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View Full Version : How to prove a murderer innocent when all evidence is against him?



Foolonthehill
12-30-2014, 04:08 AM
This is part of my novel (though not the main subject of the plot) . I wonít take up ages of your time explaining why I need to do this. Anyway, this guy is framed (by his loverís husband) for the murder of a man which he did not commit. His fingerprints are on the knife that killed the victim, the victimís blood is on his clothes. This takes place in Italy, where justice is very lax, (I am an Italian citizen, so I think I am allowed to say this without arousing anger J ) Anyway, I need this guy out of jail, even if only on a temporary basis. I donít want to have to go through a trial description because that would be pushing it too far, this book is not that kind of book and that would require too much research. What could it be???? The angle of the stab wounds? The direction of the spray of blood? Really. I need anything, except for the discovery of the true killer, so having the police find evidence of the murder in the true murdererís home or clothes etc will not work. Could they re-analyse the fingerprints on the knife and find they are not a complete match? Could they say someone who is, say, left handed wouldnít have brandished the knife in a way that is compatible with the wounds? What would we PLAUSIBLE? Also this would have to be done within a few days, I donít need this guy being in jail for months.
There is nothing worse than reading a novel where the reasons for certain outcomes are really bland or pathetic. Thanks.

T Robinson
12-30-2014, 04:10 AM
Simple. Cast iron alibi. Multiple good witnesses he was somewhere else. Ironic would be if he was in jail on a minor charge/speeding, no license, etc at the time of the incident.

cbenoi1
12-30-2014, 04:24 AM
> His fingerprints are on the knife that killed the victim,
> the victim’s blood is on his clothes.

What's his explanation for this? If the explanation holds water and could cast a serious doubt in a jury's mind, no prosecutor would go forward with those alone.

-cb

chompers
12-30-2014, 04:38 AM
Simple. Cast iron alibi. Multiple good witnesses he was somewhere else. Ironic would be if he was in jail on a minor charge/speeding, no license, etc at the time of the incident.Oh,yeah, this. At first I was going to say cast doubt, but this definitely is the trump card. Besides, it's not like I know much about Italian law, so this would work no matter the country. :D Like what if he was at a highly televised sports game and was caught on tv when the crime happened?

Brightdreamer
12-30-2014, 04:58 AM
If, as you say, the Italian justice system is lax, would even an iron-clad alibi spring him with so much weight (fingerprints, bloody clothes, etc.) against him? I've heard anecdotal evidence of people still stuck in jail for months, even years after they were technically proven innocent - and that's in the States. The wheels of any bureaucracy rarely turn fast.

If you really need him out for a while without actually capturing the killer yet... how open are you to a little golden grease on the wheels of justice, so to speak? It needn't be a blatant bribe, but the sort of backscratching that goes with politics. A few words, a favor or two, a string ever so subtly twitched...

Otherwise, is there any way to screw things up on a technicality? Improper handling of evidence or botched crime scene processing has messed up more than one conviction. If enough doubt was cast on the evidence that put the guy behind bars, I'd think they'd have to let him go. (In this scenario, you'd likely still have lawyers and cops and possibly the general public "sure" he was guilty, just looking for a way to slap the cuffs back on, leading to further problems until/unless the real culprit is nailed beyond doubt... dunno if that plays into your plot or not, but it could complicate things for your character.)

Foolonthehill
12-30-2014, 05:16 AM
Thanks, when I say Italian justice is lax I mean to say that people who
have clearly committed murder are still out and about (Danilo Restivo who committed a murder in the Uk and had previously committed a murder in Italy would probably still be free if it hadn't been fore the British police).
The alibi thing is good, only thing is, this is set in a rural area in Tuscany, the guy who was framed for the murder is an ex drug addict who can't remember a thing about his whereabouts..... (he was drugged during the time of the murder...... the cops later find him wandering about covered in the victim's blood). Who could give him a good alibi, say, a couple of week's after he was jailed? How can they be sure what time the murder was committed? Is it easy to be very precise when we're talking about someone who was stabbed to death ?

