1. Ryan Elder
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    Ryan Elder Contributing Member

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    Is this a plothole for a courtroom thriller?

    Discussion in 'Plot Development' started by Ryan Elder, Dec 2, 2015.

    I have an idea for a courtroom thriller but I am stuck on something that could be a plot hole or more than one plot hole.

    For the story premise I have, there will be twists and turns, and surprises, being unraveled in court. Such as a witness saying something the lawyers didn't expect, which send the case off in a whole new direction. This is done other books and movies.

    However, there is always this plot hole or gap of logic to be aware of. Why would the lawyers be surprised what a witness has to say, when they would have already interviewed the witness prior to court? If the story already starts out in court, this can be tricky.

    Since it's a screenplay, I tend to use movies as examples. One movie that comes mind is the movie Fracture (2007). I am not making a direction comparison, but more of a story structure observation. But there is a similarity between that and mine.

    In my story, the villain on trial, will need a way to exonerate himself and win the case. Or at least thinks he wins, but there is still something to use against him later.

    In Fracture, why did the villain, wait all the way until trial, before using his plan to exonerate himself? Why didn't he just tell the police that the detective who arrested him had an affair with the victim right in the police station?

    This would make it so the prosecutor wouldn't even go to trial in the first place. Why did the villain spend time in jail and wait until trial, instead of just explaining it right after being arrested?

    It's not just that movie though, it's other ones as well. In Sudden Impact, Dirty Harry is in court, at what looks like to be a trial, and they just discover that the evidence is tainted now, rather than before.

    But how do I write it so that it's believable to the audience, that such twists and surprises, were missed in the discovery process, when realistically they wouldn't be? Why do the villains wait, or why is the court not have seen such evidence yet before a trial? What is the trick to be mindful of, when creating suspension of disbelief, and have the plot still make sense?

    Thanks for the input and advice. I really appreciate it.
     
  2. BrianIff
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    BrianIff I'm so piano, a bad punctuator. Contributor

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    I don't see a problem with Fracture. Hopkins' character had to go to court at some point, right? Especially in light of knowing that Gosling's character had plans to become a corporate lawyer, it was in his best interests to wait. The non-disclosure of the detective worked for the murderer's favour. For the rest of your question, it's really hard to say without you putting the example on the table.
     
  3. Ryan Elder
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    Ryan Elder Contributing Member

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    He didn't really have to go to court though. As soon as Hopkins was being interrogated at the station all he had to do was show evidence gathered by a private eye, that the cop who arrested him was coincidentally his wife's extramarital lover.

    Right there a prosecutor would have looked at it and said this case is not winnable, and not take it trial in first place. This is likely what would have happened, so why didn't Hopkins just do that instead of wait till trial? He wouldn't have even met the Gosling character at this point, so why bother taking it trial?
     
    Last edited: Dec 2, 2015
  4. BrianIff
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    BrianIff I'm so piano, a bad punctuator. Contributor

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    I disagree that just because the detective was boinking his wife that he would get off. He still committed murder. The detective kills himself because he costed them the trial. If anything's a plothole, it was the assumption on the detective's part that that would not come to light, but for personal reasons, it is possible that he wouldn't step up to the plate.
     
  5. wellthatsnice
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    wellthatsnice Active Member

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    going to trial makes the information part of the public record. If he simply said it prior the information would have never gotten out. Hopkins wanted to ruin the officer in a public setting. This was a great way to get some revenge, and resulted in the cop being disgraced (and committing suicide).
     
  6. Ryan Elder
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    Ryan Elder Contributing Member

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    That's true, if you want it to become public, it makes sense. Well for my story idea, it's kind of similar to where the defendant has a plan for getting off.

    However, the defendant is relying on a witness to take the stand and give false testimony that will get him off. But I was told by readers that they did not understand why the defendant waited all the way till court before pulling the rabbit out of the hat, so to speak.

    That's true. It was an oversight on my part, and I really can't think of any reason why he would wait. I could write it so that the witness gets him off, right in the police interview just by making a phone call, but then the story would be a lot shorter and there would be no trial or anything. Is their any reasons why a defendant would wait till court to exonerate him/herself?

    Public record like in Fracture, will not make sense for my villain, cause he is not out to humiliate anyone or make a scene. Is their any other reasons why to wait till trial? Perhaps I can find one that will work for mine, but I can' think of any.
     
  7. BrianIff
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    BrianIff I'm so piano, a bad punctuator. Contributor

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    Public record is only part of the reason why it works in Fracture. In court, there are rules of evidence, which means a possibility of a mistrial or inadmissible evidence if they are broken. They would've gone in a different direction altogether, the DA and so on, if Hopkins played his ace earlier. Maybe look up cases involving those things, inadmissible evidence and mistrials, defense strategy, etc.
     
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  8. Ryan Elder
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    Ryan Elder Contributing Member

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    Okay thanks. But if you play your ace earlier, and it's a mistrial, isn't that a good thing?
     
  9. BrianIff
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    BrianIff I'm so piano, a bad punctuator. Contributor

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    I don't get it. I'm saying that the investigation, and therefore, the trial, would be different, so as to exclude the possibility of a mistrial. If you feel more comfortable detailing the example you have in mind one on one, feel free to PM.
     
  10. Ryan Elder
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    Ryan Elder Contributing Member

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    Okay thank you.

    In my script, what happens is that a gang is recruiting a new member and they give him a 'blood in'. It's a police term for when a new potential recruit, has to spill the blood of another person to prove their worth to the gang. However, the gang is cautious and they want to make sure that they are not recruiting a new member who will turn out to be an undercover cop, or someone who cannot be trusted, or something like that.

