Guns, Gams & Gumshoes

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

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Posts Tagged ‘Colorado attorney Shaun Kaufman’

Looking Back: Pros and Cons on Being Married to Your PI Partner

Posted by Writing PIs on July 21, 2015

July 21, 2015

Below is an article we wrote nearly 5 years ago, back when we co-owned a private detective agency. In it, we shared our pros and cons on being a married PI team. Fast forward to today…Shaun is a full-time & then some lawyer and yours truly is a part-time PI and writer. We love our current jobs, but sometimes we look back at our 24/7 sleuthing days together and miss them.

The Challenges of Co-Owning a PI Agency

We weathered a lot during the 10+ years we co-owned the PI agency, such as:

  1. Keeping the agency afloat during some tough recession years
  2. Tackling cases that broke our hearts (a missing child, a young man brainwashed by a cult, a husband crying over his wife’s infidelity)
  3. Meshing our work styles (Shaun’s a big-picture kinda guy & Colleen’s a detailed-oriented kinda gal…mix ’em together for some entertaining conflicts).

Then One Day…

Wedding cake March 24 2009

We eloped. Bought our wedding cake on the way to the justice of the peace (bakery owner just happened to have a bride & groom figure to put on top of a blue and white cake). Our wedding decorations consisted of a big bow we taped to a tree. We loved every moment.

Missing the PI Team

The other day I did a difficult locate (finding a person) for one of Shaun’s legal cases. He was immensely relieved when I found the person as his case pivoted on that locate. Then he said, “I really miss when we worked together as PIs.”

Back when we were working side-by-side, 24/7, he didn’t always miss me, though 🙂

Without further ado, our pros and cons “back in the day”…

Working with Your PI Spouse: For Better, for Worse

Illustration courtesy of James Braddock (image copyright protected - do not copy or distribute)

Illustration courtesy of James Braddock (image copyright protected)

(January 2012)

At Guns, Gams, and Gumshoes, we’re a couple of PIs who also write…and are also married to each other. This can be great…and sometimes challenging. Today we’ll each answer “what are the pros and cons” of being a married PI team.

Shaun’s Pros

  • You really know your partner, there’s no learning curve.
  • During those times when you have to improvise or pretext, you can cue your partner and pick up their cues, which makes what you’re trying to accompliShaun Kaufmansh believeable and effective.
  • There’s no need to inform your work partner of demands or troubles in your personal life because she knows!

Shaun’s Cons

First of all, I’m a brave man for being the first to answer this question, but I’ve been granted absolute immunity. Here’s my cons:

  • You can’t bullshit your partner about anything, and there’s no hiding behind your moods.
  • Whereas other households might have two spouses with independent revenue streams, the married-PI couple is often working the same job. If that client’s check bounces, it can hit us hard.
  • Chasing cheating spouses can be deleterious to one’s libido. After a night of watching spouses cheat, I’m not always in the mood if you get my drift.

Colleen’s ProsColleen Colleen with her novel SHOCK WAVES

  • Sometimes being a husband-and-wife PI team gets us the case. For example, a client thinks his wife will be meeting her paramour at a swanky restaurant — we can easily fit into that scenario as another couple dining in that restaurant, even being romantic together, versus a PI sitting alone at a table.
  • Shaun’s a big-picture person, I’m a detailed person. Together, we get a good snapshot of a case.
  • Shaun trained a lot of PIs over the years in his attorney practice, so if I’m working a new type of case, I get the benefit of working side-by-side with a mentor (or having one on call).

Colleen’s Cons

  • It’s that big-picture thing. Sometimes I don’t understand how he glosses over the details.
  • We’ve had clients who think two-for-the-price-of-one. No, just because we’re married doesn’t mean we each get paid half-price.
  • When we’re both in the field, there’s no one to call at home to let the dogs out.

All rights reserved by Colleen Collins and Shaun Kaufman. Any use of the content (including images owned by Colleen Collins and/or Shaun Kaufman) requires specific, written authority. The Nick and Nora illustration in this article is licensed by Colleen Collins from the artist for per personal use – please do not copy/distribute/use as this illustration is copyright protected.

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Jury Selection: Tales from a Trial

Posted by Writing PIs on January 6, 2015

gavel and scales

The criminal lawyer side of Writing PIs, Shaun, is starting a trial today. The PI-writer side of Writing PIs, yours truly, is on deadline finishing a book that features a lawyer protagonist, and she wishes she were at trial, too. Where better to do research and soak up “local color” for a legal story? But instead, one of us is at a real-life trial, while the other stays at home, writing a fictional one.

James Holmes Trial Postponed

Note: This post was originally published on January 6, 2015. As of today, March 1, 2015, the jury selection is still ongoing for the James Holmes trial, and is expected to continue for several more months.

