Guns, Gams & Gumshoes

A blog for PIs and writers/readers of the PI genre

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Summer Surveillances: Avoiding Heat Exhaustion

Posted by Writing PIs on July 13, 2019

Scientists think summers could be hotter than in the previous 50 years (image in public domain)

Updated July 13, 2019: This article was originally written eight years ago after I experienced heat exhaustion while conducting a series of daytime surveillances. At that time, both my PI partner and myself had conducted dozens of surveillances, many during the summer months. Both of us knew what safeguards to take, but nevertheless the heat took its toll.

As summers across the globe could be increasingly hotter than any we’ve experienced within the last 50 years (based on a recent study by scientists at the National Center for Atmospheric Research), it’s imperative to take adequate precautions when working outdoors.

What Is Heat Exhaustion?

From Mayo Clinic: Heat exhaustion is a condition whose symptoms may include heavy sweating and a rapid pulse, a result of your body overheating. It’s one of three heat-related syndromes, with heat cramps being the mildest and heatstroke being the most severe.

Signs and Symptoms of Heat Exhaustion

Heat exhaustion may develop suddenly or gradually over time (mine was the latter). Possible signs and symptoms:

  • Cool, moist skin
  • Goose bumps, despite the heat
  • Profuse sweating
  • Lightheaded or dizziness
  • Fatigue
  • Weak, rapid pulse
  • Low blood pressure upon standing
  • Muscle cramps
  • Nausea
  • Headache

That summer, I re-learned some powerful lessons about conducting summertime surveillances, starting with the most important one:

Lesson #1: Respect the heat! I thought I’d taken adequate precautions (parking in shady spots; taking breaks in an air-conditioned building; staying hydrated, etc.), yet I still succumbed to heat exhaustion, likely due to the repeated days of high temperatures.

A few ideas for staying cool:

  • Bring ice packs along on the surveillance

    When possible, select cool, shady areas for surveillances

  • Pick shady spots to park in
  • Ensure there’s adequate ventilation in the vehicle. If appropriate, run air conditioning (there’s also portable units investigators can purchase that help keep the inside of a vehicle cool)
  • When feasible, take breaks in air-conditioned buildings
  • Wear a rimmed hat and sunglasses
  • Stay hydrated by drinking water, Gatorade or fruit juices (not sodas or coffee!)
  • Wear loose-fitting and cool clothes.

Lesson #2: Mine your client for details. It’s funny how many people have called and asked us to follow someone without any suggestions or knowledge about the subject’s schedule or habits. Maybe in the movies a PI can jump into a car and follow someone for hours with zero idea where that person typically goes that time of day, or is scheduled to go on a particular day, but that’s a road to failure in real-life surveillances.

It aids the surveillance significantly to have an idea where the person might be traveling, or if they have a scheduled appointment (hair dresser, exercise club, therapist) for a certain day and time. How does a PI find this information? Interview the client, ask about the subject’s habits, schedules, work routines, and so forth. Sometimes we’ve worked on an “on-call” basis with a client (he/she calls us when they have information where a subject will be that day—of course, this doesn’t mean we’re always available at that particular time, which is an agreed-upon understanding of the “on-call” approach).

Lesson #3: Stay in close touch with your PI partner. We’ve conducted multiple two-car mobile surveillances during summer, and understand the value of staying in constant touch. For example, before we drive through traffic to follow a vehicle, we’ll call each other on our cells, then leave that line of communication open as we drive (we put our phones on speaker, set them on the console, and talk to each other as we drive). This way, we can immediately inform each other if the car is turning, if we’re playing “leap frog” with the vehicle, and so forth.

Note: In our state, any driver under 18 years of age is prohibited from using a cell phone while driving. The prohibition includes phone calls, text messaging, or similar forms of manual data entry and transmission. Adult drivers are prohibited from using a cell phone to text message, or send similar forms of transmission, while behind the wheel. Regular cell phone use for voice calls is permitted. Drivers of any age may use a wireless device in the case of an emergency.

