PCP
Stick / pipe = firearm of any sort
Blow = shoot
On the fin = similar to "on my mother's grave." Fin is a reference to the five pointed star of peoples nation gangs out of Chicago
Wild 100s / "the hundreds" = Southside Chicago

Maybe you knew all that stuff from listening to pop but I doubt it. I would encourage the exercise of caution in assumptions about what you know of a dialect you don't use.
posted by firebrick at 7:31 PM on January 31 [16 favorites]


Regarding "lawyer dog," I don't think that the argument is actually that anyone believed Demesme was asking for a dog. Here's a link from an actual attorney that does a good job of explaining what the issue is. Basically the prosecution was arguing that Demesme was engaging in a rhetorical ploy to convince police of his innocence rather than invoking his right to counsel. Maybe you don't buy that argument, but I think it's important to at least be accurate about what the decision was and was not and I would characterize the reference to it in the FPP link as bordering on bad faith.

Crichton's stated reason for denying that Demesme was making a request for counsel is pretty unambiguous. Retroactively justifying it, and implying in the process that his reasoning was an impartial interpretation of "the facts of the case" with a completely different argument seems way more bad faith to me than the original reference could ever be.
posted by invitapriore at 7:34 PM on January 31 [4 favorites]


Are there migration patterns that make African-American communities so homogenous?

It can't explain everything, but the great migration can explain a lot. But there are local differences - there are just a lot of commonalities too.
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 7:45 PM on January 31 [9 favorites]


If you think finna is an abbreviated finally instead of a contracted fixing to.

Okay, but...millions of Americans speak AAVE. It's not exactly an obscure dialect. If you understand "y'all", then you should understand "finna".

(I, too, grew up hearing "fixin' to" from my [white] Southern mom. It's only recently that I realized it was a regional thing.)

I wouldn't be at all surprised to find there's a huge age factor at play here.

I suspected this, as well. I'm late Gen X, but (thanks to popular culture) I grew up hearing AAVE almost as much as my native dialect. I think this was pretty common for my generation.

Speaking as an armchair linguistics nerd: one of the easiest ways to make me incandescent with rage is to suggest that any particular dialect is "improper" English. It's an extraordinarily common prejudice, and it has zero fucking basis in linguistic fact. If you believe this, then go take a Linguistics 101 course, because you don't know what the hell you're talking about. It's unvarnished classism and racism, full fucking stop. And even Enlightened Liberals do it.

See, now I'm all het up. (That's another Southern phrase I learned from my mom.)

things like identifying whether an event was in the past or not.

The subtleties of the tenses, and the habitual be, are one of the neatest things about AAVE. These aren't errors (grits teeth to suppress another profane outburst). They're meaningful linguistic features. The are so many people who've spent hundreds of hours studying French or Latin, yet can't seem to imagine that POC in their own town might be speaking a perfectly civilized dialect which happens to have slightly different syntax than their own.

Perhaps high school English courses should include a section on AAVE? Or on dialect in general? Stop teaching people that SAE is "proper" English, and that everything else isn't.
posted by escape from the potato planet at 7:51 PM on January 31 [31 favorites]


Kutsuwamushi and firebrick: I'm not at all claiming anything approaching fluency in AAVE. I've only heard "blow" (and never with "at"!). Sorry to have been presumptuous, I appreciate the replies.
posted by reductiondesign at 7:53 PM on January 31 [4 favorites]


Crichton's stated reason for denying that Demesme was making a request for counsel is pretty unambiguous.

