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View Full Version : questions about homicide investigation and conviction [U.S.]


deserata
02-02-2009, 06:04 AM
I'm starting the first revision of my draft, and I'm already getting bogged down with details in the first scene! There's a few things I want to be sure of or don't know about...

1. So, I have a couple of detectives at the scene of the crime, and they want to be good detectives who don't move or contaminate anything. They're not supposed to move the body from its position, right? Or take anything out of his pockets (because the victim still has his wallet). But would they be able to do that after thorough documentation (photographs, etc.)? I'm asking because an important clue is on his arm, but he's lying on it...

2. The victim actually was not a model citizen, so when would they find that out? They have people to interview at the bar he apparently visited right before he was shot, so would they do that before a background check?

3. And wouldn't they want a printout of his booking photo or something to show people, as it's more likely that he would be recognized by picture and not just a name?

4. Also, I am wondering how suspicious can one look without being convicted? Another MC is going to surface as a prime suspect; he does not have a friendly history with the victim, and there are other details that make it look really bad for him. However, the murder weapon can't be found, there were no witnesses, and there is NO physical evidence linking him to the scene.

Is that enough to keep him out of prison (he's not the real killer, after all)? I want him to look suspicious, and even get arrested, but not for a prosecutor to think going ahead with an indictment would be reasonable. I want it to be really frustrating for my detective, too, because he is convinced he did it but there's not enough to put him away.

Any help would be greatly appreciated!

Horseshoes
02-02-2009, 07:50 AM
The bod gets turned over and searched after photog (which nowadays includes moving video). It doesn't take forever to get to the point of taking a peek in the pockets, pushing the clothes around, checking the face, etc. I have been on a case when we didn't see the suicide note written on his arm until at the morgue, but it was a pol shooting, not an unk, so there was no big mystery to solve at the scene in the cold and dark about who did what. Just saying it's possible to miss the arm clue for a few hours, though not if he's wearing a T shirt. Write weather/setting appropriate if you want them to miss the arm clue for a bit.

The det ain't leaving without knowing who he is. They'll know pretty quickly. Was he killed in his house? Is his ID on him? If he's a regular, some area ofcs know him. Someone called it in. Failing all that, if he's got priors, they'll grab a quick print and run it thru AFIS to ID him.

If they want a head shot of the guy, DMV can print off his OL photo for them, or they can use an old booking photo. Street ofcs in his area probably have snapshots of him as well. You say he surfaces as prime suspect and there are other details--dunno what the details are--but no testimonial evidence and no physical evidence means no evidence. No evidence means no case against him. Mebbe it'd be good to know what your latent details are...


No physical evidence and no testimonial evidence will keep our other MC from going to jail--should keep him from even being charged.

RJK
02-02-2009, 04:55 PM
I agree with pretty much everything that Horseshoes said. The suspect would be questioned, possibly brought in to the station to be questioned. If the suspect lawyers up, that's the end of the questions and if they don't have enough to hold him, they must turn him loose.
If you want to do more with this guy, you're going to need a witness who puts him at the scene. and maybe another piece of evidence that would be enough to indict him. This would be enough to get him to trial but maybe not enough to convict, so he would be in jail for a while but not go to prison.

deserata
02-02-2009, 09:54 PM
Thanks for the help!

Well, here are the strikes against the suspect so far:

1) He was also a career criminal (drugs) until he served time for it a couple years ago. Rap sheet also includes counts of aggravated battery. So he has plenty of experience lying, resorting to violence, and breaking the law as long as he can get away with it.
2) He knows the victim from those days and they did not get along -- even got into a physical altercation at some point.
3) The night of the murder the victim came to suspect's bar out of the blue (which he co-manages; liquor license not in his name, by the way) and asked specifically to speak with him (the reason why is part of something bigger which the det will find out). But suspect was unavailable and didn't see him before he left.
4) Lately he has been short tempered, stressed, and preoccupied with something (which at first is supposed to look like a guilty conscience to the detective).
5) Suspect can't be totally accounted for in the time frame of the murder.

Is that enough to make someone look like they could be guilty? I don't want him to be taken to trial, though, which is why I've been leaving out physical evidence...

ideagirl
02-02-2009, 11:21 PM
I'm starting the first revision of my draft, and I'm already getting bogged down with details in the first scene! There's a few things I want to be sure of or don't know about...

1. So, I have a couple of detectives at the scene of the crime, and they want to be good detectives who don't move or contaminate anything. They're not supposed to move the body from its position, right? Or take anything out of his pockets (because the victim still has his wallet). But would they be able to do that after thorough documentation (photographs, etc.)? I'm asking because an important clue is on his arm, but he's lying on it...

Don't forget to have the coroners there. Particularly if there's going to be a forensic investigation--which is highly, highly likely at a crime scene--the coroners are going to be there, and nobody touches the body until they're done doing whatever they need to do first. The detectives are going to need the forensics results in order to solve their case.

I would recommend you get a copy, from the library or bookstore or wherever, of Deadhouse: Life in a Coroner's Office by John Temple. It's a nonfiction book about the Pittsburgh coroner's office, which at the time it was written was headed up by Dr. Cyril Wecht, one of the best forensic pathologists on the face of the earth. I think you could get a lot of gritty real-world detail from that book. It also might help clarify who does what--like, you might think of police detectives doing forensic work, but most likely it is the coroner's office in conjunction with the police.


2. The victim actually was not a model citizen, so when would they find that out? They have people to interview at the bar he apparently visited right before he was shot, so would they do that before a background check?

They might know it already. Cops often just know who the local lowlifes are. In a big city it becomes less likely that they'd already know, but it's still possible.

I would imagine the background check would be done pronto, since it's so easy and fast to do one these days. They could even phone it in, basically, and have someone back at the police dept do it.


3. And wouldn't they want a printout of his booking photo or something to show people, as it's more likely that he would be recognized by picture and not just a name?

Probably. They could also ask for (though not demand) a photo from surviving relatives--"Ma'am, could we have a photo to help in our investigation..."


4. Also, I am wondering how suspicious can one look without being convicted?

Very. See OJ Simpson case for further details. Imagine the OJ Simpson case without the glove, without the blood traces, i.e. without physical evidence, and voila, you have your answer.

RJK
02-03-2009, 05:33 PM
You've described a 'person of interest' The detectives would definitely follow up on this guy, check out his alibi, etc. But you'd still need at least physical evidence to tie him to the crime, an eye witness, or an admission of guilt. Otherwise he's not going to prison.