Tips From Other Investigators

We’ve heard other investigators talk about their vehicle having tinted windows, installing a roof vent in the vehicle, wearing canvas shoes, if possible working at night vs. the day, one said her best way to stay cool was wrapping a bandana filled with ice wrapped around her neck.

All rights reserved by Colleen Collins. Do not copy, distribute, or otherwise use any of this material without written permission from the author. Unless an image is noted as being in the public domain, do not copy or use any graphics/photos.

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Private Eye Writers of America Announces 2019 Shamus Award Nominees

Posted by Writing PIs on June 6, 2019

Below are the nominees for works published in 2018 featuring a private eye protagonist. Listing is in alphabetical order by author with publisher’s name in parentheses. Winners will be announced at the PWA Banquet at Bouchercon, October 2019. Congratulations to all the nominees!

Best Original Private Eye Paperback

She Talks to Angels by James D. F. Hannah (Hannah)

No Quarter by John Jantunen (ECW Press)

Shark Bait by Paul Kemprecos (Suspense Publishing)     

Second Story Man by Charles Salzberg (Down & Out Books)

The Questionable Behavior of Dahlia Moss by Max Wirestone (Redhook Books)

 

Best First Private Eye Novel

The Best Bad Things by Katrina Carrasco (MCD Farrar, Straus, Giroux)

Broken Places by Tracy Clark (Kensington)

Last Looks by Howard Michael Gould (Dutton)

What Doesn’t Kill You by Aimee Hix (Midnight Ink)

Only to Sleep by Lawrence Osborne (Hogarth)

 

Best Private Eye Short Story

“Fear of the Secular,” by Mitch Alderman (AHMM)

“Three-Star Sushi,” by Barry Lancet (Down & Out)

“The Big Creep,” by Elizabeth McKenzie (Santa Cruz Noir)

“Game,” by Twist Phelan (EQMM)

“Chin Yong-Yun Helps a Fool,” by S.J. Rozan (EQMM)

 

 Best Private Eye Novel

Wrong Light by Matt Coyle (Oceanview Publishing)

What You Want to See by Kristen Lepionka (Minotaur Books)

The Widows of Malabar Hill by Sujata Massey (Soho Crime)

Baby’s First Felony by John Straley (Soho Crime)

Cut You Down by Sam Wiebe (Quercus)

 

2019 Private Eye Writers of America Shamus Awards Committees

Gay Toltl Kinman, Chair, Private Eye Writers of America Shamus Awards

BEST ORIGINAL PRIVATE EYE PAPERBACK COMMITTEE

Brad Parks, Chair, Michael Wiley, Beth Terrell

BEST FIRST PRIVATE EYE NOVEL COMMITTEE

Colleen Collins, Chair, Dennis Palumbo, Cheryl Head

BEST PRIVATE EYE SHORT STORY COMMITTEE

Terence P. Faherty, Chair, John Hoda, Ken Wishnia

BEST PRIVATE EYE NOVEL COMMITTEE

Thomas Donahue, Chair, Tracy Clark, John Shepphird

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Courtroom Couture: The Not Guilty Look

Posted by Writing PIs on April 27, 2019

I Look So Pure, I Couldn’t Possibly Have Done Those Bad Things

An article in today’s New York Times (Does This Dress Make Me Look Guilty?) reads like a courtroom catwalk, complete with pictures of famous people dressed to kill, so to speak, their alleged bad deeds in the minds of jurors and judges. Such as Anna Sorokin, the fake heiress, who bilked people, even a bank!, out of thousands of dollars. According to the article, a secret benefactor hired a professional stylist to dress Ms. Sorokin in clothes such as white, frothy baby doll dresses to give her the aura of purity and innocence. Add simple hairstyles, large “who me?” eyeglasses, and a knock-kneed stance for a touch of vulnerability, surely the jurors would be blinded by her innocence.

Didn’t work. The jury found her guilty of second-degree grand larceny, theft of services, and one count of attempted grand larceny. Perhaps she knew what was coming because she wore black on the last day of court.