The LA SC site isn't loading for me, so I got the PDF from The Wayback Machine. Yes, Crichton's language is opaque, and I certainly can't rule out the suggestion that he was willfully misunderstanding Demesne and/or making a racist joke. But this is the substance of Crichton's concurrence:
As this Court has written, “[i]f a suspect makes a reference to an attorney that is ambiguous or equivocal in that a reasonable police officer in light of the circumstances would have understood only that the suspect might be invoking his right to counsel, the cessation of questioning is not required.”
[my emphasis]
Just for reference, this is what Demesne is supposed to have said:
This is how I feel, if y’all think I did it, I know that I didn’t do it so why don’t you just give me a lawyer dog ’cause this is not what’s up.
This article in The Root says that the prosecutor argued
that Demesme’s “reference to a lawyer did not constitute an unambiguous invocation of his right to counsel, because the defendant communicated that whether he actually wanted a lawyer was dependent on the subjective beliefs of the officers.”
Like Orin Kerr in the Washington Post, I do see that this is a possible interpretation of Demesne's statement. Crichton was hearing Demesne's second appeal and unless there's some reason to think that the trial judge thought Demesne was asking for a "lawyer dog", there's no way that the argument could have been raised in Crichton's court on appeal.
posted by Joe in Australia at 7:59 PM on January 31


If they had just included the comma after dog, maybe the judge would have understood. As to the actual argument that Demesme,s didn’t specifically demand an attorney, that’s the same logic my teenager uses not to do something when I say “you should take out the trash”. I didn’t tell him to do something, I said something should be done. Which is true, but I still think he AND the judge are both cognizant and aware of the intention of the statement, and thereby are being deliberately obtuse.
posted by SecretAgentSockpuppet at 8:27 PM on January 31 [12 favorites]


Most of what I know about linguistics I learned from Language Log, which has some accessible discussion on the different roles of conditionals in communication. An unjustified choice on interpreting Demesme's "if" in a self-serving way is some dissembling bullshit.
posted by traveler_ at 8:32 PM on January 31 [6 favorites]


It's interesting to me that they didn't seem to use the white (lower class) philly accent as a baseline to compare transcription error rates against. It doesn't have all the grammatical features of Philly AAVE but it can be hard as hell to understand for someone who's not used to its dulcet tones.
posted by runcibleshaw at 8:44 PM on January 31 [4 favorites]


The article dismisses the idea of having translators for people who are only able to speak AAVE, but why is that a non-starter?

I may be handicapped in this regard as a non-native speaker, but I did extremely poorly on the sample AAVE translations in the article. They're just not anything like the English I was taught. And after looking over the grammar on wikipedia, I see that it has several features, such as aspect, which native speakers of English routinely struggle to learn when studying languages like Spanish or Greek. Seems like inviting Dunning-Kruger to give that directly to, e.g., a jury.
posted by meaty shoe puppet at 9:22 PM on January 31 [1 favorite]


I still think he AND the judge are both cognizant and aware of the intention of the statement, and thereby are being deliberately obtuse.

The fundamental problem is that the right to a lawyer is treated like some magic that can only be triggered by the correct incantation. It would make a lot more sense if the police, who are supposedly guarding our rights, were obliged to offer suspects a lawyer, and decline to interview suspects without either a lawyer or judicial permission to proceed in a lawyer's absence.
posted by Joe in Australia at 1:03 AM on February 1 [19 favorites]


They say that ignorance of the law doesn’t mean you can’t be charged.

I would agree, Joe in Australia, that a lawyer should be automatically provided on some kind of corollary to that. Just because you don’t know you can ask for a lawyer doesn’t mean you don’t get one IMMEDIATELY
posted by sio42 at 3:01 AM on February 1 [4 favorites]


Okay, but...millions of Americans speak AAVE

And this where structural racism comes into play, because the vast majority of white US citizens live in majority white communities and never, and will never, associate on a deeper level with black people who primarily speak AAVE. Or any black people at all. Even if you're exposed to it through media and music that's very different than having a conversation. I was deeply embarrassed when I moved to Baltimore and discovered I couldn't understand most of the black people I met. It was a profound exposure of the segregation in the communities in which I grew up.

