Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Jessica Lunsford, Death of a 9-Year-Old

'I Want a Lawyer'

Detectives Achison and Grace, with assistance from an FBI special agent, began interviewing John Couey at 2:30 in the afternoon on March 17. Transcripts of the interview show that Grace pressed Couey hard for information that would lead to the recovery of Jessica Lunsford. Achison took a softer approach, trying to appeal to Couey, in Achison's own words, "human being to human being."

At one point in the interview, Detective Grace asked Couey if he would take a lie-detector test. 

Couey responded by saying, "I guess. I'm just... I want a lawyer, you know."

Achison would later describe what happened next as a quick and garbled exchange, but in the transcripts Couey plainly asks for a lawyer seven times. 

"I want a lawyer here present," Couey said. "I want to talk to a lawyer 'cause I mean, if people are trying to accuse something I didn't do, I didn't do it... I just want to talk to a lawyer to get this thing straight."

The detectives continue to question Couey, but he's not provided with a lawyer. Later in the interview, tired and frustrated, Couey stated, "Y'all got my brain fried here now."

In a sworn deposition, Detective Achison would later explain that Couey had not made his wishes clear when he asked for a lawyer. Achison had tried to determine whether Couey wanted the questioning to stop until he had a lawyer present, or if the interview could continue until a lawyer arrived. It was also possible, according to Achison, that Couey wanted a lawyer present only for the polygraph test that he had agreed to take.

The next day Couey took a polygraph test administered by FBI Special Agent John Whitmore. During the test, Couey broke down and confessed to the abduction and murder of Jessica Lunsford. He also revealed where they could find her.

 

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