Dress Codes Apply to Witnesses and Parties, Too

Famous defense lawyer Gerry Spence once represented a Wyoming beauty queen who was suing the publisher of Penthouse magazine, Bob Guccione, for defamation. Spence said he knew he had the upper hand when Guccione showed up to court in a flashy velour suit with his shirt unbuttoned to display heavy gold chains.

Court is not the place to flash jewelry and designer outfits — it’s a forum of respect and seriousness where persons appointed as magistrates or judges officiate in the administration of justice.

Bottom Line: Keep It Simple

Before we go to court, we advise clients on how to dress to impress, the low-key way. Keep it simple, conservative. Think “business casual.” More tips:

  • Dress as you would for church/place of worship.
  • Dress to cover tattoos and too much skin (women, keep skirts and dress lengths to just above the knee or longer, and no low-cut tops).
  • Keep nails short and polished in light color or clear.

Avoid the color red and don’t wear sunglasses (looks as if you’re hiding something)

  • Take out any piercings (earrings are fine, again keep it simple).
  • Plain colors or light patterns on clothes: no logos, brands, flashy statements.
  • Women: simple hairstyles, if hair is longer, pull it back with a clip or in a simple bun. Men: neatly cut, short hair.
  • Sensible shoes. No open toes.
  • Women: Keep make-up to a minimum.

Choose Suitable Colors

Wearing the right colors helps a person look healthier, younger, and refreshed. Here’s a few color suggestions:

Charcoal, Navy and Blue

In general, these are the best colors to wear to court. They’re not as severe as black, and for men, they complement many colors of shirts and ties. The other half of Writing PIs once attended a trial college where an instructor claimed that blue was the best color to wear to court because blue connoted “the truth.”

Never Wear Brown

That same trial college instructor lectured that one should never wear brown to court because used-car salesman wear brown suits, so wearing a brown connotes the image of a tire-kicking shyster. Lighter shades of brown, however, such as beige, work well, as do lighter shades of pastels.

Avoid Bright Colors

Bright colored clothes can be a distraction, or worse, a joke. We once observed a witness take the stand in a crayon-orange muscle shirt that displayed his bulging biceps and tattoos. You could see the looks of “What the?” on some of the jurors’ faces.

Links of Interest

Cardi B’s Courtroom Catwalk Continues (The Cut)

Dressing your client for success at deposition and trial (Plaintiff)

No defense for some courtroom attire (Chicago Tribune)

All Rights Reserved, Colleen Collins. Do not copy or distribute any content without written approval of the author. Images in this article are licensed by the author, who does not have the legal authority to share with others.

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Win a Box of Mystery Novels (Ends April 13)

Posted by Writing PIs on April 6, 2019

Love mystery novels? Private eye tales? Amateur detective whodunits (AKA cozies)? Enter the Box o’ Mystery Books Giveaway! Most novels are hardcover, from different publishers and writers, either released in 2018 or 2017. Winner can request one genre (such as private eye) or a mix of genres.

When: April 6 – 13, 2019 (ends at midnight April 13)

How to Enter: Click Box o’ Mystery Books Giveaway

The fine print: Your email address will only be used for this giveaway and never shared with others. Follow @writingpis on Twitter for an extra point. Winner will be randomly selected & notified by April 17. No purchase necessary. Must be 18 years old. Due to mailing restrictions, entrants must be residents of U.S. Good luck!

All Rights Reserved by Colleen Collins. Do not copy any content without written permission from the author. Images are licensed by the author, who does not have legal authority to share them with others.

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St. Patrick’s Day: How to Party Without Ending Up in Handcuffs

Posted by Writing PIs on March 17, 2019

Three Leaf Clover

Many think the top holiday for people getting arrested for DUIs is New Year’s Eve. But according to DUI lawyers we work with, the #1 holiday is St. Patrick’s Day, followed by #2 Super Bowl, and #3 New Year’s Eve.

Here’s a bit of history about St. Patrick’s Day.

St. Patrick and Shamrocks

The earliest known written story about Saint Patrick goes back to 1726, although the legend goes back even further. Saint Patrick used the three-leaf shamrock to explain the Holy Trinity to Irish pagans, for whom 3 was a significant number. Pagan Ireland also had many triple deities, which aided St. Patrick in his evangelization efforts.

