In general, an investigation into a suspicious death must show that the suspect had motive, means, and opportunity in order for a D.A. to pursue and prosecute a case.
A traditional mystery (not much blood and gore, with an emphasis on the howdunit, whodunit, and why) might focus on the little old lady who seems that she would never harm a soul. In fact, she may be the dastardly evildoer in a cleverly plotted story.
A detective must discover why the victim needed killing – the motive. Was the crime committed to cover up another crime? Was the mild-mannered little old lady, barely making ends meet through a glitch in her pension system, cashing social security checks that belonged to a long dead spouse now buried in the garden? Did the victim uncover the truth and need to be silenced before spilling the beans? Readers and jury members alike might relate to her desperate plight as a motive that pushes people over the edge.
The detective must show that the suspect had the means to pull it off.
What would a little old lady do? The victim had no outward signs of blunt force trauma from being struck by a baseball bat or golf club. The answer lies in the multi-colored display of foxglove, readily available in our senior citizen’s garden. Every part of the foxglove plant can cause allergic reactions and a few fresh leaves are enough to kill a person. Collecting the foliage can irritate the skin and eyes, so wearing gardening gloves, eyeglasses, and a mask (commonly worn in pollen season) would have protected her when working with her weapon of death.
A detective must figure out if the suspect had an opportunity to deliver the poison to the victim. The foxglove leaves look very much like large baby romaine, if a bit fuzzier. But lathered in salad dressing at a neighborly gathering, nobody would be able to tell the difference.
Or, the senior citizen could bake up a special plate of brownies and share them.
From J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter to Agatha Christie, foxglove has been a popular way to ‘off’ annoying people in fiction. Snape uses foxglove to make a potion in Potions 101 and Christie mixed it with other, edible greens in the garden in “The Herb of Death.”
My wife, Sheila, picked up six plants in three different colors at the garden center. I warned her about washing her gloves after handling the plants. All protocols were followed and no brownies have been made recently at our house.
So, why do we allow foxglove to be grown if it can be deadly?
The botanical name for foxglove is Digitalis purpurea. “Digitalis” is heart medicine made from foxglove. With a controlled dosage, digitalis is valuable in treating heart failure, but the wrong amount of foxglove can cause irregular heart function and death. Long-term use of foxglove can lead to symptoms of toxicity, including visual halos, yellow-green vision, and stomach upset.
The good news is that measuring digoxin (a form of digitalis) concentrations in the blood can help detect foxglove poisoning. If the detective and the other investigators are savvy about plants and gardens and the neighborhood dynamic, asking the right questions will uncover the reason and method of the deed. Case closed.
*Please note: This post is for entertainment purposes only.
Many warm thanks to all the Kerrian followers. Readership was up by over 50% in 2019. That’s not a typo. You spread the word and people kept on reading and sharing.
The Kerrians’ 2019 was a year of returning to fan favorite topics that focused on how law enforcement officers work, with the result that four of those articles were in the TopTen new articles for the year.
Interest continues in the new recipes from the Kerrian Kitchen and we’re delighted that you enjoy them as well! Like I keep saying, we taste-test everything and nobody ever died after eating at our house. 😉
Sadly, suicide is on the rise in the USA again and the interest in the article seen here is welcome. It is based on the death of a real family friend. Pass along the information to others, please.
Here are your Top Ten favorites from 2019:
(Click on the links and enjoy them again or read them for the very first time.)
10: “Greek Salad”
3: “SWAT Team Experience”
2: “Cucumber Slushies”
Keep a lookout for changes at the Kerrian website. Many will be behind the scenes as we make www.kerriansnotebook.com more cellphone friendly.
The changes will occur over the next few months and I’ll let you know through the newsletters and on Facebook as soon as they happen.
Happy New Year, everyone, and keep those cards, emails, letters, and messages from around the world coming. We read and enjoy them all! 🙂
Crime scene investigations have a few terms associated with them that are sometimes misused or misunderstood. Check out some accepted legal definitions.
Robbery or Burglary?
Robbery is a crime where someone takes an item without permission directly from someone else, without any intention of giving it back, and does this by force or threat of force. The wording of the criminal act may differ slightly from State to State.
A burglary occurs when someone enters a home or business illegally, intending to steal an item or commit a felony while inside the building.
While you might think that robbery and burglary are talking about the same act – a theft of your property – they are indicative of different circumstances. In a robbery, someone actually came and took something from you (often face-to-face), perhaps threatening you while demanding your money or cellphone. But, a burglary occurs when you are not present, like a break-in and theft at your house while you’re at work.
Assault or Battery?
Assault and Battery are sometimes used interchangeably but refer to different legal occurrences. Assault is when a person is threatened with attack (someone says they will hit the targeted person), and battery takes place when a person is physically attacked (someone hits him/her).
Battery is the unlawful use of force resulting in the injury of someone else. Battery always includes assault.
Civil or Criminal Cases?
Civil Actions are brought before the court to protect and enforce private rights.
Criminal Law determines what is criminal behavior and sets punishment to be imposed for that criminal behavior. The idea behind criminal law is to prevent harm to society.
Murder or Homicide or Manslaughter?
Homicide is a legal term for any killing of a human being by another human being and is not always a crime. Hearings are held to determine whether shooting deaths are justifiable killings in self-defense. Murder and manslaughter fall under the category of unlawful homicides.
Murder is an intentional killing when it is:
“Malice aforethought” means that the killer intended to kill someone without legal justification. But, in some jurisdictions, malice aforethought can also be in place if the perpetrator causes the victim’s death during an intentional beating or other reckless disregard for life – even if the original intent had not been to kill, but do bodily harm.
Interesting to note that for the “heat of passion” defense to hold up in court, the person must not have had time to “cool off” after being provoked. Example: a husband comes home to find his wife committing adultery and is so incensed that he kills the lover right then.
But, in that same scenario, if the husband chases the lover out of the house, then buys a gun, and only after a few hours goes to the guy’s house and shoots him, that might be considered premeditated murder. He had time to cool off and consider his options before the shooting.
Involuntary Manslaughter often refers to unintentional homicide from criminally negligent or reckless conduct. It can also refer to an unintentional killing through commission of a crime other than a felony.
Manslaughter convictions often result in prison time, depending on the jurisdiction’s laws, as well as the judge/jury assessment of the circumstances and the credibility of the person on trial.
Determining State of Mind at the time of the alleged crime is an important component to deciding whether unintentional second degree murder or involuntary manslaughter has been committed. In general, the decision centers on whether the defendant has been found ethically responsible.
Deposition or testimony?
During a deposition, witness testimony is given under oath, just not in a courtroom. A deposition is not conducted in front of the Judge or the Jury. Information gathered during a deposition can be used to discover evidence that the opposing side has prior to the trial date.
Testimony given either in court or at the deposition is equally legally bound by perjury laws. You can’t lie under oath without consequence, some quite severe.
Barrister or Solicitor? (in England and Wales)
Up until recently, only barristers had an exclusive right to plead in all English and Welsh courts. Barristers are not paid directly by the clients.
Until recently, clients could only hire (and pay) solicitors, not barristers. The solicitors hire the barristers to represent their clients in superior court (high court) if that step is needed. Solicitors are allowed to represent clients in magistrate or county court. Since 2004, if a solicitor has enough experience, they might be allowed to speak in superior court, but serious criminal or civil cases are much more likely to be handled by a barrister with extensive trial experience.
*Source of murder/manslaughter information: www.nolo.com