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Summer Crime

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I've always been interested in what exactly causes crime rates to go up. I searched google and found a reasonable answer. It stated that the reasons people commit crimes can either be because 1) poor parenting skills, 2) peer influence, 3) drugs and alcohol, 4) income and education, 5) tv violence, 6) easy access, and 7) hot weather.
All of them seemed to make sense to me, until I got to #7. Hot weather? Really? So I looked further into in and found out this interesting facts...
Crimes increase about 10% during the summer months- murder=16% increase and rape is a 13% increase.
There are several reasons for this. The most obvious one being that kids are out of school, bored, and have nothing do to. My general go to was just to watch TV, but apparently for some kids that isn't enough. Another reason the crime rates go up in summer is because of the heat. It can mess with your cerebral cortex, and cause you to do things you wouldn't otherwise do. It stated that most peoples common sense goes out the window when they're overheated-thus causing them to do something commit a crime.

The Most Dangerous Game

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While reading the novel Mind Hunter by John Douglas for my book report assignment, I came across a particularly interesting case. In the early 1980's Robert Hansen went on a murderous rampage that shocked the community of Anchorage, Alaska. Hansen, known throughout his community as a mild mannered baker with a strong affinity for hunting, was abducting local prostitutes and strippers, taking them back to his home while he raped and tortured them, then flew them out to his cabin in the woods where he promised if they cooperated they would be released. He would then let them go naked through the wooded area where he would hunt them down.


I was very interested in this case for two reasons. The first reason was that the killers MO closely followed one of my favorite short stories that I read in High School; The Most Dangerous Game by Richard Connell. The story is about some shipwrecked sailors who find themselves being systematically hunted down one-by-one through an island jungle. They are hunted by a man named General Zarroff, who tired of hunting animals and wanted more of a challenge. In Douglas's novel, he cites many similarities between Hansen and Zarroff, not only in MO. According to Douglas, Hansen felt that by killing prostitutes and women he felt were degenerate, he was doing society a favor. Likewise Zarroff felt that shipmen were degenerates and tramps.


The second reason that I found this case so interesting was because the killer, Robert Hansen started his criminal career about 40 miles from where I grew up; in small town Pocahontas, IA. In the 1960, Hansen served as a police academy instructor in Pocahontas. Later that year he was arrested for burning down a school bus garage and was sentenced to jail for 4 years. It was after this time that he moved to Alaska. Because Hansen had moved away from the area nearly 20 years before he started his killing spree, I was unaware of his existence and my friends from that area were also unaware. Digging a little deeper into Hansen's past, I discovered he was born in Estherville, Iowa; the small town where both of my parents grew up, but again, because Hansen hadn't lived there since before my parents were born, they were unfamiliar with the case. However, I do plan on asking my grandparents if they are at all familiar with Hansen since he would be closer to their age.

One of the themes that Douglas talks about in his book is that Hansen is an excellent example of how a killers MO changes and develops with each kill. In his earlier killings of prostitutes, Hansen would simply tie them up and kill them execution style, then fly their bodies and level them in the wooded area near his cabin. As he became more confident in his killings, Hansen began to torture his victims and then finally began to hunt them like animals. It is because of this sort of changing pattern that it makes a series of murders hard to tie together. If four women are murdered in different ways, people assume that it is a different killer. Douglas argues that MO can change while significance of the murder does not change. In this case, we see Hansen's method of killing change but they are all related in how they spoke to Hansen personally. He liked the thrill of the hunt, and he went after high-risk individuals such as prostitutes.  


Hot Tips For Jury Selection

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I found this article written by lawyer Patricia F. Kuehn, J.D., discussing various tips that she believes are helpful for a trial lawyer to select a jury. She argues that the jury selection process is one of the most crucial components of winning or losing the case. She says that since Voir Dire is the only time a lawyer is able to interact with the jury, a lawyer should take advantage of this opportunity.

The first thing that Kuehn suggests is that you take in as much information about the potential jurors the moment they walk in the door. It is during this time to take in mannerisms and how they present themselves. Also notice things such as clothing, demeanor, and how they interact with other jurors.  It is also important to control your own mannerisms and speech, as the jurors will also be watching you.

