1. Ryan Elder
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    Ryan Elder Contributing Member

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    Is this legal scenario too implausible?

    Discussion in 'Plot Development' started by Ryan Elder, Feb 23, 2016.

    For my story, they I wrote it so far is that the main character, is a cop obsessed with finding out who the villains are behind a master scheme and finding out the truth.

    One of members of the gang of villains went to court for his crimes, but got off for insufficient evidence. The MC, trying to find out who the leader of the gang is, figures that the leader could have likely paid for the defendant's attorney, since the defendant does not have a lot of money to afford such a high prices attorney.

    Now legally the police cannot get a warrant to find out who paid the lawyer. They would have to look at the lawyer's bank records, and legally the police cannot do that to any person, unless that person is suspected of crime. Of course, in this case, the lawyer is not since all he did was accept a paid service of defense.

    So the main character blackmails a computer hacker criminal, into hacking to the lawyer's records and email to find out who paid him. The MC finds out who did, and figures that this person could be the leader of the gang.

    So the MC tails that person around for days, and finally witnesses him kill another character in the story, clean up the crime scene and get away.

    The MC cannot stop him or arrest him for it though. Since the MC discovered the leader's identity by committing a felony, any testimony of his would be considered 'fruit of the poisonous tree', and not be admissible in court.

    So the MC, has to keep quiet, cause if he tells his superiors who the murderer was, and how he discovered that person's identity, he will forever be a tainted witness, and would not be of any good in his quest to bring the villains down.

    So he can't tell the police and has to think of something else. As the villain leaves the crime scene, I wrote it so far, that the MC perhaps cuts off the dead victim's head, and takes off with it.

    He will then have to wait for an opportunity to plant the head at the villain's property. Or he will have to create the opportunity himself, and then arrange for it to be found by other police. Because then the head is found on the villain's property through legal, legitimate discovery and thus, there is a piece of evidence, to link the villain to that homicide.

    But I was told it was implausible, cause the head would not have any of the villain's DNA or prints on, since he was careful enough to not leave any DNA or prints at the murder scene before.

    Therefore the villain could argue in court that the MC planted the head, and arranged for it to be found and framed him... and that would be enough to raise reasonable doubt and the villain would go free, unless the MC finds a way to get DNA and prints on the head.

    What do you think? Do you think that framing someone this way, will not work?

    The MC is kind of limited because he has to find a way to pin the murder on the villain, after all the evidence has been collected, so he has to take something from the scene before it is collected and plant it later, or he has to do something else entirely.

    What do you think?
     
  2. Kaygrl
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    Kaygrl New Member

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    You can always write that the villain who thought he was oh so careful, left some sort of evidence that led to him. A stray hair, maybe? Some sort of something that is so small the villain would't think of it.
     
  3. Shadowfax
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    Shadowfax Contributing Member Contributor

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    1/ How can a cop witnessing a murder be "fruit of the poisonous tree"?

    Just because he was following this guy because of tainted evidence is irrelevant. He could be following him just because he was a known criminal (OK, no evidence, so if he'd been spotted, the crook could have cried "harassment") but police follow suspects all the time. They don't need to show due cause if what they're doing is in a public place. What's to say he wasn't just passing? Or going to visit the harbourmaster? Or going to the pub on the corner? Or, or...

    "Your honour, I saw, with my own two eyes, Joe Slimebag kill this guy. And, if you don't believe me, here's this photo I took of him on my cellphone. That's when I slapped the cuffs on him, at the crimescene, before he could clean off all the forensic evidence."

    2/ Cutting off the victim's head to plant at the criminal's place? Using what? The chainsaw he had tucked into his bat-belt? To sever a head you have to cut clean through the spinal column; you won't do that with a standard bowie knife! Plus, while you're doing it, there will be plenty of blood and stuff flying around; you'll be the one covered in DNA evidence, not the real killer.
     
  4. Ryan Elder
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    Ryan Elder Contributing Member

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    Well when researching it and going over the plot with a lawyer, he said it would be fruit of the poisonous tree, because the cop discovered who the villain was by committing a crime.

    If the cop was on the stand, he would tell what he saw. The defendant's lawyer would say "How did you become aware of who my client is, when you were following him at the time".

    The cop would then say "That he discovered who the client was by hacking into the bank records of the lawyer who was hired to defend a previous suspect".