Irish & the Color Green

Green has been associated with Ireland since at least the 1640s, when the Irish Catholic Federation used the green harp flag. Since around the 1680s, shamrocks and green ribbons have been worn by the Irish on St. Patrick’s Day, which in 1903 became a national holiday in Ireland.

Although St. Patrick’s Day isn’t a national holiday in North America, it’s a day when people celebrate the Irish culture, which often includes vast amounts of alcohol. Speaking of which, let’s look at the top reasons St. Patrick’s Day partiers get arrested.

NASA photo of Ireland (image is in public domain)

NASA photo of Ireland

Top Three Reasons Partiers End Up in Handcuffs

#1 Drinking and Driving

Here’s a sobering fact: between 2009 and 2013, 276 people died on St. Patrick’s Day in the U.S. due to drunken driving accidents (information from TSM, Traffic Safety Marketing). Another sobering statistic: From 2008 through 2012, half of the men killed in crashes on St. Patrick’s Day were drinking and driving (info from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration). Simple way around this: Don’t Drink and Drive. Go partying with a friend who is the designated driver, travel by taxi, call Lyft or another established driving resource.

#2 Public Intoxication

Although each state has its own definition of public intoxication, below are a few shared elements of the crime:

  • Being visibly drunk or under the influence of drugs while in a public place
  • Appearing to be intoxicated in a public place (that’s right, appearances alone can get you arrested).

#3 Urinating in Public

This includes urinating between parked cars, on walls, even lawns. If you gotta go, then go before you go outside.

Plan Your Ride, Watch Out for Drunk Drivers

A little common sense can ensure you and others have a safe, fun St. Patrick’s Day celebration. From planning your transportation to avoiding drunk drivers, here’s a few suggestions:

Plan How You’re Getting Home Ahead of Time. Be it by taxi, designated driver, public transportation, or one of the numerous sober-drive-home services offered in different cities. For example, here in Denver organizations such as City of Denver, Lyft,  and AAA are providing $13,500 in free Lyft rides on St. Patrick’s Day ($13,500 being the average cost one pays for DUI legal fees and increased insurance costs). For Coloradoans to be eligible for a free ride, the person fills out a form for a free ride credit (click on below image to access the form). Check if your city is doing something similar by visiting your state Department of Transportation, Lyft site, etc.

If You’re Traveling with a Designated Driver, Leave Your Car Keys at Home.

If You See a Drunk Driver on the Road, Call the Police. This could save many people’s lives.

If You See Someone Who’s Drunk Getting Ready to DriveGently take away their keys and help them find a safe way home. Better yet, call a taxi and pay for it upfront.

Have a great St. Patrick’s Day.

All rights reserved by Colleen Collins. Any use of the written content requires specific, written authority by the author. All images in this article are in the public domain.

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VPNs: the Good, the Bad, and the Tracking

Posted by Writing PIs on January 4, 2019

We recently hit a glitch with our VPN (Virtual Private Network) and have been looking for a new one. In our research, we discovered some interesting things, such as VPNs that falsely advertise a “no-logging” policy when in fact they do capture (log) some of the users’ personal information, such as IP addresses, websites visited, payment data, and more.

Before we jump into the good, the bad, and the tracking issues, let’s first define a VPN and why it’s wise to use one. Well, a good one.

What’s a VPN?

VPN stands for Virtual Private Network, which is a network within a larger computer network. Key is the word “private.” A user first logs into the VPN, the private network, which then logs into the larger public network. That first private VPN login is meant to protect the user’s personal data.

Typically, VPNs can be accessed (logged into) both within and outside an immediate geographical area. For example, at our agency we can log into our current VPN from the city where our office is located, as well as from other cities when we’re travelling.

How Does a VPN Protect a User?

In a nutshell, VPNs provide an additional layer of encryption protection to the IP (Internet Protocol) communications protocol. Additionally, VPNs “spoof” users’ IP addresses so their actual IP addresses remain private.