The next step that Kuehn suggests is to be very careful with what type of questions you ask the jurors. You have to craft your questions in a way that you get the response you want without coming off as threatening She suggests starting out with open-ended questions about demographics, jobs, and things of that nature. This leads the jurors into feeling comfortable with you.

The last thing that Kuehn suggests is to use the court case of Batson vs Kentucky to your advantage. This court case found that using a peremptory challenge to discriminate against minorities was against the 14th Amendments and that lawyers should raise a Batson objection if they feel that their opponent is challenging minorities.

She wraps up her article by again stating that the jury selection process should be paid as much detail as any other part of the trial.


Was Kurt Cobain Murdered?

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As a grunge-junkie, I have had a long time interest in the alleged suicide of famous musician Kurt Cobain. For those of you who do not know who Kurt Cobain is, he is the lead singer of popular 90's grunge rock band Nirvana. Nirvana is considered by many to be the anthem band for the generation growing up during this time period. Kurt Cobain was found dead in his Seattle home on April 8th, 1994. Investigators ruled the death a suicide by gunshot blast coming from his jaw then exiting through the top of his head. Much controversy surrounds Kurt Cobain's death leaving many speculators to wonder if Cobain actually did commit suicide. These two websites highlight some of the controversy surrounding the death. Cobain's death is still largely considered a suicide. Those who advocate that his death was in fact a suicide site Cobain's alcohol and drug abuse, his history of depression, and a suicide note left behind. Despite the enormous amount of evidence, there is still a collective group of people who believe that Cobain was murdered. The main advocator that Cobain's death was indeed homicide is Thomas Grant, a private investigator that was under the employment of Cobain's wife prior to his death. Grant's main arguments are so strong that they have led many others to believe his theory. Some of Grant's main arguments are

-          According to the toxicology report, Cobain had an enormous amount of heroin in his blood at the time of his death. Cobain had so much heroin in his system that it would have been impossible to steady a shotgun and pull the trigger. The amount of heroin in Cobain's system would have left him completely incapacitated and unconscious  

-          There are complications with the suicide note including so irregularities in the handwriting

-          Inconsistency in the police reports including: failure to take finger prints off the shotgun trigger, inconstancies with the discharged shell in relation to his body, no finger prints were found on the suicide note yet Cobain was not wearing gloves at the time of the murder

-          Evidence that came out after Cobain's death that Courtney Love (Cobain's wife at the time of his death) attempted to pay someone to murder Cobain

Those who still feel Cobain's death was a suicide believe this evidence to be circumstantial.

I personally feel that there were many signs in this case that indicate foul play but due to Cobain's history of drug abuse and depression they were all overlooked by police officials. If the police had investigated further into the theory of murder then there might be a lot more evidence out there that was not "circumstantial."


Cops Get Drunk While on the Job

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This is actually a smart way for an Officer to get trained on how to recognize a drunk driver.  This type of training envolves police officers getting drunk inside a controlled environment while the police officers that are sober examine the intoxicated police officers motor skills and speech.  Not only that but it will also come in handy when an intoxicated person is brought into court. 

Dexter By Design

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I recently just finished the latest of Jeff Lindsey's books about everyone's favorite serial killer; Dexter by Design. This book is the fourth in the Dexter Series, of which the Showtime Show Dexter is loosely based off of. Most people are aware of the show but few people are aware of the fact that the show actually started off as a book series by crime writer Jeff Lindsey. In the fourth installment of the series, the character Dexter faces a very unique kind of criminal: a performance artist murderer. Someone is leaving a trail of very decorative bodies scattered around Miami and it is up to Dexter and his sister Deborah to find out who exactly would want to hallow out a human stomach and fill it with a tropical fruit basket for all of Miami to see. But things are not what they seem. I really enjoyed this book because it put a lot of twists on what exactly motivates one to kill. Without giving away too much of the book, the main suspects intentions seemed to be motivated by art as the killer tries to capture human emotion and anguish in a permanent canvas. I am very excited to read Lindsey's next novel (due to come out sometime this year). Rumor has it that Dexter will meet a cannibal in this fifth novel and I eagerly wait to see how Lindsey will incorporate this into the series. For those who follow the show, the Dexter books do NOT follow along with the show. They are very similar but they contain very different plotlines and character twists. I highly recommend reading this series if anyone is interested in this type of literature. Though a lot of what takes place in these types of stories can be sort of laughed at by what we learn in class, they are very interesting and highly entertaining books which give sort of a different spin on what we learn about in class. I highly recommend looking into them if you love to read a good mystery book.

