Scrivener.net

Monday, March 28, 2005


Lessons for the modern murderer.

First, forget using plastic garbage bags to get rid of the body...

At least one aspect of [murder] is relatively new, at least to the previous generation of law enforcement: the bags.

"When I started out, they used to get rid of bodies in steamer trunks," Dr. Baden said. "In the 1960's, when I first started in the medical examiner's office in New York City, it was before plastics were used largely. One of the ways of getting rid of bodies was putting them in steamer trunks and sending then off on a train someplace. We had several cases that came back from Los Angeles. They had quite an odor."

It turns out that a body placed in a garbage bag and dumped, presumably to be forgotten forever, is actually preserved longer, Dr. Baden said.

"The plastic tends to preserve them for longer periods of time than if it had just been buried in the ground," he said. "A lot of destruction to a body comes from insects, maggots, rats and vermin, depending on where you are. The plastic is very good at preserving the tissues for longer periods of time. They can't tell the odor or they can't get to it."

"There are a lot of myths," he continued. "In the old days they used to put bodies in lye. It turns out that lye, rather than destroy the body, preserves it, because it kills the bacteria and any insects. Plastic does the same thing."

Also, the plastic itself holds fingerprints well, making the bags not only preservers of evidence, but evidence in their own right...
[NY Times]

But, hey, if you can't beat the evidence in our modern CSI-world, use it. If it's really, really bad you may walk free because it's prejudicial against you...
A man who confessed to killing two women walked free from court yesterday when a judge ruled the evidence too damning.

Father-of-two Lyle Simpson admitted being a killer, DNA evidence proved he was at the scene of one murder and he tried to commit suicide a day later.

Yet after three days of legal argument in the NSW Supreme Court, Judge Anthony Whealy ruled some evidence was just too damning and ran the risk of "unfair prejudice" to the accused...

Outside court yesterday, Simpson said: "I'm relieved to go home... I've had a rough time. My wife's been through hell. If you haven't been in jail you don't know what it's like to be locked up in cells, no TVs and radios."...

Evidence tendered in court showed Simpson phoned his wife Kamara several times on September 25 and told her he had "killed two sheilas". In another call, he allegedly said: "I have killed a prostitute, there's two less sheilas in the world."...

But in court, his defence team led by legal aid solicitor Joanne Harris successfully argued the evidence would unduly prejudice the jury.

A court source said: "The evidence would be too prejudicial for the jury to hear, they would naturally assume from some of the evidence, that he was guilty...
[news.com.au]
Or, as an alternative, you can say sure, you beat the life out of that body the prosecutors have there, but you did it in your sleep...

A British man was cleared of murdering his father after a court accepted his excuse he was sleepwalking at the time ...

Jules Lowe, 32, was facing life imprisonment for killing his 83-year-old father Edward in a savage beating at their house in Manchester, north-west England, an attack he did not deny but claimed to have no memory of...

Lowe attacked his father at the family home after a heavy drinking session in October 2003 before going to bed, the court was told. The next day, the body of his father, which had been punched, kicked and stamped on, was spotted in the house's driveway and police were called. [injuries described]

Nine months after the attack, Lowe first mentioned a history of sleepwalking to defence lawyers and he was subjected to "the most detailed scientific tests in British legal history", the jury was told... the jury accepted he was not acting voluntarily due to sleepwalking...

Lowe will undergo tests in hospital, after which he will be released under certain conditions, possibly within months....
[AFP]

So why waste perfectly good plastic bags on a dead body? It's not the evidence, but the judge and jury that count. [above cases via Strange Justice]

P.S.: You don't have to kill somebody for the "sleepwalking" defense to be useful -- it's fine for lesser offenses too...
A pub landlord who crashed his car while three times the alcohol limit was cleared of drink-driving -- because he could prove he is a sleepwalker. Matthew Sadler was tracked down by police after his mangled 18,000 BMW was found in undergrowth next to a busy road. The convertible had run into a lamppost and debris littered the highway... He was arrested but claimed to have no memory of the crash... [Mirror]
Not because he'd been drunk but because he'd been asleep. And they bought it!

Let a word to the wise be sufficient -- if you are ever caught at the scene of your crime don't bother trying to hide any evidence, just start snoring!