About that word private

No-Logging Promises Broken in the Fine Print

Some VPNs promise a “no-logging” policy, but buried—sometimes deeply buried—in their small print are the users’ data they do log. The below diagram, via TheBestVpn, shows the results of their March 2018 research on 118 VPNs and their logging policies.

Read more about VPNs that maintain logs on users in this article by TheBestVpn:26 VPN Providers That Keep 3 or More Alarming Log Files (scroll a short way down page for article).

Whatever features you’re looking for in a VPN, from secure access to speed, a strict no-logging policy should be your top priority.

So What’s the Best VPN?

I’ve been reading different “the best VPN” articles on the internet, which don’t always agree. Or some fail to mention a significant negative point about a VPN. I will say, however, that NordVPN gets consistently high rankings from the articles I’ve read. Also, TheBestVPN ranks ExpressVPN as their #1 choice.

I wasn’t happy with customer support for my current VPN, Private Tunnel, but it gets kudos from different review sites, with one key bonus: they are the lead developers of OpenVPN, the VPN protocol used by today’s top companies. Then I read this about Private Tunnel: “They will also turn over aggregate information to ‘other parties for marketing, advertising, or other uses.’ Those parties won’t be able to get their hands on your individual usage or anything like that. But they might still spam the crap out of you.”

PrivateVPN, based in Sweden, got high marks from a VPNPro article for its strict no-logging policy and for its “impressive customer service.” Unfortunately, another review (TheBestVPN) ran tests that showed PrivateVPN collects users’ IP addresses and cookies, and that based on an in-depth reading of their policy, TheBestVPN surmises that they might sell user data to third parties.

I could go on and on about different VPNs, but for right now I’m leaning toward ExpressVPN or NordVPN.

Best to Worst VPN Comparison Chart

From my readings, TheBestVPN offers the most comprehensive analyses of a wide array of VPNs, including this handy worst-to-best comparison chart with categories such as Leaks Found, Speed, Logging Policy, and more: TheBestVPN.com Comparison Chart.

Related Articles

The Best VPN Services (TheBestVPN – the article link goes to their main home page)

The Best VPN Services for 2019 (CNET)

The 5 Best (Verified) No-Log VPNs – Safest and Cheapest in 2019 (VPNMentor)

10 Best No Logs VPN Providers: Stay as Private as Possible (VPNPro)

 

Have a great weekend, WritingPIs

All rights reserved by Colleen Collins. Do not copy or distribute any content without written permission of the author. Images in the public domain are captioned as such; all other images are either copyrighted or licensed by the author, who does not have the legal authority to share with others.

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Guns, Gams, and Gumshoes: Top 10 Posts in 2018

Posted by Writing PIs on December 28, 2018

As we wrap up 2018, below are our readers’ 10 favorite posts this year. Thank you to everyone who’s dropped by this year as well as preceding years—next year will mark Guns, Gams, and Gumshoes’ ten-year anniversary!

Ranking is #1 through #10, with #1 having the most reader views in 2018:

#10 Private Investigators and Murder Cases This was a 2012 guest post by Colleen Collins at crime fiction book reviewer Elizabeth A. White’s blog (renamed Editing by Elizabeth as she now specializes as a story editor).

#9 Investigating Crime Scenes: Police vs. Private Investigators This 2015 post discusses different facets of crime scene investigations, from deception to subjects to cold vs. live crime scenes.

Copyright Lisa Cejka 2018

#8 Female Private Eyes Walked These Mean Streets, Too Some people, including John Semley, who wrote the article “The Death of the Private Eye for the New York Times, seem to think only men have been shamuses in fiction. No, women were dicks, too, going back to 1864 with Mrs. Paschal, commonly viewed as the first female private detective in literature.

#7 National and International Private Investigator Day: History of the Private Eye History of the PI, from Eugene Francois Vidocq, recognized as the first private eye in 1833, to current-day private detectives.

#6 National Cyber Security Awareness Month: A Ransomware True Story and Security Tips A true story about cyber-criminals who hacked into, and took over, a writer’s computer, as well as tips and related articles on cyber security.

#5 Answering a Writer’s Question: Can a Private Investigator Get Romantically Involved with a Client? Seems Sam Spade got amorous with most of the femme fatales who crossed his path. Although there aren’t always legal restrictions, there are often ethical ones to consider in the real world of PIs.

