1. Ryan Elder
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    Ryan Elder Contributing Member

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    What would my protagonist do in this scenario do you think?

    Discussion in 'Plot Development' started by Ryan Elder, Mar 29, 2016.

    In my story, it's a thriller where the MC, a cop, uses unorthodox methods to catch a gang of crooks.

    He has found out who the leader of the gang is possibly, by hacking into the personal information of a lawyer he hired to defend one of the others. After hacking into the lawyer's info, he finds out the leader's identity, and then starts tailing him for weeks to see what crime he may commit next.

    He is following him and watching him meet up with the others from afar with binoculars. As he is watching them from afar, he sees the gang leader murder another person.

    He cannot stop it in time cause he is too far away. Now if he chooses to go after the leader and arrest him, according to lawyers I researched info from for the story, they said that his testimony will be inadmissible in court, because a cop cannot testify to someone's identity, if the identity was obtained through the commission of a crime, in this casing, hacking.

    So if he says he saw a murder, and they ask him who the killer he saw was, if he says how he knows him through hacking, the evidence is then tainted and inadmissible, since the leader's fourth amendment rights were violated to discover his identity as evidence, through the hacking.

    So since he cannot tell the police how he found out the leader's identity without his testimony becoming inadmissible, what would his next move likely be, after failing to stop the murder in time?

    Thanks for the input. I really appreciate it.
     
    Last edited: Mar 29, 2016
  2. Sundowner
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    Sundowner Member

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    Uh, I'm really confused. How did the cop get that information again? "Hacking" isn't a crime, it means "to do something witty or clever". Where did he get the information? A server? The lawyer's personal computer? How did he get it? You can't just reach into someone's computer remotely and take information, you need some form of backdoor on their machine beforehand, usually installed manually (unless he exploited a known issue in the Windows networking stack that was in all versions of Windows from XP and down which allowed arbitrary code execution on machines attached to the same network).
    In that case, the criminal's file is stolen property, so it can't be presented in court. But the officer just knowing where the criminal was at the time has nothing to do with that. I don't think the criminal's identity has any importance on the fact that the officer witnessed him outright murder someone. But, after that, he's just a witness in the bigger game of building a case against him for that particular murder, in which forensics would play the largest role.
     
  3. doggiedude
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    doggiedude Contributing Member

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    The whole hacking thing has become such an overused trope that it drives me nuts when I see it. "hacker" gets to someone's computer punches about fifteen seconds worth of keystrokes and POOF plot revealed! When I've needed such plot devices I generally choose something a bit more realistic, like someone left themselves logged into a computer when the protagonist arrives. Which is something that happens about a billion times a day. Going into someone else's electronic account would still qualify for the whole fruit of the poisonous tree thing you're setting up. (Thank you Law & Order for that term.)

    If this person is a known gang member then I would think the officer would have enough other reasons to just say that he was following a person of interest when he saw the incident happen. You aren't trying to portray the police officer as ethical anyway.
     
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  4. Ryan Elder
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    Ryan Elder Contributing Member

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    I was told by two lawyers when I researched it that the criminals identity has everything to do with it, since the cop blackmailed a computer hacker to use hacking to find out the identity.

    If the cop knew the identity of the villain another way prior, then it wouldn't matter, but since the villain was never a suspect any other way than through illegal hacking, the testimony of the identity cannot be used cause it was discovered that way, I was told.

    The cop witnessing a murder has nothing to do with the hacking, but the cop knowing he is, has everything to do with that, so the testimony will not be admissible since it can be traced back to the hacking, or so I was told.

    Yes the forensics would come later in the case for sure, but what would the MC do after witnessing the killing, since he does not know what forensics would turn up later?

    And no the person is not a known gang member, nor he is known at all as a criminal. His criminal activity is not known to the police, so he is just a law abiding citizen, who was hacked by a cop, blackmailing a hacker to do so. So the cops have no reason to be following him since they haven't heard of him prior, and the MC following someone who they never heard of being in any criminal activity comes off as really suspicious, and they will wonder how the MC knows this person, and why he never told anyone else.