    Right there, the cop's testimony would not be admissible, because he committed a computer hacking felony in order to find out the identity of the gang leader.

    Now the cop could lie on the stand, but he does not want to swear on the bible and do that, and make things worse. He figures it's best to live to fight another day, and find another way to get the killer, since his testimony would be inadmissible, since he committed a crime to figure out the identity of who he was following around on his own time.

    And yes the police can get away with following someone around on their own time, but they have to know the identity of the villain by legal legitimate means, and not by committing hacking, which will cause the evidence to become tainted.
     
  5. Samurai Jack
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    Samurai Jack Active Member

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    The cop doesn't want to swear on a Bible and lie on the stand, but he is willing to pay someone to hack a lawyer's financial records, watch a murder take place and not intercede, chop the head off of a corpse and use it to frame the guy for the murder he DID commit but could never be proven he committed.

    Bruh.

    This is the third thread you are trying to do some serious mental gymnastics with your cop MC. Why are you picking and choosing which laws he is willing to break? Pick a route and write it.
     
    Last edited: Feb 24, 2016
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  6. Shadowfax
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    Shadowfax Contributing Member Contributor

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    So, a photo of the murderer standing over the body with the knife in his hand, and covered in (forensically verifiable) blood and an eyewitness testimony that he did it goes out of the window because defence asks why the cop is following the murderer? "Because I thought he looked like a murderer, your honour, and look, he is". And who's going to tell the defence that an illegal act was the reason why Slimebag is being tailed? He's a crook. He knows it, and his lawyer will too. So, being tailed is par for the course.

    Even if the cop's evidence was inadmissible because of this poisonous fruit, the photo and forensics weren't obtained illegally. Unless you're saying that a cop witnessing a crime in progress and doing something about it is illegal. And in that case, once you've brought suspicion upon yourself through this poisonous tree, you can do anything you like and the police can't touch you.

    Incidentally, you say the cop won't lie on the stand. But, what happens when he frames Slimebag and his police comrades pick him up? Slimebag's defence calls cop to the stand, and ask him the same question. Straight away, he's either got to lie, or give them the poisonous tree.
     
  7. Ryan Elder
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    Ryan Elder Contributing Member

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    Okay thanks. Well I want to write it so that the cop cannot be an admissible witness himself because of what he did. Perhaps the blackmailed hacker could call the police and say he was blackmailed into finding out the killer's identity, in which case it will not help the cop to lie, cause the blackmail victim reported him?

    And as far as other evidence collected from the scene, the villain doesn't leave any other evidence at the scene, so nothing else is collected. What I could do maybe is write it so that the villain left some DNA at the scene, but it's not on file.

    The police cannot get a warrant to go after the suspect the MC saw, cause the MC discovered his ID through, blackmail and hacking, so they cannot get a warrant to go after the suspect based on that. So the MC has to think of another way to go after him and arrest him legally. Once he has done that, they get his DNA and match it up with the DNA that is already found. Does that work better?

    When you say that the the crook knows he is a crook and that the lawyer knows it, no one else knows it so wouldn't the reason for tailing a person who is never suspected of a crime before come off as needing an explanation?

    If not then I can just write it so that the hacker calls in to report that a cop blackmailed him into hacking the computer of the lawyer, the villain hired before, and then the police will know the villain's ID was discovered through hacking, and he was being followed, with the only reason being, that he was discovered through illegal hacking.
     
    Last edited: Feb 24, 2016
  8. MockingJD
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    MockingJD Member

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    Hold up. It's not fruit of the poisonous tree for the cop to stop/arrest a guy about to murder someone. That's the most implausible part -- that he would witness a murder, have the opportunity to stop it, and fail to do so.

    How is the owner of the head killed by the villain? Knowing that might be helpful in coming up with ways the villain could slip up. If he shot him, for example, you're right -- he'd likely leave no DNA on the head. But if he stabbed him, maybe he gets cut and leaves blood? Maybe DNA of the villain under the fingernails of the victim? Maybe facial recognition from a surveillance camera?
     
  9. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    Yeah, that doesn't make much sense, and is such bad policy that it is hard to imagine a court ever looking at things in that manner. I agree with you.
     
  10. Ryan Elder
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    Ryan Elder Contributing Member

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    Yes the victim dies of gunshots. The villain would have already taken care of surveillance cameras, or would not commit a murder if the were active ones around.