#4: A Tribute to James Garner’s Iconic Private Eye Jim Rockford I originally wrote this post in 2014 after hearing of James Garner’s passing, then updated it the following year. Who didn’t love the cool, droll, anti-hero Jim Rockford, a PI who’d rather go fishing then be sleuthing cases.

James Garner as PI Rockford (R) in photo still from THE ROCKFORD FILES (image is in public domain)

#3: How to Conduct a Trash Hit: A Private Investigator’s Dumpster Secrets: This has been one of our readers’ favorite posts over the years. At our PI agency, we’ve conducted dozens of trash hits. Foraging through trash is like an archeological dig—ya get down and dirty, but what’s uncovered can break a case clean open.

#2 Private vs. Public Investigators: What’s the Difference? Ever since we kicked off Guns, Gams,and Gumshoes in 2009, this post has been readers’ #1, most-read post, every single year…until this year when it got bumped to #2 for…

#1: From Pup to Courthouse Therapy Dog, Part 1 Readers’ favorite post this year was based on our Rottweiler pup, Traveller, who’s on a journey (along with her owners) to one day being a courtroom therapy dog. Article discusses differences between service dogs and therapy dogs; the training and work of a courtroom therapy dog; the story of Rosie, the first courthouse therapy dog in New York; and related links to therapy dog training and certification.

Thank you, readers, for being part of Guns, Gams, and Gumshoes. Here’s to a healthy, happy 2019 for all of us!

All rights reserved by Colleen Collins. Do not copy or distribute any content without written permission of the author. Images in the public domain are captioned as such; all other images are either copyrighted or licensed by the author, who does not have the legal authority to share with others.

 

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Shamus Awards 2019: Private Eye Writers of America Accepting Submissions

Posted by Writing PIs on December 12, 2018

PRIVATE EYE WRITERS OF AMERICA ACCEPTING SUBMISSIONS

FOR 2019 SHAMUS AWARDS

For Works First Published in the U.S. in 2018

Following are the categories for the Private Eye Writers of America 2019 Shamus Awards for private eye novels and short stories first published in the United States in 2018. The awards will be presented in the fall of 2019.

DEADLINE: Submissions must be postmarked by March 31, 2019. No extensions can be given.

Shamus Committees will forward their final lists to the Shamus Awards Chair by May 31, 2019.

ELIGIBILITY: Eligible works must feature as a main character a person paid for investigative work but not employed for that work by a unit of government. These include traditionally licensed private investigators; lawyers and reporters who do their own investigations; and others who function as hired private agents. These do not include law enforcement officers; other government employees; or amateur, uncompensated sleuths (for example, protagonists in cozy mysteries).

Independently published books (Indies) may be submitted to the Best Original Paperback PI Novel category.

SUBMISSIONS: Please send one copy of each eligible work to all members of the appropriate committee. Do not submit a book to more than one committee.

There is no application fee and no submission form, as a simple cover letter will suffice.

For judging committee addresses and questions, please e-mail PWA judging chair Gay Toltl Kinman at gaykinman@gaykinman.com. If you’re unsure which category to submit your work, email Gay Tolti Kinman before submitting.

BEST HARDCOVER PI NOVEL: A book-length work of fiction published in hardcover in 2018 that is not the author’s first published P.I. novel.

BEST FIRST PI NOVEL: A book-length work of fiction, in hardcover or paperback, first published in 2018 that is the author’s first published novel featuring a private investigator as a main character.

BEST ORIGINAL PAPERBACK PI NOVEL: A book-length work of fiction first published as a paperback original in 2018 that is not the author’s first P.I. novel. Paperback reprints of previously published novels are NOT eligible.

BEST PI SHORT STORY: A work of fiction of 20,000 words or fewer.  Stories first published in an earlier year and reprinted in a magazine, anthology or collection in 2018, are not eligible.