The James Holmes trial was supposed to start this week, and Shaun anticipated it being a zoo at the courthouse with hundreds of spectators, media, and so on. Because of the Holmes trial, a large number of potential jurors had been called…and then today, the Holmes trial was postponed.

By the way, when the two of us were at that courthouse a year+ ago, we noticed they had paved a huge, extra parking lot in anticipation of a large number of people — spectators, media — attending the Holmes hearings/trial.  The additional parking lot, beefed up security, and intense investigation/legal services required for the Holmes trial has already exceeded $5 million dollars, and that doesn’t include the costs incurred by the Colorado public defenders’ office that refuses to divulge its costs.

Jury Selection: People’s Real-Life Stories

One result of the Holmes trial being originally set for this week was that there was an unusually large pool of potential jurors, 67 people, for Shaun’s trial.

During selection, the judge asked if anyone had reason to not be a juror. A man raised his hand, said that he was illiterate & was afraid other jurors would make fun of him. Shaun said it saddened him hearing the man’s story, made him realize the hurt the man must have endured in his life. Judge excused the man from jury duty.

Another man raised his hand, said English wasn’t his first language, so he should be excused, too. Judge rolled her eyes and sighed loudly, said she wasn’t going to put up with any dilly-dallying, and he was not excused.


We wrote about jury selection in our recent non-fiction book A Lawyer’s Primer for Writers: From Crimes to Courtrooms. Below is a link to that book excerpt:

The Steps of a Trial: Jury Selection


#BookSale: A Lawyer’s Primer for Writers: From Crimes to Courtrooms

Click cover to go to book's Amazon page

Click cover to go to book’s Amazon page

March 1 – 7, 2015, A Lawyer’s Primer for Writers is a Kindle Countdown Deal, starting at 99 cents on March 1, with the price increasing daily until it again reaches its original price, $7.95, on March 7. To order, click on the above book cover image or click here.

All rights reserved by Colleen Collins and Shaun Kaufman. Any use of the content (including images owned by Colleen Collins and/or Shaun Kaufman) requires specific, written authority.

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Courthouse Dogs: Canine Compassion at Court

Posted by Writing PIs on May 23, 2014

Courthouse dogs offer comfort to witnesses and others (image licensed by Colleen Collins)

Courthouse dogs offer emotional comfort (image licensed by Colleen Collins)

I center on their healing power within the justice system. There is so much hurt — the victims, families, even members of our office — from exposure to trauma and anxiety…within this environment, the dogs contribute to justice. – King County Prosecutor Norm Maleng

Did you know that as of the writing of this book, there are 60 courthouse dogs (also called facility dogs and advocate dogs) working in 23 jurisdictions throughout the US?

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.

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 forensic interviewer — handle courthouse dogs.

Dogs’ Beneficial Effects on People

Courthouse dogs often visit clients before hearings (image is in public domain)

Courthouse dogs sometimes visit clients before hearings (image is in public domain)

According to an article in WebMD, people can derive the following benefits from dogs:

  • Reduced blood pressure and/or heart rate.
  • Increased levels of a relaxation hormone.
  • Decreased levels of stress hormones.
  • A sense of belonging.
  • A greater control of one’s life.

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.

How Rosie Became a Courthouse Dog

Rosie had started out being trained to be a service dog at Educated Canines Assisting with Disabilities (ECAD), but when it took her three months to learn how to turn on a light, she was taken out of the program. What’s interesting is that such “service dog drop-outs” often go into other programs, such as training to be an arson or courthouse dog, for which they might be better suited.

Soon after Rosie’s left the service-dog training program, she began visiting the Green Chimneys school in Brewster, New York, where she showed a talent for soothing children who were stressed.

For the next eight years, Rosie moved onto the speech-and-occupational-therapy rooms at Green Chimneys, where children were encouraged to talk to Rosie via 80 verbal commands the dog knew. Rosie also aided the children during their physical therapy by encouraging them to follow her over obstacles.

And then she went to the Courthouse Dogs Foundation, where she was trained to work with children during court proceedings.

Sadly, Rosie passed away in 2012, but her legacy lives on through her younger sister, Ivy, who is now an in-house therapy dog at a children’s facility.

-End of Excerpt-

(Excerpt from A Lawyer’s Primer for Writers: from Crimes to Courtrooms)

Click on image to go to Amazon page

Click on image to go to Amazon page

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A Lawyer’s Primer for Writers – The Steps of a Trial: Jury Selection

Posted by Writing PIs on May 1, 2014

Available June 2014

Available June 2014

Today we’re sharing an excerpt from the book — a rundown of the steps in a trial, highlighting the first step: Selecting a jury.

Book Excerpt  Steps of a Trial

Just as in a story, a trial has a beginning, middle and end. Let’s look at an overview of this sequence, starting with jury selection.