chompers
12-30-2014, 05:43 AM
Thanks, when I say Italian justice is lax I mean to say that people who
have clearly committed murder are still out and about (Danilo Restivo who committed a murder in the Uk and had previously committed a murder in Italy would probably still be free if it hadn't been fore the British police).
The alibi thing is good, only thing is, this is set in a rural area in Tuscany, the guy who was framed for the murder is an ex drug addict who can't remember a thing about his whereabouts..... (he was drugged during the time of the murder...... the cops later find him wandering about covered in the victim's blood). Who could give him a good alibi, say, a couple of week's after he was jailed? How can they be sure what time the murder was committed? Is it easy to be very precise when we're talking about someone who was stabbed to death ?Yes, they can figure out time of death by looking at the state of decomposition of the body.

ajaye
12-30-2014, 06:28 AM
he was drugged during the time of the murder...... the cops later find him wandering about covered in the victim's blood

If he's been framed into being in the vicinity at the time of the murder I don't see how an alibi can work.
I get a bit tired of the old left-handed save.
Could he have a problem with his hand/arm that makes him unable to hold/stab with a knife? A tendon injury or something? Perhaps connected to his drug past?

Lhowling
12-30-2014, 06:53 AM
I have questions: How long after the murder did they find him wandering the road? Who drugged him, or did he just happen to be high at the time? Did he have the knife on him or did they search his home? Based on how this evidence was found and how the police connected the dots to your character as a Person of Interest (or suspect, it sounds like), then a seasoned investigator may be able to connect the framed character to the lover or husband, thus letting the guy momentarily off the hook. I also feel like someone connected to the lover or husband may come forward with some damning evidence, even if it's just spotting the lover and the framed person together. I've seen that happen when a vexed or jealous lover is involved in a murder. There is almost always something that the original suspects did to tip someone off. But, again, it just may take an experienced investigator to know that. Or it might take time for the flaws in their plans to show.

As it stands, it's going to be tough to get him out given the circumstances. The thing about forensics is this: Even if there is a discrepancy that could make him a less likely suspect, it could take months or years to prove it for myriad reasons. For starters, while a criminalist could have collected details that shows the framed was too short to stab the knife at a specific angle... or whatever... that sort of evidence won't come out immediately. The suspect will have to wait for a trial date when that evidence can be presented (if his defense attorneys are even thinking about that sort of stuff at the time). During such time, the judge may set bail but it depends on whether they believe he is a flight risk. Given the evidence found already, it may be unlikely that he could make bail.. but if you want him out quick then this is an opportunity to do so. Of course, he'd be on a tight leash with surveillance and whatnot. That said, this is my understanding of American laws and forensics. I don't know how much of that resembles the court processes in Italy. You'll have to do some more research on cases that resemble what you're trying to depict in your book.

Plus, if this is a minor thing in your story, going into the nitty gritty of blood patterns and such may complicate things and take away from the direction of your story.

I think honestly he could get away with an alibi, but it's very important to pick one that sticks. In your case I second the idea that he committed a crime at the same time that the murder took place. Let's say robbery with another accomplice. This puts him in a position not to confess right away about his whereabouts, nor would his accomplice just come forward and say, "Yes, he was with me burgling a home." At some point he'll have to know his back is up against a wall before he confesses to where he's been, but if he has substantial evidence to prove his committed another crime somewhere else (i.e. ski mask and crowbar in his home, can give resident's address and describe house perfectly, bring in victim from burglary to identify him) then that would prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that he was not involved in the murder.

Lhowling
12-30-2014, 07:01 AM
Also this would have to be done within a few days, I donít need this guy being in jail for months.
There is nothing worse than reading a novel where the reasons for certain outcomes are really bland or pathetic. Thanks.

Meh. I think the blandness of the outcome could depend to some extent on how you write it. Realistically, unless he can make bail, then he can get out within a few days... but again you have to take into consideration that when it comes to the law, things tend not to move that quickly, particularly if the suspect is a shady character to begin with. Even if it does take time, you can fast forward to the moment when it counts, IMHO.

robjvargas
12-30-2014, 06:43 PM
Copycat/original killer?

