Here are a few tidbits, some of them possibly surprising, from a law enforcement session I attended at the mystery convention in Manhattan, Kansas, over the weekend.
* In a county with a very small population, there's not enough money for more than one big trial a year, if there's even money for that. It you want to commit a murder, do it in a poor, under-populated county where the quality of investigation is likely to be lower, and where they've already spent their budget for the year!
* "TV has made prosecutions so much harder," said a district attorney. Juries want DNA evidence, they want 3D diagrams, they want more than "beyond a reasonable doubt."
* A public defender said, "In 20 years as a criminal attorney, I've had two cases with viable fingerprints."
* "A lot of times, a suspect in the middle of a polygraph test will cough it up."
* "There's no such thing as temporary insanity," claimed the psychologist on the panel.
* "It's hard for juries to acquit if you can't give them the 'real' bad guy," said the public defender. "You can't win just by punching a hole in the state's case. You got to give them another suspect."
* It's not true that serial killers keep the same M.O. throughout their "careers." They change. "For one thing," said one of the lawmen, "they read the newspapers." For another, if they are mentally ill, they will deteriorate and become less and less stable.
* "The guy better take the stand and say under oath, 'I didn't do it.'" (Juries assume guilt otherwise, no matter what the law says about how they're "supposed" to think about it.)
* Most cases are circumstantial. If they're not, they don't go to trial. (Plea bargain, instead.)
* Interestingly, both the public defender and the district attorney were opposed to capital punishment.
See you in the comments. . .