1. spklvr
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    spklvr Contributing Member Contributor

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    If you know something about criminal law

    Discussion in 'Research' started by spklvr, Jun 4, 2011.

    There's a story I've been wanting to write, but there is a large part of it I can't write because I don't have the knowledge to do so. I've been trying to look online, but I'm not sure where to look or what's reliable. I have tried reading books, but the few ones I have found were impossible to understand (full of words I'm sure no normal person has ever heard before). If you know of any books or sites, I'd be happy to just read them as well.

    A little back story to explain my problem. Blonde girls between the ages six and nine starts to go missing in the beginning of November, and by Christmas seven has disappeared without a trace. This happens in a town in Louisiana with a population of 50 000. These girls have all been killed and eaten by a cannibal who lives in a trailer by the swamps. My MC works for a drug dealer who has asked him to recover money from this guy, who has bought a lot of tranquilizing drugs from him. My MC finds two girls there alive, and is attacked by the cannibal with an ax. He fights him off, and in anger purposely kills him slowly in a very painful manner before taking the girls to the police station, where he explains what happens, but he refuses to tell them why he was there to protect his boss.

    Now, I'm assuming so many girls disappearing would be investigated by the FBI? What would realistically happen here? Would there be a case against him? It started out as self defense, but after chopping the cannibals legs off, he didn't really need to defending himself anymore. It's plain torture. He will be considered a hero by the citizens who all wants him to go free. If this would go to trial, do you think a jury would be biased as well? Anything else you think I should know?

    Note that I am aware that Louisiana’s justice system is unique in the US, but exactly where the story takes place is never mentioned, and the town is fictional, so the laws can be from any state really. I chose Louisiana for the excellent swamps.
     
  2. The-Joker
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    The-Joker Contributing Member Contributor

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    I'm no lawyer but I'm pretty sure that based on the torture wounds self defence will not apply here and the guy will indeed be charged for murder. I can't think of how he could be exonerated besides the temporary insanity plea.
     
  3. Porcupine
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    Porcupine Contributing Member

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    From what I gather, the laws in Louisiana are likely to be more similar to the laws in Norway than the laws of any other US state.
     
  4. IfAnEchoDoesntAnswer
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    IfAnEchoDoesntAnswer Member

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    Huh, that surprises me-- given that Louisiana and Norway are polar opposites on some things (such as attitudes about the death penalty).

    But I don't know a huge amount of the laws of either location, so it probably shouldn't surprise me. Since I don't know enough to be surprised :cool:
     
  5. Porcupine
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    Porcupine Contributing Member

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    Hmm... yes, I phrased that really badly. What I really meant was the similarity in legal systems (civil law as opposed to common law), and not the laws themselves.
     
  6. spklvr
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    spklvr Contributing Member Contributor

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    Yeah, Norway is the kindest country in the world. Kill someone and the max punishment is 21 years in a hotel you're not allowed to leave. I mean, I'm against death penalty, but that's a little too nice.

    However, since so few people know about stuff like this, do you think I could fake my way through it by using some simple logic?
     
  7. marina
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    marina Contributing Member Contributor

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    In this instance, it may be best to write what you know.
     
  8. _Lulu_
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    _Lulu_ Member

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    Couldn't you contact some university professors for some advice and/or recommended books? or perhaps even a law firm?

    I know some authors and normally script writers go straight to the main source when researching. But then, I'm not sure if you have to be established already...
     
  9. IfAnEchoDoesntAnswer
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    IfAnEchoDoesntAnswer Member

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    Reference librarian at a local public or school library could be a good resource --

    --just be sure to emphasize that you are NOT looking for legal advise and this is PURELY for a work of FICTION.

    (At least in the US, someone without a license CANNOT dispense what could be construed as legal advise without risking getting into serious trouble. Don't know how it works elsewhere.)
     
  10. AvihooI
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    AvihooI Member

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    You don't need to read a formal law book - those are for attorneys. Also, how the judicial bodies would treat a violent fatality would be very similar between countries of the western world. That is, the charge would be the same - the sentence might vary (but it varies regardless, from judge to judge, jury to jury and case to case).

    It doesn't matter that he later violently tarnished the body. He could be sentenced for an act of cruelty towards a dead body (which is an offense that exists - not in that name tho, have to look it up). However, he couldn't be charged with murder or manslaughter if he was defending himself.
    Nevertheless, he can bring to court that his acts of cruelty came out of anger knowing that the man he killed was a child eating cannibal. However, this may just reduce the penalty to minimum - not acquit him.
    All in all, presenting the facts you give - I'd sentence him to 5 years in prison with the ability to deduct 1/3 for good behaviour.
     
  11. Laser Sailor
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    Laser Sailor Member

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    I can chime in from a Law Enforcement point of view.

    Once your MC was no longer in danger from the murder/canibal he must (according to the law) stop his attack. Anything done outside the scope of self defence is chargable. We see cops get charged with excessive force all the time, guess what it applies to citizens as well, but in a different way. Also if the FBI was involved in the case it would be a federal, not a state matter. Since it's criminal matter, all that matters as far as the law is concerned is did he do it? Yes, he did, MC's going to jail for a very long time. That's the strictly realistic outcome.