2019 SHAMUS Awards Committees

BEST P.I. SHORT STORY COMMITTEE

Terence Faherty, Chair

BEST FIRST P.I. NOVEL COMMITTEE

Colleen Collins, Chair

BEST P.I. NOVEL COMMITTEE

Thomas Donahue, Chair

BEST PAPERBACK ORIGINAL P.I. NOVEL

Brad Parks, Chair

Please do not copy or otherwise distribute any images in this posting as the author does not have legal authority to share these images with others.

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Two Memorable Christmas Cases, Funny to Heartfelt

Posted by Writing PIs on December 4, 2018

As Christmas approaches, we remember two of our favorite investigation stories that occurred during the holidays, from the funny to the heartfelt.

Story #1: Serving Divorce Papers to a Happy Jailer

Several years ago, an angry soon-to-be-ex-wife told her attorney that she wanted divorce papers served on her soon-to-be-ex-husband on Christmas Day. No other day would do. Not Christmas Eve, not the day after Christmas. Had to be Christmas Day. The Happy Holidaysdivorce papers were to be her Christmas gift to the husband whom she had recently learned was keeping a girlfriend on the side.

The attorney contacted us and asked if we’d be willing to fulfill her Christmas wish. After hearing the story, we said yes. The husband was a deputy in a local jail, and was scheduled to work on Christmas Day.

That day, we drove to the jail, politely asked for him, and after he confirmed his identity, we served him the papers.

He read the first page, looked up at us, grinned, then exclaimed, “This might be the best Christmas gift I’ve ever had!”

Story #2: A Young Father Facing Months in Jail

handcuffed hands

One long-ago Christmas Eve, one of the Writing PIs, at the time working as a defense lawyer, went to court for the initial appearance of a young father accused of a restraining order violation on his ex-wife. Without a lower bond, he could lose his job, his home, and miss opportunities to spend time with his sons. The young father was facing up to six months in jail if found guilty on all counts.

The lawyer-half of Writing PIs pointed out to the judge that, at worst, the young man was guilty of contacting his ex-wife so he could obtain a much-needed antibiotic medicine for the youngest son who had a bad ear infection. The judge saw through the ex-wife’s hysterics and false accusations, and set bail at a Christmas Eve bargain of $50 cash.

We were asleep on the night before Christmas when awoken by the beeping of one of our cell phones. The young man had texted that he’d been released from jail and would be spending Christmas with his sons.

We didn’t mind being woken up—it was a terrific way to start Christmas Day.

Happy holidays, Writing PIs

The Zen Man by Colleen Collins

It’s just another ho-ho-hum lawyers’ Christmas party…until one of them is murdered.

Click on above banner to go to The Zen Man Amazon page

All rights reserved by Colleen Collins. Please do not copy/distribute any images as they are either copyrighted or licensed by the author, who does not have the legal authority to share with others.

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From Pup to Courthouse Therapy Dog, Part 1

Posted by Writing PIs on November 24, 2018

Today our Rottie pup, Traveller, graduated from her second dog-training course. Afterward the trainer, who also trains therapy dogs, said, “Traveller’s too gregarious to be a service dog, but her friendliness and smarts are perfect for a therapy dog.”

We’ve always anticipated Traveller occasionally working with us on future investigations. After talking to our trainer, we’re now considering having Traveller trained as a therapy dog, too. Not right away as she’s still a pup. The Alliance of Therapy Dogs requires a dog to be at least one year old before starting training.

Service Dogs vs. Therapy Dogs

Service dogs and therapy dogs play two different roles, which are not interchangeable.

Service Dogs

These dogs work as a team with their physically, emotionally, or mentally challenged human partners. They help their person attain safety and independence, such as alerting a hearing-challenged person that a visitor is ringing the doorbell. Service dogs are not for petting as that could prevent the dog from performing its job correctly; in fact, most service dogs have a “no petting” policy established by their owners, with the dog often wearing a label requesting people to not pet the dog.

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) protects the rights of people with disabilities so that they can be accompanied by their service dogs in public places such as stores, hotels, and restaurants.

Therapy Dogs

These dogs are even-tempered, gentle, and amiable. Whereas service dogs work as a one-on-one team with their person/handler, therapy dogs provide psychological or physiological therapy to a variety of individuals other than their handlers. It’s all right to pet on-duty therapy dogs, even encouraged by their handlers.