    So what they do with the new member, is that they have him shoot a tied up hostage, who has a hood over her head so she cannot identify anyone's faces. They are also all wearing gloves the entire time careful not to get any prints on the scene. However, the hostage is working with the gang and is just posing as a hostage. The gun that that the new recruit will be given is a fake prop gun, so no real weapon is used.

    However, a cop who is on patrol in an unmarked car, spotted something suspicious about the gang members, while they were on the way to the blood in, and discretely followed them. He sees that a kidnap victim may be killed so he busts in and rescues her. He manages to arrest one of them in the process and the rest get away as he tries to protect her, taking away the prop gun in the process.

    The way I have it so far, is that the story skips ahead to court, probably either a hearing or deposition but not sure if I should make it a trial yet.

    During the witness cross examinations and proceedings, the kidnap victim is called. The court does not know she was part of the gang and assumes she was an innocent hostage. When she is called to give testimony though, she provides a story that exonerates the defendant, saying that she knows him and it was all a misunderstanding.

    She says whoever the guys were who ran, she does not know, and has to come up with a lie for that as well.

    So she gets the defendant off by saying no kidnapping or attempted murder happened, and it was all fake.

    However, this has been a problem and a plot hole with readers so far, because they say there is no reason to wait all the way till court before revealing that it was fake. Why didn't the fake hostage, who was working with the gang, just say it was all fake, at the police station after being rescued, or even at the scene, they say.

    For the story I want, I don't want her to reveal that no kidnapping happened, till later because I would like other events to happen in the plot before then, which could take a few days at least. If she reveals it right away, those events cannot happen prior.

    Is their a reason for her to wait till court to reveal it, that I can use?

    So far readers are telling me that they do not understand the character. They say that the character would just tell the police that no kidnapping happened, and her and some guys were just having some fun. The police would then ask her who the guys are in which case she would have to refuse to tell them, because she has to keep her gang members' identities secret still.

    However, if she says no to giving up her friends, saying she doesn't have to cause no crime occurred, the police are going to consider her a prime suspect.

    The police have been after this gang for months in my story. The gang has committed a number of kidnappings and murders prior, but they do not know who any of the gang members are. Just that a gang has been going around doing it. The gang members sent in a ransom video to someone earlier in the story. They are wearing the same masks and suits in the ransom video, as when they were spotted by the cop. So wouldn't the police think it's the same gang?

    If she tells the whole truth, and says no I won't give them up, the police are going to think that this is likely the same gang, and they are going to consider her a prime suspect of the gang, and will investigate her further, in order to get closer to the gang.

    If she acts like she is a traumatized victim instead ,the police will not think she is one of the gang, and will not investigate her. They will let her go as another victim, who did not see the gang's faces and doesn't know anything.

    If she tells the whole truth but refuses to give the names of the ones who fled and resisted arrest, the cops are going assume she is part of the gang, since they already highly suspect that it's the same thing. They will think of her as a suspect in the gang, rather than an innocent victim. Isn't it worse being looked at a suspect? Cause since it's likely the same gang and she says no to giving them up, this will give the police enough PROBABLE CAUSE to get a warrant to survey her and tap her phones, and have access to her email.

    If she acts like an innocent victim who was rescued from what is likely the same gang, they will not tap her phones and email, and treat her as an innocent victim instead. So she won't be investigated near as much.

    I understand when you say why create an incredibly serious situation out of a benign situation, but why create a reason to tap your phones and email when you do not have to. Plus the situation is not benign, since the cops will think that it's the same group of kidnappers they were investigating before, and she knows that. But even if she acts like a real victim to a crime, if she refuses to press charges, then it's okay, cause without her cooperation, the police cannot really do much. They will consider her to be a an uncooperative victim compared to her telling the truth but refusing to give them up, which makes her a prime suspect.

    Prime suspect VS. Uncooperative victim. Is being thought of as a prime suspect, really better?
     
    Last edited: Dec 6, 2015
  11. BrianIff
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    BrianIff I'm so piano, a bad punctuator. Contributor

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    I don't know if you made any changes since the last reviewers read your script, but maybe alter the script with a "prime." Priming prepares the reader for something ambiguous or unexpected. It could be something subtle like reminding the reader that the last time a judge saw her in court he said she'd be very sorry if he saw her again, or something to the effect so that you guide the reader to accept her course of action. Try it and see if fresh eyes say the same thing.
     
  12. Ryan Elder
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    Ryan Elder Contributing Member

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    Okay thanks. But in order to do this, what exactly about her course of action is unacceptable, just so I know what kind of prime I could use?
     
  13. BrianIff
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    BrianIff I'm so piano, a bad punctuator. Contributor

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    Whatever the people said, especially whatever, if, more than one person said the same thing.
     
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  14. Ryan Elder
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    Ryan Elder Contributing Member

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    Okay thanks. I will get rid of the police protection thing. Well people said it was the same problem in that the victim would just make up a reason as to why she didn't know them all, and it was consensual, right away, instead of waiting till testifying at a deposition or hearing.

    They say that even though it may make her look suspicious why wait? She will either look suspicious now or later. But I thought she was counting on the fact that if she didn't talk at all, and said she did not want to press charges, that a prosecutor might drop the case.

    I was thinking of a 'prime' like you said, and I thought that maybe if the police did not tell her who the suspect that was arrested was, she would not be able to tell the lie, until she saw the suspect for herself in court, and then was able to confirm that that guy was her friend, and that he and her, invited strangers over to tie her up and all. However, I am not sure that would work since the police would ask her if she knows this guy in their investigation, and the suspects lawyer would probably say who he is, when asking her questions, prior to the deposition.

    What do you think?
     

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