View Full Version : I need a loophole

11-19-2012, 03:38 AM
Hi all, I am writing a story about a bad guy who is a former cop. This cop arrested a child molester for a string of incidents and got him sent to jail. I need to come up with a loophole that explains why the case against the molester gets thrown out; this is so that I can then have the bad guy attempt to take the law into his own hands and later kill the molester. (I am exploring the angle of having a bad guy who has some decency as well as a good guy who has some major moral flaws).

It seems to me that it's a cliche to use low-hanging fruit like "the cops forgot to read the molester his rights" or "they searched his place without a warrant." The problem with that is I want the bad cop to have done everything right... but still see the molester get released, then decide to brew up his own revenge.

What would cause a case to get thrown out or dismissed? Insufficient evidence, I know, but in this case the evidence has to be clear enough to convince the bad cop, the good guy, and the reader. I was thinking about a slimebag defense attorney who convinces the jury the children testifying were all deluded somehow but this seems like a stretch of the imagination. Any advice would be greatly appreciated!

Siri Kirpal
11-19-2012, 03:50 AM
Sat Nam! (literally "Truth Name"--a Sikh greeting)

The deluded children defense doesn't work all that often. And it's a Freudian cliche.

What evidence are you planning to use? If the evidence got contaminated, it wouldn't be useable.


Siri Kirpal

11-19-2012, 03:52 AM
What about the children recanting their testimony? Maybe they couldn't handle testifying at the umpteenth appeal, or they felt like this was hurting their family/other siblings too much.

11-19-2012, 03:53 AM
Ooo another idea. Speaking of contaminated evidence...
What if it comes out that someone in the chain of custody (say, a lab tech?) contaminated evidence on another (completely unrelated) case to implicate someone... that would call into question the credibility of every case they've ever worked on.

11-19-2012, 03:58 AM
Here's a real life scenario that happened to a State Trooper I knew.

Pulled a vehicle over, found the driver to be a habitual offender, found drugs, and a few other minor infractions. Driver refuses a plea and takes the case to jury trial. State Trooper testifies about the stop, jury hears the rest of the evidence, and then goes out to decide.

Two days later, jury comes back with a verdict of not guilty. It should have been a slam dunk for the State.

However, one of the members of the jury had a brother. A brother who the State Trooper had busted. A brother who believed in the innocence of his brother and the rottenness of the State Trooper. A brother who convinced the jury of the rottenness of the State Trooper.

State Trooper was not happy about the case, but figured that's life. And he popped the driver a few weeks later and got a conviction that time.

Best of luck,

Jim Clark-Dawe

11-19-2012, 03:58 AM
Ooo another idea. Speaking of contaminated evidence...
What if it comes out that someone in the chain of custody (say, a lab tech?) contaminated evidence on another (completely unrelated) case to implicate someone... that would call into question the credibility of every case they've ever worked on.

Or perhaps said lab tech person was emotionally involved for some reason, and tampered with the evidence to make sure the defendant would be found guilty? But didn't do it well enough, so ironically ensured the opposite happened.

Drachen Jager
11-19-2012, 04:35 AM
If he's a bad cop, why not just have him give the molester a beating while he's in custody? Perhaps the perp could say something nasty to bring it on, the cop thinks they're alone but actually the perp spotted some kid videotaping the whole thing on his cellphone.

11-19-2012, 11:28 AM
You have some good suggestions here already. If you want the cop to have done everything right, then you need to look at who else along the chain could screw stuff up. Keep in mind these are all just suggestions. Feel free to use or reject them as you see fit.

Prosecutor: Is there some way that the criminal could get an amazing plea? Like say he was a member of a kiddie porn ring and he agrees to testify against other members to save his own skin. This would be a deal that a DA would be interested in handing out. More busts, more media. It would look really good on their record.

A problem comes from the fact that a DA might be less apt to give a child molester zero jail time, or to drop the case completely. On "To Catch a Predator", the guys will sometimes get away with 6 months probation and registration as a sex offender. That seems like a slap on the wrist to me. Would that be a light enough punishment to push your cop over the edge?

Technicians: As others have mentioned, these people would be your best bet for tainting evidence that might get a case thrown out. I'm just not sure what evidence you are planning on using, or what evidence could be tainted in a case like this. DNA samples maybe. It depends on what you are working with.

Act of God: Maybe it wasn't a person that screwed up, but something unforeseen, like Hurricane Sandy. Maybe the evidence room flooded. Maybe there was a fire that took out several buildings, including where they housed the evidence. This depends on where you want your story to take place. Is it in the Midwest? Have a tornado tear the place apart. Western seaboard? Have an earthquake shake things up a bit.