    I know that the hacking is a used trope, but so many business transactions and communications are done by the internet now. When you say someone left the computer logged on, when the protagonist arrives, are you suggesting that the protagonist breaks into the lawyer's office at night or something? Cause I thought the lawyer leaving it on, would be sort of giving the protagonist a 'freebee', as oppose to the protagonist having to do something more challenging?

    Plus the villains themselves have been sending out ransom videos over the net as part of their crimes. By introducing the blackmailed hacker character earlier, he can come in later and deal with how to deal with videos coming in, later in the plot. Should I get rid of the hacking, if it's that much of a trope, even if everyone communicates business by the internet now?

    As for having to physically go to the other person's computer to hack it, do you have to do this when hacking an email address, even if you have the person's email address from his business card?
     
    Last edited: Mar 29, 2016
  5. Sundowner
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    Sundowner Member

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    I also vote for physically breaking into an office and stealing a file. It's a lot more exciting than the hand-wavy "hacking" trope that makes oh so many people groan. Especially me, an operating systems developer.
    I still don't see what the officer stealing a file has to do with him witnessing a murder he just happened to be around, even if he was only there because of that file. Nobody in the court will even know about that, much less use it as a defense. I can see the defense attorney maybe asking exactly why he was there, but what else can he do? The cop would just shrug and say he was taking a stroll, nobody would care.
     
  6. doggiedude
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    doggiedude Contributing Member

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    I'm curious what you're using to have the cop interested in the lawyer to begin with. Is the lawyer "dirty"? If the lawyer knows a client will commit a crime in the future I think they're obligated to do something about it.
    What is this information being found?
     
  7. Ryan Elder
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    Ryan Elder Contributing Member

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    Well perhaps I could write it so that the MC's plan is to lie and say he was taking a strole. However, the MC has a grudge against the gang cause of an incident in the past, and his superiors know this. This is why he is able to resort to stealing files. So his superiors would probably not believe him and know he was doing something more. He could say that he was not going after the gang and caught another person while strolling. But he would have to lie and not say the person's identity.

    If he were to play like he didn't break into the lawyer's office to steal a file, then he would have to play innocent and pretend like he doesn't know the person and he just saw a stranger, and give a description then. Is this what the MC would do, or is their a better plan?
     
  8. Ryan Elder
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    Ryan Elder Contributing Member

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    No the lawyer is not dirty, so they cannot get a warrant to do anything, hence why the MC breaks the law to find out more. The gang leader, who the police do not have any knowledge of, hires the lawyer to defend one of the other gang members, who was arrested and then set free earlier in the story. The MC figures that that gang member, could not afford such a high priced lawyer, and figures that someone else in the gang, possibly the leader, hired him. So he hacks into the lawyer's computer, or breaks into his office to find out who hired him.

    The lawyer has no idea what the client will do in the future though, he just took the job of defending him before in the story, and that was that.
     
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  9. Sundowner
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    Sundowner Member

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    Johnson how dare you witness a murder! I'll have your badge for this!
     
  10. Ryan Elder
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    Ryan Elder Contributing Member

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    Yeah that's true, perhaps it will go in the MC's favor. Maybe it's best that the superiors found out that he committed a felony in order to obtain the gang leader's identity. How could they find out? If I wrote it so that he broke into the lawyer's office, obviously he will not be foolish to do it in front of security cameras that are running, and would think to disable the cameras first.

    So any ideas on how they could find out?

    There is something that bothers me about removing the hacker from being blackmailed. This hacker helps track the villains for the MC later in the story when the MC wants revenge on the villains, and I thought that if I gave the hacker a role to play here, earlier in the story, it will not come off as a deux ex machina later, cause I gave him something to do in the story before.

    What do you think?
     
