‘Illiterate’ Defendant Who Couldn’t Understand the Word ‘Attorney’ Nonetheless Convicted in New York


Evan Amos/Commons.

When 18-year-old Willi Adames was held by police in connection with a fatal shooting in June of 2008, he ostensibly waived his right to an attorney before giving a detailed, recorded statement implicating himself in the crime. But it was obvious from the start that Adames was in over his head.
Functionally illiterate, with what the court characterized as “low intelligence,” Adames was confused, court records show, about the most basic aspects of the criminal investigation process.

When he sat down with an assistant district attorney, for example, as first reported by the New York Law Journal, he was unable to understand the meaning of the term “attorney.” An exchange between Adames and an assistant D.A. — a prosecutor — shows that he may have believed he was talking to a defense attorney. The difference, of course, is huge; a defense attorney would have been on his side, while the A.D.A. was paid to ensure he ended up in jail.
The Village Voice has the rest of this tale of justice gone wrong.