When confronted with a dialect or thick accent that one finds difficult to understand, one is confronted with two options: try harder, or get frustrated and dismiss what the speaker is saying. In a culture of white supremacy, where we are taught to devalue AAVE and the voices of black people in general, non-black people generally choose the latter. It can bleed over to the black community itself in the form of respectability politics.

Incidentally, immigrants with accents face the same discrimination from those outside their communities, with similar pressures within the communities from people preaching assimilation politics.
posted by schroedinger at 3:24 AM on February 1 [21 favorites]


The fundamental problem is that the right to a lawyer is treated like some magic that can only be triggered by the correct incantation.

Exactly. If the issue is that you need to unambiguously state "I want a lawyer" and not "maybe I should talk to a lawyer” or "if you think I'm guilty then get me a lawyer," then the law should require you to be informed of that upon arrest. How is a person reasonably supposed to know that otherwise?

(Better yet the requirement for unambiguity should be lifted. But if you're going to require it, how can you not have a duty to inform people of that?)
posted by trig at 4:05 AM on February 1 [7 favorites]


Seems like inviting Dunning-Kruger to give that directly to, e.g., a jury.

Then is it really a jury of their PEERS?
posted by mikelieman at 4:16 AM on February 1 [5 favorites]


If you think finna is an abbreviated finally instead of a contracted fixing to.

Just want to point out, in this particular case, the similarity with "gonna" as a contraction of "going to", which the judge et. al. probably would have no trouble understanding. I'm sure I'd do terribly on a test of AAVE comprehension in general, but this is not a hard example, and thinking that "finna" is an abbreviation of anything is just shoddy reasoning with no basis even in wasp English.
posted by eviemath at 4:41 AM on February 1 [5 favorites]


Hey firebrick, when you comment in criminal justice threads, could you please state up front that you are a police officer? It sort of impacts the way that people take your comments, including your claim that criticisms of prosecutorial arguments in the FPP are being made "in bad faith". And it is pretty important for people to know that context when you imply that the only way to safely request a lawyer is by saying "something like "I am using my 5th amendment right to remain silent and I want to speak to my attorney.""
posted by a fiendish thingy at 6:30 AM on February 1 [19 favorites]


I wouldn't be at all surprised to find there's a huge age factor at play here. AAVE is more and more common in popular music, movies, and TV... but it's younger people who are consuming these things. As a (white) millennial I didn't even remotely need the 'translations' of the AAVE phrases.

I'm a white mom with a 11-year-old son who is black, being raised in a majority-white environment. Awhile ago, he started using some AAVE phrases and inflections. I asked where he'd learned them, and he said it was from his teammates at gymnastics. In other words, my black son was picking up bits of AAVE from his white teammates who had gotten it, almost certainly, from popular culture.

I don't know much about AAVE but I have read a bit on it out of interest. The verb tenses are surprisingly challenging for a non-AAVE speaker. But not so challenging that a modest training course shouldn't overcome things like this bullshit "lawyer dog" or "I can't tell what 'finna' means!" crap.
posted by Orlop at 6:32 AM on February 1 [4 favorites]


Firebrick, I take your point and found what you shared really interesting. Thanks.
posted by Orlop at 6:36 AM on February 1


This is how I feel, if y’all think I did it, I know that I didn’t do it so why don’t you just give me a lawyer dog ’cause this is not what’s up.

One thing worth noting is that even if you don't understand the dialect, the actual rhythms of speech-- and their attendant meanings-- have been enormously suppressed here. Compare it with a hypothetical alternative version, that is far more like how a human person would speak:

"This is how I feel-- if y’all think I did it. . . I know that I didn’t do it, so why don’t you just give me a lawyer, dawg, ’cause this [gesturing to interrogation setup] is not what’s up."

Really gutwrenching to see punctuation and syntax manipulated in this way. The transcription does not match the rhythms of how people speak at all, and much of the lack of clarity is likely because it has been reproduced so badly.

