Private Investigators and Murder Cases
Posted by Writing PIs on February 27, 2012
At Elizabeth A. White’s blog, Guns, Gams, and Gumshoes’s PI Colleen Collins posted a guest article that responds to novelist Ed McBain‘s comment “The last time a private eye solved a murder was never.” An excerpt from the post “Do Private Eyes Solve Murders?” is below; to read the full article, click here.
Do Private Eyes Solve Murders?
The last time a private eye solved a murder was never.” -Ed McBain *
Like many of you, I love a gritty, fast-paced private eye story where the shamus solves a grisly murder or two. Investigating death makes for compelling storytelling rift with bodies, suspects and clues. In my current novel The Zen Man, the private-eye protagonist must solve a murder in thirty days or face a life sentence behind bars.
But how true is it in real life that private investigators solve murders? Is Ed McBain right that the answer is never? I compiled a few popular theories on this topic — some from the Internet, others my PI-partner-husband and I have heard over the years – with analysis for each.
Theory #1: In stories, private eyes are often effective because they are less constrained by government rules than law enforcement. But in reality, law enforcement must be wary about endorsing a PI’s evidence because 1) it’s unknown what methods the PI used in obtaining that evidence (if the PI obtained the evidence through illegal means, it would be thrown out at trial), and 2) by accepting a PI’s evidence, the police could be seen as using the PI as a state agent (“acting under color of law”) and any improper behavior by the PI could be imputed to the police department.
Analysis: It’s true that PIs, who are civilians, are less constrained by government rules — for example, PIs are not bound to the same evidentiary laws as law enforcement. It’s an assumption, however, that an experienced PI, especially one who specializes in legal investigations, would use “unknown” methods for obtaining evidence. In our investigations agency, we’ve gathered evidence using established rules and procedures to establish chain of custody (documented procedures demonstrating how we got evidence from where it was to our evidence locker). These procedures guarantee reliability and have resulted in courtroom admissibility and victory for the lawyers who employed us.
To read the rest of this article, click here.
Below are links to several more articles written by private investigators about their murder investigations or how they went about conducting such investigations. Also included is a recent news article about three murder suspects who’ve requested a private investigator to clear their names. Click on link to read article.
Have a good day, Writing PIs
- Excerpt from How Do Private Eyes Do That?: How PIs Are Used in Cases Where DNA Evidence Is Employed (writingpis.wordpress.com)
- PIs and Cases: Attempted Murder, Smalltown Cop, Infidelity (writingpis.wordpress.com)
- Answering Writers’ Questions About Private Investigators Investigating Kidnappings (writingpis.wordpress.com)
- Going for the Best: When Private Investigators Hire Other Private Investigators (writingpis.wordpress.com)
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