    However you could write it many ways and still have it be plausable, perhaps one of the victims was a relative of the federal prosecuter who lets him your MC off easy, or perhaps a FBI agent intentionally loses some of the evidence in order to clear the MC's name...

    It's your story, how do you want it to end?
     
  12. Islander
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    Islander Contributing Member Contributor

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    There's also the possibility of jury nullification, i.e, when the jury willfully disregards the law or the available evidence to mete out what they perceive to be a higher justice.

    If the character is rich or influential, he could also get lawyers to confuse the jury (as O.J. Simpson did).

    There's also the possibility of a pardon, although I think it's the least believable solution.
     
  13. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Which is also the O. J. criminal trial. The jury chose to try the Los Angeles Police Department instead of the defendant.
     
  14. Ashrynn
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    Ashrynn Active Member

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    Such a case would be tried by the FBI as a serial killing, but the actual murder investigation of said serial killer would not be investigated by the FBI(unless they strong-arm the local officials) and as such would be in the county court and not Federal(where your MC would get SCREWED).

    Murder would be the charge, however you could have a smart attourney in court argue that the man he murdered was a monster. Law&Order calls this: "Putting the victim on trial"

    As said above, in the cast of the O.J. Trial - You get Jury Nullification. Now, this is not anything a Lawyer CAN argue openly(it's grounds for disbarment). However, you can easily push and nudge and shoot for it while not risking your career.
     
  15. psychotick
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    psychotick Contributing Member Contributor

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    Hi,

    Like the others I am not a lawyer though I have taken a few prosecutions. I'm also not American. But I believe the first rule of law is that the law is an ass.

    Technically your MC once he has exhausted all the need for self defence and defence of the girls, has gone on to commit a crime. This would be a local crime as I understand such things. The FBI woul only be interested in the serial killings and child abductions. So as far as I can be sure he'd be charged and tried locally.

    Now he has a couple of defences. The first would be some form of impaired judgement defence, i.e. the sights he saw were so terrible as to completely override his normal good judgement and he lost all reason. This can be good or bad. It might work, but if it can't be shown that his temporary insanity is only temporary he might find himself locked away in an asylum for the criminally insane for the rest of his life.

    The next would be the technical defences - i.e. the CSI guys can't really prove that it took your guy a full hour to chop his legs off etc, and it was actually very fast so it wasn't torture it was just self defence. If he has good lawyer with a capable team of experts they can then set about confusing the jury with complex scientific mumbo jumbo and he could get off on the basis of reasonable doubt.

    His other option as has been mentioned is the trying the victim defence, not something a lawyer is allowed to do generally but there are exceptions. In this case the lawyer would do it by using the MC himself to testify about how terrible it was, and maybe bringing in the two girls to say how grateful they were that he saved them from the bad man. Now this would be a gamble, a gamble in essence that the jury was able to overlook what the MC did in the light of the gruesome testimony about what the cannibal did. The judge would instruct them not to, to try the case on its own merits, but juries are composed of people like you and I. The likelihood is that in this case the prosecutor would want to offer some sort of deal rather then risk taking this case to trial and potentially losing.

    Lastly, and this is outside of the scope of the trial, there is the court of public opinion. Put enough positive publicity out over the media about how evil the bad man was and how great the MC was, and public opinion will swing behind the MC. Now American prosecuters as I understand it, are elected, or at least the big cheese is, i.e. the district attourney. They want to get re-elected. Therefore they are surprisingly vulnerable to public opinion. They don't want to prosecute heroes. Its not a vote winner. So again they'll want to settle somehow, especially if elections are looming.

    Those I think would be your main options.

    Cheers.
     
  16. Mediocrity
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    Mediocrity New Member

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    I've heard that a judge can find him guilty of murder/manslaughter, but the judge can decide not to let the murderer serve a sentence. Might be interesting to explore?
     
  17. psychotick
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    psychotick Contributing Member Contributor

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    Hi Mediocrity,

    Under NZ law, which I assume is essentially British and Colonial law, a judge can if he so chooses, turn aside a jury's guilty verdict if he thinks they have not been able to fairly judge the trial. But if a jury finds someone innocent the judge cannot generally do anything, unless there is reason to believe the trial was tampered with. In that case the most he could do is order a retrial.

    It works on the old adage that better ninety nine guilty men go free rather then one innocent man be found guilty.

    Cheers, Greg.
     
  18. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    That's not necessarily nullification. Nullification is when the jury rules contrary to the law (i.e. they believe that the defendant violated the law, but vote to acquit anyway. This can happen, for example, if a jury finds the law unjust). Some have assumed the Simpson jury nullified because the jury was largely black like the defendant. The jurors themselves, from the reports I saw, simply felt the case wasn't proven.

    In the U.S., the judge can also set aside the jury's verdict to convict, though they rarely do. They cannot, however, set aside an acquittal.
     
  19. Mediocrity
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    Mediocrity New Member

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    I haven't got much experience with jury trials. My reply was based on the Dutch system ;)
     

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