Let's say you've found yourself dead in a ditch. Clearly, you're already not having a great day. Worse still, even if the cops find your corpse and have a pretty good idea of who mangled it, the murderer will likely get off scot-free. There are a number of reasons why your restless spirit could forever roam the Earth moaning about the inadequacies of the current state of jurisprudence, such as ...
If you've seen the supremely uncomfortable Netflix series When They See Us, you've had a front-row seat to a technique that police use to "interview" suspects known as "The Reid Technique." It involves using the facts of the case to explain to the suspect how the police know they were involved, even when they don't know any such thing. It requires a "controlled environment," which meant, in the case of the Central Park Five, sleep deprivation, denial of food and water, and incessant threats. You'd confess to killing your own mother under those circumstances, even if she wasn't dead.
Indeed, false confessions were involved in 11% of exonerated homicide convictions, and that number more than triples when it comes to the under-18 set. As much as 30% of the cases taken on by The Innocence Project involve false or coerced confessions. Why would police use coercive methods like the Reid Technique if it so often only succeeds in nailing the wrong guy? One can only speculate, but they definitely do. While some law enforcement leaders have denounced the technique, a functioning website still exists to sell lessons in it, so ... someone is using it, and we want to stay far away from whoever it is.
There are a billion and one reasons someone may or may not choose to be an organ donor, but we're not here to litigate that back and forth. Choosing to donate your vital organs in the event of your untimely demise is, at its core, a very noble and helpful thing to do if you think you can do it. And what we definitely can't debate is the science of transplants -- the viability clock starts ticking the moment you've flatlined, and so gut gatherers can get a bit overzealous at times. That's led to cases where bodies have been stripped clean of evidence in addition to the tissue before the most memorable member of the Lollipop Guild can do his job.
This is a new conflict, stemming from the general advancement of medical science, so it's probably going to take the misplacement of a celebrity spleen for effective protocols to be put in place. In the meantime, less newsworthy people -- like Marietta Jinde of Gardena, California -- won't have their causes of death properly scrutinized. It's a little tough to determine a cause of death when large patches of skin are removed, along with all the bones from your arms and legs. Nobody was getting a new kidney after the Texas Chainsaw Massacre, you know?
If you have a choice, like if your murderer engages you in some morbid game of "Would You Rather," try not to get killed with a gun. That's going to be tricky, because 66% of single-victim murders involve a gun (it's a lot higher if you have friends), but one of the reasons for that might be that it's pretty damn hard to solve gun-related murder cases. Don't think this terrifying fact only applies to crime-ridden cities like Chicago or Baltimore, either. Look at this bloody graph The Trace and BuzzFeed put together:
There are a number of reasons for this pants-shitting discrepancy. One is the frequent absence of DNA at gun-related crime scenes. Most of the time, investigators have to rely on witness testimonies, and given the shitty relationship between the public and the police, it's no surprise then that these murder cases go cold so often. But there's an even bigger, more sinister problem here: Research on gun violence is shockingly (or not so shockingly, if you know anything about America) underfunded. To put it in perspective, gun violence kills about as many Americans every year as sepsis, yet the total funding for gun violence research is less than 1% of the total funding for research on sepsis. That raises a number of questions, namely: Seriously? Why? What the fuck?
The answer is that laws like the Dicky Amendent of 1996 prohibited any federal funds from going toward gun violence research. A bill was introduced in 2018 to lift the ban, but no research has yet been funded, and the Dicky Amendent remains intact. Even the Police Executive Research Forum up in Washington, D.C. has called for the expansion of gun violence research. Think of them what you will, but the cops hate an unsolved case on their names as much as we do.
It's more common than you'd think for evidence to get lost or destroyed in a potentially disorganized police precinct. You know how these things go -- you put the murder weapon in your pocket, but on your way to the evidence lockers, you get tapped for a coffee run, you leave your jacket at Starbucks, it's a whole thing. The Baltimore Police Department, for example, lost a whole investigation file, letting Courtney M. Noakes, who's suspected of committing at least three murders, walk free.
They aren't the only ones: the Douglas, Arizona police lost the file for Patricia Alvarez's murder from 1986, and now they believe it might be impossible to solve. Other police departments have lost all sorts of crucial evidence in what can only be evidence-based juggling performances, like when the Brighton, Alabama police lost the gun and shell casings used in the murder of Kevin Hatter, causing a dismissal. It's safe to assume that Sante Fe wanted to one-up Brighton when they lost eleven pieces of evidence in Selena Valencia's murder. Meanwhile, in Bluefield, West Virginia, they lost an entire box of evidence in a move. These are only individual examples. Sometimes, mountains of evidence are lost (and not just in The Mountain State).
You know how you store all of your valuables at the lowest point of your house so you can potentially lose everything in a flood? No? Well, someone should've explained to the St. Louis Police Department that water runs downhill before a busted water main flooded the subbasement, destroying confidential files before making its way into evidence storage. That's still better than New Orleans storing evidence on the ground floor of the courthouse for a decade after it was flooded out by Hurricane Katrina. These natural disasters aren't rare: Even Brooklyn, New York lost evidence because the warehouse where they stored it didn't have doors waterproof enough to handle the onslaught of Hurricane Sandy. For once, it wasn't Scully and Hitchcock's fault.
Expert witness testimony can be crucial to validating the evidence used in your trial and putting your killer behind bars - that is, if the expert witness is actually an expert, not just some elite LARPer hellbent on pretending themselves onto the witness stand.
For example, Robert Stites, the forensic analyst who specialized in blood spatter, was actually Robert Stites, the forensic assistant who specialized in artificially padding his resume. Stites' fraudulent qualifications were ultimately discovered -- lying to the government about working for the government turned out to be a stupid idea -- but his sham analysis had already led to the false arrest of David Camm for the murder of his wife and kids. The real killer is now behind bars, but not before Camm was convicted twice. Granted, Camm got a fat stack of cash out of the deal, but most people wouldn't trade $450,000 for having their life absolutely wrecked by some dude who really wanted to wear "big boy" pants.
Stites isn't the only fraud out there, either. William R. Douglas pleaded guilty to lying about having two PhDs and testifying in over 50 criminal cases, apparently because he just loved to testify. In England, a man who was used as a qualified witness in dozens of criminal cases and helped train hundreds of officers as a purported expert computer analyst who also held a degree in engineering was, in reality, only qualified to repair TVs. Another Englishman made $250,000 off the government over 27 years by working as an expert psychologist, an astonishing return-on-investment for the fraudulent credentials he bought online. Still, those crack investigators probably should've figured something was up when the man didn't know how to set up a polygraph and claimed instead that he could sense lies by touching a person. When you're hanging out in limbo and your murderer goes free thanks to an "expert witness," take one for the team and haunt these idiots, please.