John A. Steakely

Attorney John Steakley is a 1996 graduate of the University of Tennessee College of Law. He began his career as the Special Prosecutor for Drug Crimes for a multi-county, multi-agency drug task force in Tennessee, where he represented the State of Tennessee in thousands of felony and misdemeanor cases in a 5-county judicial district.

The Sad Case of Lester Eugene Siler

The Sad Case of Lester Eugene Siler

Before I moved to Georgia in 2001, I was an Assistant District Attorney General in the Eighth Judicial District of Tennessee.  It is a sprawling 5-county district in two different time zones, but most of my work was in the largest county of Campbell.  When I say "large", I'm talking about maybe 45,000 people, or about 1/15th the size of Cobb County or Gwinnett County, and 1/20th the size of Fulton County of Dekalb County.  Everyone knows everyone else, pretty much.  There's one main high school, one Wal-Mart, one McDonalds.  You can't go to either without seeing someone you know.  So when I became a prosecutor, I already knew many of the cops and had gone to school with many of them. 

Not long after leaving the office five years later, news broke that five officers had been arrested for torturing a local small-time drug dealer named Lester Siler.  I didn't think much of it until I leared that there was a recording.  Apparently, Siler's wife had hidden a recorder when she saw the police approaching the house.  What happened next was awful and heartbreaking.  They threatened and mistreated Siler in order to get him to sign a form consenting to the search of his house, but in the recording you can already hear them beginning to search.

The police would later be arrested and prosecuted federally.  Most or all served prison time.  When I read the transcript of them torture and threaten a guy to sign a document consenting to a search of his house, I wonder in how many more "consent" searches and "voluntary" confessions that were actually the result of torture came across my desk? I have no idea.

Except for Siler's wife recording the event, no one would know about it.  I wouldn't be writing about Lester Siler and you wouldn't be reading about him.  It would be just another drug case where the police claim that the homeowner consented to a search of his home and signed a document saying so.    Even if Siler said otherwise, no one would have believed him.

If you have contact with the police in Georgia, record it.  It can't hurt, and it may help.


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