View Full Version : Evidence Locked Up In Someone's Work Desk

05-28-2015, 12:45 AM
Setting: Paris, France. 1989.

This is a very specific situation so it'll need some explaining.

A journalist is murdered and the case is ruled out as a mugging. Her daughter finds some of her final work and goes to ask her mother's former editor what he knows about it. He insists he knows nothing about it. The daughter believes he may be hiding something.

The editor actually has a floppy disk drive containing the last surving copy of an article that is tied to the mother's murder; it's locked in his work desk drawer.

I need to get that disk. My initial plan was to have another character break into his desk and take it. However this will later be brought to the police so I would like to know if any complications would arise because of the way it was obtained?

Also, one more detail is that the daughter is 17, would there be any problem with her bringing the evidence she's found to the police herself?

Any help is greatly appreciated!

05-28-2015, 01:37 AM
The issue you're wondering about is "chain of custody." Basically the presented of evidence wants to explain everything about it, from the day it was created until it goes into evidence. Rarely is evidence that well documented. For example, the tire print at a murder scene. The police can tell you when they discovered it, who discovered it, who made the casting, where the casting has been, who took the photos, who took care of the photos, but what the police don't know is when the tire print was made.

The tire print could have been made at the time of the murder, it could have been made five minutes before the police arrived and long after the murder, or if it's in California, it could have been sitting there since the last rain, which was how many years ago.

So what a defense attorney does is ask all the questions the police can't answer. Usually this will only go to the weight of the evidence, and not its admissibility. You sound like you already know what the issues are going to be.

Best of luck

Jim Clark-Dawe

05-28-2015, 01:47 AM
Is it chain of evidence you're concerned about or the illegality of breaking into the drawer and taking the disk?

It's the daughter who needs to get the disk? Does she have to say where she got it? Is the editor in a position to complain?

05-28-2015, 02:11 AM
So mostly my issue is the illegality of breaking into the drawer and whether the detective is able to use it for research purposes. The daughter won't name the person who took the disk for her. The disk's purpose in my story is to reopen the case, and whether it holds up in court or not isn't really an issue as the murderer will turn himself in at the end of the novel.

The daughter is the only one to suspect the as it stands now. I need my detective to be aware of the editor. To sum it up the next time we see the editor he's been shot and hospitalized, it's then he will spill everything he knows about the murder to the detective.

The editor when questioned will say he forgot he even had that disk and meant to give it back along with the journalist's other personal items.

05-28-2015, 03:45 AM
I don't know what procedural legal requirements exist in France similar to the US Constitution that requires a search warrant for a government official to search a private area. If the daughter breaks into the desk, under US law, the evidence would be admissible despite being obtained by a crime. One of the best cases on this subject was a couple of thieves who broke into a house, discovered the homeowner had a crapload of child porn, and sent some of it to the police, with the address where the rest of it was. Police got a search warrant and confirmed the child porn. Homeowner went down for a lot of years.

I don't know of anyone on this forum who's that up on French law. Markesq is doing research on French legal procedure and you might want to send him a PM. He might know the answer.

Best of luck,

Jim Clark-Dawe

05-28-2015, 11:04 PM
Aside from the French legal questions, It's pretty much a given that in the course of the murder investigation--even if it's characterized as a mugging gone wrong--the editor, as the victim's work supervisor would be interviewed as a matter of routine. So, the police will be aware of him. His withholding of relevant information/evidence (disc) will be a problem for him upon later discovery, his claim of forgetfulness notwithstanding.