Also, I think we all know that the people questioning him knew exactly what he was asking for, and used plausible deniability to refuse to grant his eminently reasonable request. Great role models, both them and the attorneys/judges who later tied themselves into knots to defend their refusal to honor his civil rights.
posted by a fiendish thingy at 6:43 AM on February 1 [25 favorites]


Court reporters in Philadelphia, especially in criminal court, tend to be older, white, working class or lower-middle class women. In Philly, that demographic tends not consume a lot of media with AAVE. And given the de facto racial segregation in large parts of the city, they don't have a lot of real-life exposure to it, either.

Which doesn't excuse the egregious failures, but does explain part of it.

Another part of it is the broad range of professionalism in Philadelphia court reporters. Some are very good, but I recently looked at a transcript for an actual, honest-to-god hearing in front of a governmental board with lawyers on both sides and high-six figures of dollars at stake, where people got sworn in and everything, and aside from many, many typos, the (white, middle-aged, female) court reporter fucked up:

- The attorney appearing for the City of Philadelphia. The reporter had an entirely different attorney from that division listed, and initially resisted fixing it until the attorney pulled LOOK, THE PERSON WHO APPEARED FOR THE CITY IS PERSONALLY KNOWN TO MY CLIENT AND THAT WAS NOT HER GO BACK AND LISTEN TO YOUR RECORDING.

- The spelling of the name of other attorney, in that they had him mis-spelling his OWN NAME on the record. For the record, that's the names of 100% of the attorneys appearing in the case whose names are fucked up.

- The addresses of the properties at issue, and considering this was a real estate matter, THIS WAS KIND OF IMPORTANT

- The certification, which is the part at the back where the court reporter swears that what they have put into the transcript was true and accurate

None of the people speaking in the hearing used AAVE, and you still had that many errors in a 10 minute hearing where there wasn't even cross-talk or any yelling or contention. And where the court reporter actually had an audio recording of proceedings, so they could go back and listen and check themselves.

I mean, you'd think criminal court reporters would be more professional because the stakes are higher, so the more experienced, professional ones would be chosen, but ¯\_(ツ)_/¯.
posted by joyceanmachine at 7:01 AM on February 1 [12 favorites]


Also, this is your daily reminder to never, ever, under any circumstances, ESPECIALLY if you are innocent, never talk to the cops without an attorney present. Not a word. The only thing you should ever say is, I’m invoking the 5th amendment, and demand an attorney.

Do not ever talk to the police.
posted by SecretAgentSockpuppet at 7:27 AM on February 1 [13 favorites]


Hey firebrick, when you comment in criminal justice threads, could you please state up front that you are a police officer?

ALL of us are influenced by our backgrounds when we make comments on topics, and yet we don't demand everyone declare their life stories when making comments so we can scrutinize said comments for potential biases. It is deeply unfair that you'd require that of one member because of their position. Should anarchists disclose their beliefs when making comments about the criminal justice system? Do bankers need to disclose their jobs when talking about finance? Do farmers need to tell everyone what they do when making judgements about genetically altered crops? What about teachers in discussions of teacher's unions? What passes your personal standard for self exposure?
posted by schroedinger at 10:05 AM on February 1 [7 favorites]


Sure seems like the entire criminal justice system should be dismantled, starting with the police and working up.
posted by runcibleshaw at 10:15 AM on February 1 [2 favorites]


ALL of us are influenced by our backgrounds when we make comments on topics, and yet we don't demand everyone declare their life stories when making comments so we can scrutinize said comments for potential biases.

I didn't demand it. I asked it politely. I didn't ask for it to become official site policy, or for mods to weigh in. It was a calmly worded request, and not a rebuke, which seems to be what you're implying.