    Yes the cop can stop him, that's perfectly legal, it's just the cop fails to do so. He doesn't see the murder coming. I mean if the cop is surveying him miles away, with some binoculars for example, the person being watched could easily pull out a gun and shoot someone, and the person watching from far away would not have time to stop it.

    Of course the cop can arrest him to stop him, he just fails to do so, and the villain gets away. I am not saying that it's fruit of the poisonous tree to stop him. It's just if the MC fails to stop him in time, and he gets away in this case, it's fruit of the poisonous tree for the MC to admit that he knows who did it, since he knows who, from committing a felony, and the testimony would become inadmissible and unreliable therefore.

    As for the bad policy, that's what the lawyers I asked told me in my research. They said that a person's identity cannot be used as evidence by the police, if the identity was discovered through the commission of a felony. So in this case, the cop cannot testify as to how he knows who the villain's identity is, because of that.

    If the cop knew the identity if the person he was stalking on his own time, through legal means, then it can hold up. But since the identity of the person being stalked was discovered through a felony, it's inadmissible. I mean the point of doing the research, is that the lawyers know more than I do, and in this case the real law works for the story, since I want the MC to not see who committed the murder, but not be able to legally do anything about it.

    But when you say that you don't think that the court would act in that manner, are you saying that they would ignore the letter of the law to prosecute? I mean a judge could do that, but what if I just wrote it, so that this judge is the type to follow the law right down to the details?
     
    Last edited: Feb 24, 2016
  11. Shadowfax
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    Shadowfax Contributing Member Contributor

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    1/ If that's what a lawyer told you is the law, I imagine that holds up.

    But the point is, it only makes it inadmissible to use that knowledge for the offence that he was investigating at the time.

    For the witnessed murder, the cop doesn't need an excuse to be there. The fact that the murder was committed overrides any "reason" why the cop was there. Following a suspect - no matter how his identity was discovered - is part of policing. Any evidence so discovered is valid.

    2/ And the idea that the computer hacker would contact the police to say he was blackmailed is nonsense. If he'd do that, he'd tell the cop to publish and be damned rather than submit to the original blackmail.
     
  12. Ryan Elder
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    Ryan Elder Contributing Member

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    Okay thanks. But I was told for number #1 that the cop's eyewitness testimony could not be used. Only other evidence gathered at the scene would be, but the cop's testimony would have to be excluded.

    But I wanted to write it so the police do not find enough physical evidence at the scene, especially since the killer's DNA is not on file. If the cop said that he saw this person do it, and he knows the person's ID through hacking into someone else's bank records, then the ID cannot be used to start an investigation. So the police would not be able to use that as a reason to go obtain that person's DNA to match.

    But I was told by the lawyer, that it's not following the suspect that is the legal problem in this scenario. It's the fact that he found out who the suspect was by hacking into someone else's records, is the problem. If the cop knew who the suspect was before, through legal means, then he can follow him and get away with it.

    But since he found out who he was through the crime of hacking, it is therefore excluded, the lawyer said, because the police have to know who the suspects are, without committing felonies in order to to find out. You cannot use someone's identity in a crime, if the only way of obtaining it, was through the commission of a felony.
     
    Last edited: Feb 24, 2016
  13. Samurai Jack
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    Samurai Jack Active Member

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    You're operating under the assumption the prosecution and/or defense will know or will find out how your MC found your suspect, how he was present to witness the murder.

    Why?
     
  14. Ryan Elder
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    Ryan Elder Contributing Member

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    Well I wanted the MC not to tell them, cause he knows that he will be fired and the killer will go free, since he committed felonies, such as hacking and blackmail in order to get there. So does that work, if the MC does not tell, but then perhaps then the police finds out he was there, because his DNA was there or something, and they know he is being untruthful since he never said he was there?

    I guess it feels anticlimatic to me, cause the battle was settled but not the war, if that makes sense.
     
    Last edited: Feb 25, 2016
  15. Ryan Elder
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    Ryan Elder Contributing Member

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    Why is it though, that the police are allowed to discover identities through computer hacking and blackmail if this is true, and it's part of policing? I am not seeing the legal distinction.

    Plus you use the term suspect. But since this person's identity was discovered through, hacking, he's not really a suspect, so it's not part of policing to follow a non-suspect around, or so the lawyer told me.
     
    Last edited: Mar 10, 2016

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