Victim: Now, you said there was a string of incidents, so I really doubt that all of the victims would decide to recant their testimony. Maybe he only victimized street kids, and they can't locate them to testify. Maybe the kids are at-risk youth and the jury doesn't buy their testimony. Maybe the parents can't take the attention of a case like this, and they make their kids recant.

Those are some things you can think about. Hope that helps get the gears in your brain turning.

11-19-2012, 04:29 PM
Someone else confesses to the offences.

11-19-2012, 07:52 PM
Why not just have him get a super light sentence, and is released on good behavior pretty quick?

Gilroy Cullen
11-19-2012, 08:05 PM
Depending on your court system, it could be the Court Commissioner looks at the case and releases the molester on minimal bond, which the molester then jumps. Makes everyone have a twist in their shorts.

11-19-2012, 08:25 PM
I appreciate the great suggestions, all of which may come in handy for a number of purposes I have in mind across different stories. :-) I like the notion of the molester getting probation or a reduced sentence (say time served while awaiting trial). I want the cop to lose faith in the system and this can be heightened by writing a scene where he assures the parents the molester is going to be sent to prison for a long time, and then they blame him for the guy walking instead. Many thanks again!

11-20-2012, 07:09 AM
There was just recently a case in Connecticut where the prosecutor charged a rape defendant under the wrong part of the law.

Everyone (except the defendant) agrees that he raped a mentally and physically handicapped woman. But the prosecutor charged him with raping a victim who was "Physically Helpless".

(a) A person is guilty of sexual assault in the second degree when such person engages in sexual intercourse with another person and: (3) such other person is physically helpless;

(6) “Physically helpless” means that a person is unconscious or for any other reason is physically unable to communicate unwillingness to an act.

The victim, while physically handicapped, was able to express disagreement such as by crying out or struggling and was not unconscious or physically unable to communicate unwillingness to an act.

The Supreme Court of Connecticut overturned his conviction because he had been charged under the wrong statute. (Not, NOT NOT just because she didn't struggle.) It was purely because the prosecutor chose the wrong statute and the accused had not committed the crime described in that statute. He can't be re-tried due to double jeopardy. So he walked.

Here are some links discussing the case.



(Warning, .pdf This is the actual judicial decision.)

Note, links could be triggery.

James D. Macdonald
11-20-2012, 08:04 AM
Or, the star witness, the one who could nail this rat-bastard, talks about his upcoming testimony on a Tabloid TV show, and it comes out that he was paid $25,000 for his appearance.

The testimony is now tainted, and without that guy's testimony everything else could go either way ... and presumption of innocence.

11-20-2012, 06:56 PM
Or perhaps said lab tech person was emotionally involved for some reason, and tampered with the evidence to make sure the defendant would be found guilty? But didn't do it well enough, so ironically ensured the opposite happened.

The lab tech doesn't even need to deliberately tamper with the evidence on this specific case.

There have been real life instances of forensic techs found falsifying results or testifying to the results of tests they never actually ran, etc. When that happens EVERYTHING touched by that lab, especially everything handled by that lab tech, is suspect.

If a lab tech from the lab in your story was found to have falsified records in another case, and that same tech worked in this case, a good lawyer could use that as an argument to throw out that evidence. If the judge agrees, and the evidence is tossed, there may not be enough evidence left to prosecute.

Google up some of the real life instances of forensic lab malfeasance so you have a better understanding of how it happened.

11-21-2012, 01:18 PM
I think ULTRAGOTHA (http://absolutewrite.com/forums/member.php?u=47001)'s given the best solution so far. Despite popular opinion, legal loopholes are few and far between, especially in criminal cases. I was even suspicious when I heard about it here, but having read the case and the others in the chain, I find it's true: the prosecutor charged under the wrong statute, so the higher court had no choice but to direct a verdict of "not guilty" (because Fourtin just was not guilty under that statute). Usually, when a conviction is overturned or remanded (because of evidence problems or something), the lower court can make new findings or the prosecutor can retry. But here, the guy just wasn't guilty of the offense charged, and double jeopardy attaches to the whole incident when the verdict is "not guilty." It sucks, and it really doesn't happen very often. But it happened here, so I think that's the most realistic choice.

About the forensic evidence getting messed up, yeah that can be a problem. But in a case involving sexual misconduct and a minor, the prosecution is home free if they can get testimony from a child. Juries usually favor the prosecution, and they really hate the defense when the charge involves a minor. If the prosecution can get even one child to give coherent testimony, they win. The defense won't even bother cross-examining a child -- as my evidence prof used to say, "Wanna cross examine a 10-year-old? Bet you can make him cry."

Forensic evidence doesn't matter at that point. The jury will still convict, and on appeal the defense has to show that no reasonable jury could've convicted without the forensic evidence. That's an almost impossible standard to overcome if the jury had any other evidence (e.g. a victim's compelling testimony) that they could've convicted on.

take care,