People petting airport therapy dog

Therapy dogs visit places such as schools, airports, rehabilitation centers, courtrooms, and more. Their roles vary depending on people’s needs. For example, therapy dogs might participate in a person’s physical rehabilitation, offer comfort at a hospital, or help encourage a child to read out loud.

Therapy dogs do not have the legal access rights that service dogs have.

Back to our pup Traveller. What kind of therapy dog might she be? Considering we’re legal investigators, makes sense for her to become a courthouse dog.

What Is A Courthouse Dog?

These are specially trained dogs that provide emotional support to people who have suffered physical, psychological or emotional trauma as a result of criminal conduct. For example, a courthouse dog might offer comfort to a sexually abused child while he/she undergoes forensic interviews and testifying in court. These dogs will also greet jurors; offer a soothing presence for vulnerable witnesses; provide a sense of normalcy during emotionally charged court hearings; even cuddle and play with troubled teenagers waiting for hearings.

A courtroom dog might wait outside courtroom doors, ready to comfort witnesses and others (image in public domain)

Courthouse dogs truly become a member of the court as they often visit with court support staff, defense counsel, law enforcement officers and judges during the course of a work day.

Criminal justice professions—such as a deputy prosecutor, law enforcement officer, victim advocate, or as in our case, legal investigator—handle courthouse dogs.

During the Holmes theatre-shooting case here in Colorado, we would see several courthouse dogs waiting outside the courtroom to comfort witnesses, family members, and others.

Next, let’s look at the story of a courthouse dog named Rosie.

Rosie, the First Courthouse Dog in New York State

In 2011, Rosie, an 11-year-old Golden Retriever, had her first day on the job as a courthouse dog. Before a court proceeding began, Rosie met Jessica, a 15-year-old girl who would be testifying in court about being raped.

Rosie and Jessica took the stand before the trial began so the jury wouldn’t see Rosie and possibly be influenced by her presence one way or the other. Throughout her testimony, Jessica petted Rosie — at one point, Jessica removed her shoe and buried her toes in Rosie’s fur. When asked by the prosecutor to point out the man who raped her, Jessica froze. Rosie, sensing Jessica’s distress, laid her head in the girl’s lap to comfort her. After a few moments, Jessica was able to point to the man.

Jessica and Rosie had been visiting each other for three months in preparation for Jessica’s trial date. During that time, the girl and dog had become acquainted by playing together, and Rosie had also learned how to tolerate the tight space of a witness box. Her handler would have Rosie sit in front of a barrier that the handler gradually moved closer to the dog until it mimicked being in a box.

The training paid off. With Rosie’s help, Jessica remained calm during her testimony, and the jury found the defendant guilty.

Therapy Dog Training and Certifying

In the months ahead, we’ll register Traveller for a training class that is a pre-requisite to her entering a therapy dog training course. If Traveller successfully graduates from that class, we’ll next register her in a therapy-dog training program for certification. Last, she’ll work with trainers who specialize in courtroom therapy dogs. We’re waiting for our current dog trainer and her team to finalize their dog-therapy training program here in Colorado (name and links forthcoming).

Below are several AKC-recognized therapy dog organizations that offer training, certification, support, and more:

Alliance of Therapy Dogs

Bright and Beautiful Therapy Dogs, Inc.

Love on a Leash

Therapy Dogs International

 

When Traveller enters the next stage of training, I’ll post “From Pup to Courthouse Therapy Dog, Part 2.”

All rights reserved by Colleen Collins. Unless an image is noted as being in the public domain, do not copy or distribute images as they are copyrighted. Sections “What Is a Courthouse Dog?” and “Rosie, the First Courthouse Dog in New York State” are excerpts from A Lawyer’s Primer for Writers: From Crimes to Courtrooms co-written by Colleen Collins and Shaun Kaufman.

Posted in Book Excerpt: Courthouse Dogs | Tagged: , , | Comments Off on From Pup to Courthouse Therapy Dog, Part 1

 
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