Don’t Talk To Police Or Your Name Might Be Mud

Don’t Talk To Police Or Your Name Might Be Mud

You may have heard the phrase, or even used the phrase, “My name is mud.” Many historians attribute the phrase to Dr. Samuel Mudd who after the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln was convicted of conspiracy in 1865. Mudd was saved from the gallows by one vote and was sentenced to life in prison. After serving four years in a South Carolina prison, he was pardoned by President Johnson due to Mudd’s assistance treating prisoners during a yellow fever epidemic. Dr. Mudd spent the rest of his life trying to clear his name, and his descendants have tried through present time, including a case that was heard by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2003, to posthumously clear the stigma from their family.

How was Mudd linked to John Wilkes Booth, Lincoln’s assassin, and the other conspirators? What was his purported participation in the conspiracy? Dr. Mudd was a local town doctor in Maryland. He had met Booth in November of 1864 when Booth was looking for real estate in Maryland. Booth visited Mudd’s home and purchased a horse from a neighbor. Several weeks later in December, Mudd and Booth met again in Washington, DC where they shared drinks at a local tavern. The two did not see each other again until April 15, 1865, the day after Booth assassinated Lincoln at the Ford’s Theater in Washington. Mudd treated Booth for the broken leg he suffered when leaping from the balcony after shooting Lincoln. Booth left Mudd’s house the following day and the two never met again.

Dr. Mudd was questioned about his association with Booth by authorities initially as a witness. Unfortunately, he told authorities that he had met Booth only once before when he initially met him for the real estate matters. Whether it was deliberate or inadvertent, he did not tell them about the second encounter with Booth several weeks later. Mudd later wrote that the second encounter was a chance meeting while on a Christmas shopping trip. Regardless of how the encounter occurred or if it was a deliberate omission or not, the fact that Mudd failed to inform police of that meeting led him to then be viewed as a suspect.

At Mudd’s trial, prosecutors were able to paint Mudd as a liar and argue that he deliberately misled investigators simply because he failed to mention that second encounter. The jury, based on that evidence found Mudd guilty of the conspiracy.

Unless you are the victim of a crime, or you are a completely unrelated and innocent eyewitness, you should always seek the advice of a criminal defense attorney before giving ANY statement to police. As illustrated with the case of Dr. Mudd, if you do give a statement which is incomplete, even if that omission is an innocent mistake, you can be portrayed as untruthful and misleading, and ultimately guilty of a crime.

The best thing to do if you are approached by police for a statement is to immediately demand that you have a criminal attorney present during all questioning. Anything you say to your attorney is confidential. Furthermore, if you do give a statement through your attorney, that statement may not be used against you in any way.

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