Follow the Evidence

Hi, kids–

Well, there’s been a major freak-out over the Casey Anthony verdict (as I knew there would be), but I’m also hearing some really hateful and ignorant things being tossed around about the case and the jurors. Just a little reminder about manners, friends. Sure, disagree with someone. And sure, disagree strongly. But threats? Really? Behaving like that doesn’t make your case hold up that well, either. Just a friendly tip from the etiquette gallery.

That said, I write a character who is an Albuquerque homicide detective named Chris Gutierrez, and in her first book, State of Denial, she has to solve a murder. A suspect presents early, but Chris — like any good detective knows — must prove the case. That is, she must find the evidence that clearly demonstrates a link (hopefully, more than one link) from the dead person to the suspect, and between what happened to the dead person to the suspect. She has her suspicions, but she also knows what happens in court is contingent on the quality of the evidence she collects and the procedures she employed to collect it. There must be little, if any doubt, that the evidence clearly links a suspect to the victim. As a writer of mysteries and police procedurals, I have to get this stuff as accurate as I can. I’m trying to write a convincing detective who does a good job. In order to do that, I have to educate myself about police procedure and criminalistics.

I want to be very clear about something here. I noticed that many of the “polls” circulating on the Interwebs ask the following question: “Do you believe Casey Anthony is guilty?” I think that’s the wrong question to ask about this case. It is my belief that clearly, something happened in the Anthony household (which has been called “dysfunctional” in the trial, with accusations that Ms. Anthony was abused by her father) that led to the death of Caylee Anthony. The question remains as to what specifically that was. The question, I think, that should be asked is whether you think there was enough concrete evidence to convict Ms. Anthony on a charge of 1st degree murder.

To prove 1st degree murder, you have to prove that a suspect planned out a murder with malice ahead of time, and then acted out that plan. I don’t think the prosecution had that concrete evidence, and the jury had to assess whether or not the evidence the prosecution provided was strong enough to lead them to conclude that Ms. Anthony plotted her daughter’s murder, carried it out, then disposed of her body.

So let’s chat about this a bit more, yes?

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Cool blog alert

Hey, kids–

This is a site I use when I’m doing research or just feeling the need to check out criminalistics and forensic methodology. As some of you may or may not know, every other book (even-numbered) in my New Mexico series stars Chris Gutierrez, a detective in Albuquerque who works a lot of homicides. Now, I do have somewhat of a background in criminalistics and forensic anthropology through my graduate work and outside interest — I’ve taken courses outside my fields and workshops, as well and done a community police program — but when I need some help with research, I can go to this blog and probably find the answers I’m looking for or a way to get that answer. That is, if I can’t find any of my friends in the field to help me out in a pinch.

The Graveyard Shift

That’s veteran police investigator Lee Lofland’s blog. Here you’ll find tips on proper police procedure, crime scene investigation, proper technique and gear that law enforcement and emergency responders use. For example, the current entry is a guest blog by firefighter Joe Collins, who gives you a breakdown of new bunker gear (comparing it to older gear).

Here’s a taste of that, from Mr. Collins, a 12-year veteran firefighter/paramedic:

Modern bunker gear is constructed of space age materials—some of the same used in space suits. It must meet the requirement of not melting, igniting, dripping or separating when exposed to a heat of 500°F for five-minutes. Considering that in structure fires ceiling temperatures as much as 1000 F have been recorded, it doesn’t provide as much protection as you would think. Those temperatures are also why we do most of our work crawling along the floor.


There are photos, too.

So if you’re a writer of police procedural fiction, or just interested in how this stuff works, check out Lofland’s blog.

Happy reading, happy writing!