Attorney Sonny Chapman alleges VPPD wrongfully acquired statement from his client
It has been nearly three months since the release from the United States Department of Justice report on an investigation into the practice of illegal investigative holds by the Ville Platte Police Department and the Evangeline Parish Sheriff’s Office. The report detailed reforms each department would implement in an effort to eliminate such practices, which were deemed unconstitutional.
However, today, attorney Alex “Sonny” Chapman, who heads the local Indigent Defender Board, has questioned if officers with the VPPD aren’t still engaging in practices that he believes violate his clients’ rights.
Chapman became concerned with actions of VPPD officers after they took a statement from one of his clients, Jessica Williams, without his consent after he had been appointed as her attorney.
Williams, who was indicted by an Evangeline Parish grand jury for manslaughter last week, was first arrested on June 14, 2018 after what law enforcement said appeared to be an altercation between her and a male subject turned deadly. The incident led to the black male being stabbed by Williams.
According to Chapman, he was appointed as Williams’ attorney at her 72 hour hearing on June 15, 2018. “They knew she had an attorney,” said Chapman. “But, the VPPD still went talk to my client and got a statement from her without my consent or knowledge that they would be speaking with her on June 22nd.”
The actions of local law enforcement, Chapman believes should allow the statement his client gave to officers on June 22nd to be suppressed, or left out, of her trial set for November 11, 2018.
Before Williams’ trial commences on November 11th, Chapman says a motion he filed to suppress the statement will be heard, and it is the case State of Louisiana v. Joseph Siegel that he intends to use to fight to have his client’s statement excluded from her trial.
In State v. Siegel, the defendant gave incriminating statements to prosecutors without counsel present.
The Supreme Court of Louisiana ultimately upheld that Siegel’s statements were admissible due to the fact that “at the time of the interview defendant was knowledgeable in criminal law, had openly discussed his case with numerous persons other than his attorney, and was not new to the criminal justice system.” However, Chapman stressed that in his client’s case, it was the complete opposite.
While he believes he will be able to have his client’s statements suppressed, one of Chapman’s bigger concerns are the procedures of the VPPD.
“This isn’t dealing with the holds (illegally detaining people believed to have information about a crime) that the DOJ had looked into in the past, but how the officers took my client’s statements was still improperly done,” said Chapman. “Things like that make my job harder because then we have to start filing motions and have hearings to get evidence suppressed.”
Due to the VPPD’s actions, Chapman said, “I have contacted the United States Attorney General’s Office in Lafayette to inform them of what occurred with my client so that they would know that there still may be some problems here. And, I was told that they would be letting the Department of Justice know.