Yes, but what’s the evidence?

Hi, kids–I blogged over at my site yesterday about writing police procedurals and how a character who is a good detective needs to think about evidence. I contextualized it in terms of the recent Anthony verdict.

Here’s the thing. It’s one thing to believe something happened, to have a suspicion that it happened, to just know in your gut that it happened, but it’s another matter entirely to prove it definitively. Crime writer and police guy Lee Lofland wrote a great blog about that with regard to the Anthony verdict, and you can find a link to it in my post, which you can access


Or go directly to his blog here.

As a writer who does mysteries and police procedurals, I’m always interested in how cases play out both in the courtroom and in the public. But because I want my detective to be a good investigator, and to use appropriate methodology, research, and procedures during the course of her cases, I have to think about evidence (whether material or immaterial). I have to think about how something is going to prove something else, how it’s going to link suspect to crime, and whether it does so in a way that could stand up in a court. Finding a suspect is only part of an investigation. Building a case against that suspect is another part, and it has to be done in accordance with certain rules within the legal system. That’s why clear, solid evidence is so important in a case. You might be able to get a conviction based on circumstantial evidence, but it’s a lot harder to do that than if you have concrete, solid evidence — usually and hopefully a combo of witness testimony, body fluids and/or fingerprints linking someone to a crime and hopefully the weapon used in the commission of that crime or other things like vehicles or clothing that can link a suspect to a crime. You might have a lot of circumstantial, and a lot of suspicion, but in many cases, that’s just not enough for a jury to definitively conclude that yes, there is a clear link between victim A and suspect B.

Stop by my blog and also check out Lee Lofland’s blog about the Anthony verdict. That’s here, for ease of reference.

Lofland also notes some incidents of appalling behavior of attorneys on both sides. One of the prosecuting attorneys in the blog link I supplied above was laughing during closing arguments. Meanwhile, one of the defense attorneys flipped people off in another incident. Lofland blogs that, too, here. And he’s right. This case was supposed to be about a little girl who may have been killed by a family member, whose remains were found in a dirty, filthy nearby swamp. And officers of the court were behaving like this? It’s one of the reasons I don’t really approve of trials — especially ones like this — being open to the public. I think broadcasting them is okay, but allowing it to become the circus it did, with allegedly grown adults fighting outside in the line to get in…it became a spectacle, and hardly a solemn, somber venue to determine what may have happened to a little girl who died tragically and possibly violently.

So when I write Albuquerque detective Chris Gutierrez, these are all things I think about in terms of her investigations and where they’re going to go. I have a lot of respect for our judicial and police systems, but I know they’re only as good as the people who work in them and who set examples. I’d like to think that Chris is one of the good ones.

Happy writing, happy reading, and happy weekend.

One comment

  1. Good post, Andi. I go through all the same evidentiary work with my Franco character. Lucky us, we can materialize it as we need to, but it’s true that there was really nothing to nail Casey with. All circumstantial. I try to get all my evidence, or lack of, laid out and then what my character does in response…well, that’s determined by her own moral compass (see the end of “Street Rules”!) Thanks again for the good post.


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