One of the tropes we see in some crime dramas is the prime suspect ceases being a suspect when an identical murder takes place with the suspect in custody.

So maybe the husband didn't commit the murder himself. He hired someone.

That someone uses this stabbing method all the time.

With your main character in jail, either the killer strikes again, or detectives have a cold case pop to their attention with the exact same details, and they know your MC (their prime suspect) couldn't have done the other murder.

Foolonthehill
12-30-2014, 07:25 PM
@Lhowling (how do you tag people on here?)
The knife was not found on him and he could have been found wandering, high on drugs, up to hours after the murder. He did not take the drugs himself, but being a former drug addict the police would hardly believe he hadn't just fallen off the wagon.
I don't want him involved in another crime because a big part of the story and of the character is that he is done with his dodgy past. So I was thinking about going with the alibi. Why not have someone turn up with a picture taken with a phone or digital camera (which I am guessing would have time and date in it) with the framed character in the background? We're talking about a rural area with a few scattered small villages where everyone knows everyone else.The person who took the picture might only notice later that this guy was in the background.
You would wonder to how badly the guy was framed if the real killer didn't figure it would make sense to put him in a siutuation where no one could then report seeing him at the time of the crime. But the thing is, and I won't go into the details of why as it would take me ages, the killer only decided to frame this other guy after he'd already committed the murder. Could this work?

Foolonthehill
12-30-2014, 07:29 PM
If I could have my character appear in the backgroud of this picture in a certain village a couple of hours away from where the murder happened, would that be able to give the police proof he wasn't the one who committed the crime? How spot on are coroners about the time of death when the victim was stabbed to death and the body was found at the most 6-8 hours after the murder ?

jclarkdawe
12-31-2014, 06:18 AM
I've been trying to figure out how to help you here.

Let's start off with Italian forensics. Its forensics can be state-of-the-art and comparable with the FBI or Scotland Yard. But you can have sloppy work done anywhere. It happens. The FBI has blown a couple of investigations through mistakes.

Time of death, regardless of cause of death, is fairly accurate under normal circumstances if the body is discovered within the first 24 hours. The further out in those 24 hours you go, the range becomes greater, but even at 24 hours, you should have a time of death within a couple of hours.

After the first 24 hours, the range becomes greater.

The Italian legal system is something that has quirks that I don't know enough to discuss. But basically in any legal system there's an exception rule. In other words, things work like this, except for when they don't. Properly presented, you can take advantage of this. But I don't know enough to tell you how to do it. Solid alibi is always a wonderful defense, but anyone setting up something like this is only going to proceed when they know they can get around the alibi issue.

Best of luck,

Jim Clark-Dawe

frimble3
12-31-2014, 09:02 AM
An alibi without taking part in a criminal act (quite the opposite, in fact): your character is feeling remorse for his past, or feeling the old urges coming back. He's out, wandering restlessly (which is why your villain thinks he can frame him - no-one quite knows where he is or what he's up to, but everyone can swear that he seemed stressed).
He comes across a little church in a tiny village, and steps inside. The priest is there, doing something, and sees that this is a man who needs help. The priest is closing up for the night, but he takes this stranger home, they sit up all night talking and praying, and in the morning, your character wanders off again. It's a little, isolated village, and it's days before the priest hears the news, and connects it with his visitor, and realizes how he can help. Your character has convinced himself that the whole incident was a dream or hallucination. (If you need a longer length of time, make it a monk, looking after a small monastery, who offers shelter to a distraught wanderer.)
I would think that a priest's testimony would have some sway with an Italian judge.

Foolonthehill
12-31-2014, 06:59 PM
Thanks everyone, so I am definitely going to go with the alibi thing.
So, basically, if I have him nowhere near where the murder was committed for a span of about, let's say, 4 (2 before and 2 after) hrs the assumed time of death, there would be no way he could be the culprit, right?
Also, I would like to stress the fact that the guy does indeed get injected with drugs by the true killer, so his whole memory of events is completely messed up, with large chunks of missing altogether.