1. Selecting a Jury

The voir dire, or jury selection process, requires input from attorneys for both sides, as well as the judge. The judge and attorneys, after being given limited information about each potential juror, ask the potential jurors questions, the goal being to eliminate those who might be biased toward one side or the other during the trial.

After questioning is over, the attorneys and judge meet privately to pick the jury for the trial.  Some of the jurors are removed for cause, which means a juror has something in his/her past experience that may not allow them to be fair and impartial to both parties. Example of cause include if a juror personally knows one of the lawyers, or has been a victim of a crime similar to one being tried, or has a personal interest in the outcome of the case. Each side has an unlimited number of removals for cause.

Other potential jurors may be removed by peremptory strike, meaning each side can remove a certain number of jurors from the pool without giving a reason, although they cannot be eliminated based on race or gender.  The number of preemptory strikes depends on the jurisdiction and type of crime.

As an example, the following defines the number of strikes in federal trials:

Federal civil trial: Each side is allowed 3 peremptory strikes.

Federal criminal trial: The government’s prosecuting attorney gets 6 strikes and the defense attorney gets 10 strikes. In capital cases where the death penalty is considered, both sides get 20  strikes.

Federal misdemeanor trial (a minor crime punishable by a fine or less than a year in prison): Each side gets 3 strikes.

After all potential jurors have been removed via cause and preemptory strikes, the jury is selected, which is often referred to as their being empaneled.  After the courtroom deputy clerk swears in the jurors, and the judge gives them initial instructions, the trial can begin.

There might also be one or more alternate jurors, who are selected in the same manner as regular jurors, and hear the evidence in a case along with the regular jurors, but they do not participate with the regular jurors when they decide the case unless called upon to replace a regular juror.

— End of excerpt —

All rights reserved by Colleen Collins and Shaun Kaufman. Any use of the content (including images owned by Colleen Collins and/or Shaun Kaufman) requires specific, written authority.

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A Private Investigator’s Guide to the Care and Feeding of Attorney-Clients

Posted by Writing PIs on November 29, 2011

Many private investigators work with attorney-clients, with some (such as legal investigators) working exclusively with attorneys. This symbiotic relationship can be challenging because PIs and lawyers often have differing work styles, training and professional objectives. For example:

  • Many PIs work alone, in fact some pride themselves on being lone wolves. Although some attorneys also work alone, many work in cooperation with other lawyers and legal staff members.
  • PIs’s training covers a wide spectrum, from little training (for those who work in unlicensed states) to extensive backgrounds in accounting, law enforcement, computer science, even psychology. Attorneys, on the other hand, earn doctorate degrees and must pass a grueling bar exam that covers every aspect of the law.
  • As to professional objectives, a PI has a vested financial interest in completing work tasks and issuing his/her invoice. Lawyers are on a different time clock, where the best resolution for the client may take months, sometimes years.

A PI who works with attorney-clients needs to employ certain tactics to not only co-exist well with lawyers, but to make this a profitable vocation.

Three tips on the care and feeding of attorney-clients

Tip #1: Be prepared, timely and succinct. Attorneys are busy people who’re juggling dozens, sometimes hundreds of clients. When you schedule a meeting with an attorney, bring an agenda, reports and important evidence. Be on time — punctuality is a courtesy to anyone, be it an attorney-client or your other investigation clients.

Be on time. Punctuality is a courtesy to everyone.

Don’t ramble on at meetings — be succinct and to the point. Both of you are professionals who are handling important client matters.

Tip #2: Focus your investigative products. Lawyers don’t pay investigators for opinions and speculations about what judges and juries will do — lawyers pay for facts and evidence. Make sure your investigative reports, both oral and written, scrupulously adhere to agreed-upon investigative strategies and goals defined by you and your attorney-client.  For example, if an attorney requests for you to find out the color of a specific vehicle that a witness saw, focus on obtaining that evidence — don’t gather extraneous data such as the neighborhood where the observation occurred or the color of other vehicles in the area!

Tip #3: Be knowledgeable about the legal basics of what you’re investigating. If you’re going to work for attorney-

If a PI works for family law attorneys, the PI should understand basic family law doctrines.

clients, understand the playing field. It’s critical to understand legal basics — for example, if you’re specializing in criminal defense investigations, you should understand the principles of criminal culpability. If you specialize in family law cases, you should have a basic understanding of such family law doctrines as child custody guidelines and no-fault/fault divorces (depending on the state you’re in). There are numerous options to understand legal fundamentals, from taking a course at a community college to obtaining certification through the National Association of Legal Investigators (NALI).

A piece of advice from Shaun Kaufman, one of the Guns, Gams, and Gumshoes authors who’s also a licensed attorney: Before arriving at a meeting with your lawyer, call his/her paralegal and ask what the lawyer is most concerned about for that case. Paralegals often know more about the case’s investigative needs than the lawyer does.

Have a great week, Writing PIs

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