    Last edited: Mar 29, 2016
  11. doggiedude
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    doggiedude Contributing Member

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    It seems to me, that you're the one that put this character in this box so you need to figure out how to get him out. If you can't, maybe you need a different box.
    My own offhanded ideas are...
    1) Have the cop witness something else he could take action on.
    2) Turn the cop vigilante and go after the antagonist.
    3) Spend the story on having your cop do the exact same thing you are doing now. Trying to find a way out of his box. All sorts of internal dialogue can be shown with this sort of story. Later he could find out that he was wrong. He was able to find a way to use his current information legally.
     
  12. Ryan Elder
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    Ryan Elder Contributing Member

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    Okay thanks. What else could he witness that is better. I kind of want the MC to be in the box, cause it gives the plot some more conflict to overcome rather than the MC winning and the villain losing, too early in the story.

    The villain has motive to kill another character who knows too much, so I thought the MC could witness that, and somehow use try to use this to his advantage since the villain was going to do that anyway.

    Another thing to so consider is, is that I am trying to figure out what my MC would do right after he witnesses the murder. What if the MC chased after the guy, caught up to him and arrested him.

    He then says that he say this stranger commit a murder. But the stranger, who is the gang leader, knows who the MC is, because the MC busted his fellow gang member before in the past.

    So the gang leader thinks that the MC must have done something possibly illegal to find out who he was, so he does digging to find out how the MC found out. The villain is able to come up with a case against the MC to prove that he committed a felony such as hacking or breaking and entering and theft, to find out who he was... And this gets the villain sets free cause he proves the MC committed a felony to find out his identity, followed him around, and therefore the MC's testimony is not admissible.

    I could do it this way, but perhaps the MC will think of this while chasing after the villain and think that arresting him may not be a good idea, if he finds out and forever makes him a tainted witness who can never be on the case again as a result.

    What do you think?

    Or if I write so that he attempts to arrest the villain but the villain outruns him and gets away, since he already is further ahead, then is telling the superiors he say 'someone' commit the murder the best idea?

    What if he came up with something better to pin the murder on that person particularly, rather than just saying giving the description of a stranger, and hope that the guy left dna at the scene, even though it was in a public parking lot, and he wore gloves... and the cop knows that the man's dna is not on file, since he ran his name before and the man has no criminal record.

    So he can say he saw 'someone' commit the murder while on a strole, since he has no legal reason to know the person, or he can maybe do something better to pin it on him?
     
    Last edited: Mar 29, 2016
  13. doggiedude
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    doggiedude Contributing Member

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    If the murder is occurring in a public parking lot:
    1) I'm not seeing how the cop can't just make an excuse for being there and arrest the guy.
    2) I'm not seeing how the antagonist would have any clue as to the cop doing something wrong to begin with.
     
  14. Ryan Elder
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    Ryan Elder Contributing Member

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    The antagonist knows who the cop is from before. Even though the cop did not see the antagonist's face, he knows that the antagonist knows who he is from arresting the other gang member from before, and he knows that the antagonist could have seen him before. So the antagonist will know that the cop has been 'snooping around', in places where he did not have warrants or legal cause to do so. The cop will consider this, and does not want the antagonist to prove he is a liar, should he choose to arrest him and lie about how he does not know him from before.

    Plus the villain does not want to face murder charges so him and his lawyer would look for anything the MC could have done that would his testimony inadmissible, right?

    But if the risk of being caught in a lie, is worth the reward to the cop, then perhaps it's best I write it so that the MC chases after him to arrest him, but the antagonist gets away, forcing the MC to have to come up with something else.

    So he will say he saw someone, but should he say who, and make up a story? If so, then the villain can just rebut with an alibi, saying he was neither there the night of the murder, nor did he meet up the MC on the previous day and place, that the MC says, and come up with alibi to rebut it. The MC knows this, so should he say he saw someone without giving his name therefore, or what would be the likely most successful course of action for my MC, if the villain escapes arrest and gets away?
     
    Last edited: Mar 29, 2016

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