ACLU Criticizes Providence Police for Minimizing Court’s “Grave Disapproval” of Interrogation Tactics

January 28, 2019 2:00 pm

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The ACLU of Rhode Island has sharply criticized Providence Police Chief Hugh Clements, Jr. for minimizing a court’s recent conclusion that police blatantly violated the constitutional rights of a criminal defendant. Even though the Court expressed “grave disapproval” over the police conduct in the case – knowingly continuing to interrogate a suspect after she had exercised her right to request to speak with a lawyer – Chief Clements was quoted last week as calling the constitutional violations “technical” and went on to praise the police who worked on the case.

In response, ACLU of RI executive director Steven Brown said in a letter to Chief Clements that “the actions of the police in this case deserve condemnation, not commendation. To praise the blatant and knowing violation of a defendant’s constitutional rights – hardly a technicality – sends the message that bending the law is perfectly acceptable if done in the name of fighting crime. The treatment of violations of the Constitution by those under your command in this way can only encourage further police misconduct and engender disrespect for the law and the civil rights of the city’s residents.”

The case involved the second-degree murder conviction of Sendra Beauregard. The Court, expressing “grave disapproval,” found that Providence police detective William Corrigan “candidly testified that he was aware that he was legally required to stop questioning defendant once she requested counsel; however, he had continued to question her … in an effort to elicit information.” Under the well-known U.S. Supreme Court Miranda decision, police are required to cease questioning a suspect once he or she invokes his or her right to talk with a lawyer. Although Beauregard’s conviction was upheld, some of the evidence obtained against her was thrown out due to the unlawful interrogations.

A copy of the ACLU’s letter can be found here.

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