This week on the Writer's Detective Bureau, subject matter experts, red dot lasers and approaching suspects. I'm Adam Richardson and this is the Writer's Detective Bureau.
Welcome to episode number 66 of the Writer's Detective Bureau, the podcast dedicated to helping authors and screenwriters write professional quality crime related fiction. And this week I'm answering your questions about the role subject matter experts play in an investigation, the real purpose behind those red dot laser sights for firearms and my thoughts behind approaching a suspect you want to interview. And as always, I need to thank my gold shield patrons, Debra Dunbar from debradunbar.com, C.C. Jameson from ccjameson.com, Larry Keaton, Vicki Tharp of vickitharp.com, Chrysann, Larry Darter, and Natalie Barelli of nataliebarelli.com for their support. Also, a special thanks to one of my anonymous patrons for upping their pledge to the gold shield level.
I give these shout outs as a thank you, but you are by no means required to have your name or website mentioned. Either way, thank you all for your support and my thanks of course also to my coffee club patrons for their support. You all keep the lights on in the Bureau and I truly appreciate every single one of you. You can find links to all of the, I'll call them nonymous, which is the opposite of an of anonymous, right? So all the anonymous writers supporting this episode, you can find them in the show notes at writersdetective.com/66. And to learn about setting up your own Patreon account for your author business, visit writersdetective.com/patreon, P-A-T-R-E-O-N.
As I record this, it's day two of NaNoWriMo. It's the 2nd of November, 2019 and I hope you've had a solid start if you are partaking in NaNo, and you might actually just want to hit pause right now and get your word count in. Hopefully, this is a prize for you, or some sort of little present you're giving yourself after having completed your daily word count. We are just a few days away from 20BooksVegas, the conference that I'm attending. So if you are attending, please come join me and Patrick O'Donnell, from Cops and Writers, for happy hour on Tuesday night at Billy Joe's bar at the conference.
And check out our police procedural panel on Thursday at 1:00 PM. Patrick's moderating the panel and I will be one of his speakers. So according to the Sched App, that's like schedule, or schedule, S-C-H-E-D, that the conference is using, we already have 140 people attending our panel. So if you are attending 20BooksVegas, I will include a link in the show notes to the sched.com page where you can RSVP for your seat and I cannot wait to meet you. All right, so let's get into this week's first question.
Native Ben-Meir asks, "You speak about cops working with PIs and how it is a one way street. What about expert consultants? Could they get involved in the case as they do on TV shows or is that pure fiction? What about volunteers? Could they be more involved in the case or would they be no more than an administrator lackey? Could you even have volunteers involved in a crime or murder investigation? And the obvious followup would be a PI which volunteers with the police?" Thanks for the questions, Native.
It isn't pure fiction, but it is far more limited than TV will have you believe in most cases. Most experts get involved with a case when it comes to testimony during trial, to explain to a jury what the expert believes the evidence should mean to them, which leads experts to being called by both the prosecution and the defense, often to provide competing expert analysis. When experts are used by law enforcement during the investigative process, they're being used for a very specific purpose and the detectives will limit the information given to the expert to only that part of the case for which they need expert advice. They will intentionally limit how involved the expert actually gets in the investigation itself.
"Agent Starling, where the heck did this come from? It's practically mush."
"It was found behind the soft palate of a murder victim. The body was in the Elk River, West Virginia."
"It's Buffalo Bill, isn't it?"
"I'm afraid I can't tell you any more about that."
"We heard about it on the radio. You mean, this is like a clue from a real murder case? Cool."
"Just ignore him. He's not a PhD."
When Clarice Starling reaches out to the entomologists, in Silence of the Lambs, she doesn't read them in on her serial killer investigation. She needs their expert opinion on the one thing she's inquiring about and that's it. Also, by limiting the information provided to only what is necessary, it helps prevent any eventual argument by the defense that the expert's opinions were tainted by the investigators.
Besides experts, or not, they are people and people love to talk, especially when they're doing something important. So just like when the entomologists in Silence of the Lambs are asking if it's involving the Buffalo Bill case, she shuts them down. Need to know, right to know, is always the smartest play... Continue reading...
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