And most people on this site DO tend to disclose their real world experience when talking about topics that touch those experiences. Teachers tend to talk about being teachers in discussions of teacher's unions. People who work in publishing tend to mention it when discussing articles on the subject. Lawyers talk about their experiences with clients when law cases are the subject of the day. People from Philadelphia tend to mention it before offering their take on Gritty. I think one of the great things about this site is that we all come from so many walks of life, and talk about them, and openly admit to our subjectivities. Asking a new-ish member to consider participating in this community habit is not a mandate.
posted by a fiendish thingy at 10:19 AM on February 1 [14 favorites]


Squares = cigarettes
Wet = PCP
Wet sticks = cigarettes or blunt dipped in PCP


This is orthogonal to the original discussion, and firebrick's general point stands, but I want to emphasize that there is plenty of AAVE that has nothing to do with drug or gang references. In my experience, conflating AAVE with drug and gang references is a common technique used to de-legitimize it, or shame people who speak it -- only criminals talk like that, this is not the street where talk like that belongs, etc.

In fact, the original article is pretty good about highlighting how AAVE is much more than a set of specialized nouns, or even pronunciation. There are specific rules, for example, about when and how multiple negatives should be employed, how possessives are handled, and the use of the word "even" as an intensifier and its placement in a sentence. One of my favorites is illustrated by the habitual be in the fifth example, where AAVE use of the word "be" provides additional information not conveyed in a straight-up word-for-word substitution translation into mainstream English. In fact, usage of the habitual "be" actually shifts the meaning of the sentence, providing nuance in a compact way, but also requiring, when spoken, specific rules about how the word is stressed to distinguish it from the non-habitual "be."

Language is fascinating.
posted by joyceanmachine at 10:27 AM on February 1 [25 favorites]


Asking a new-ish member to consider participating in this community habit is not a mandate.

And a member can choose to keep their anonymity if they wish. Which firebrick did in their comment, and you chose to disclose anyway. And you go ahead and claim you were doing it politely, but that was a call-out.
posted by schroedinger at 11:26 AM on February 1 [4 favorites]


(I don't know if this situation is implicated by site rules at all, but firebrick was just discussing being a cop in another thread in the past few days.)
posted by praemunire at 11:55 AM on February 1 [1 favorite]


[Bringing info from one thread to another is not forbidden, but it's not likely to lead anywhere good, and this derail needs to take itself elsewhere.]
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 2:14 PM on February 1


And it is pretty important for people to know that context when you imply that the only way to safely request a lawyer is by saying "something like "I am using my 5th amendment right to remain silent and I want to speak to my attorney.""

He wasn't implying that it's the only safe way to request a lawyer, he was making an observation of fact about how the courts have ruled on this question in the past. In the US criminal justice system, making a very explicit, unambiguous request like that is definitely the safest way to request a lawyer, and even then, you're not guaranteed that the police and the courts will honor your request. And as SecretAgentSockpuppet pointed out above, it's very much something people in the US should be made aware of.
posted by straight at 3:21 PM on February 1 [3 favorites]


Sure seems like the entire criminal justice system should be dismantled, starting with the police and working up.
You want Mad Max? Well, this is how you get Mad Max.
posted by Gilgamesh's Chauffeur at 5:17 PM on February 1


Sure seems like the entire criminal justice system should be dismantled, starting with the police and working up.

You want Mad Max? Well, this is how you get Mad Max.


I believe you're confusing an armed police force and adversarial legal system for a well functioning society. You don't necessarily need one to have the other. If a legal system puts one innocent person in jail then it's no good. It gotta go.
posted by runcibleshaw at 8:24 PM on February 3 [1 favorite]


I shouldn't be surprised that professionalism on the part of court reporters doesn't overcome racism, nonetheless, I am.

Related story: a few years ago, my brother—a lawyer in downstate IL (a critical detail)—was in a Chicago court on behalf of a client, who grew up in India.

He happened to ride an elevator with the court reporter and he asked if she had had any difficulty understanding his client's accented English. Her response, "it's no more difficult than your accent".

(Btw, she wasn't being ironic here. As I learned when I moved to Chicago, city folks often hear "southern" in speakers from downstate.)
posted by she's not there at 10:15 AM on February 4


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