This is a link to the trial of Mark Becker, the man who murdered Ed Thomas, former high school football coach at Aplington Parkersburg. Besides that this case is relatively local, it is interesting because of the psychological problems which Becker is suffering from. The Defense is going to try to use this to reduce his sentence, it will be interesting to see how this plays out with a local Iowa jury.

This is a very interesting article about how the point of a finger gave a man a 50 year prison sentence on a rape charge.

Three days after the rape, Detective Gauldin called the rape victim Jennifer Thompson in to do a photo lineup. He lay six pictures down on the table, said the perpetrator may or may not be one of them, and told her to take her time.

Thompson did not immediately identify a photo, taking her time to study each picture.

"I can remember almost feeling like I was at an SAT test. You know, where you start narrowing down your choices. You can discount A and B," Thompson said.

I find it so interesting that the flaws of eyewitness identification can be so obvious. When taking a multiple choice test you being narrowing down the answers. When you come down to the bottom two you seem to make an educated guess. When dealing with 50 years in prison, I would hope the question only has one obvious answer, and isn't multiple choice.;contentBody

Throughout this class we have dealt with many aspect of witness identification. Through the construct a line up project I was amazed at how many people actually guessed the suspect right. So not only is this whole process biased in that a person basically picks as a multiple choice guess sometimes, but also that a line up can be very biased. Many line ups are made with an obvious answer to be picked. Many of think us probably think, so what! That person is probably guilty. However, in this above case we see that a man was wrongly picked from a line up and the consequence was major jail time. When picking out of a line up the person is basically choosing the course for the person. We also learned in class that eye witnesses are of HUGE impact to a jury. This can also lead to false testifying which can easily sway a jury. It starts to make you really reflect upon our justice system and the ways that eye witnesses, juries, and even line ups can be extremely biased.

Depression and Law

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After watchin the movie Gridiron Gang the other night I found myself fearing things like the chance of a gun man in the mall. When a person starts thinking about these kinds of things they sometimes start to consume my thoughts. I started thinking about our campus and the safety of it. I'm very thankful to go to a college the gives me a great sense of safety. I started to think about small towns. I grew up in one and found myself not worrying if I walked across town and not witnessing or ever hearing about crime in my small town hardly ever growing up. It makes me wonder if because of the fear of crime people in bigger cities would be more psychologically unstable when it came to fearing crime and what kind of impact this would have on depression rates in small towns and big cities. I also thought this article was neat because of the correlation between fearing crime and people's mental health.

I also wanted to look deeper into researching the presence of depression in the law system. I found shocking information relating to depression and lawyers. According to a study at Johns Hopkins, that when 28 occupations were studied, the one most likely to experience depression was the occupation of lawyer. Why is this? For one, it appears that the legal profession attracts people who are perfectionists. There also seems to be a large amount of pessimistic personality traits in people who are lawyers. Of another study at Johns Hopkins it showed that optimism out performed pessimism. However, there was one exception and that was people working in law school.

I am taking the class Psych of Personality. I wouldn't say that Psych of Law and that class are very compatible. However, personality does have a large effect on what professions people choose. This is something that affects the types of people who do indeed become lawyers. Psychology reaches so many different aspects of life, and this is clearly an example of that.
While reading my assigned chapter for my Applied Psychology class, I found an interesting concept that was directly related to our class. The Pygmalion Effect (for those who don't know) is when people unintentionally influence others to perform a certain way because they expect them too. It's sort of like the self-fulfilling prophecy concept but only applied to a social situation. The studies on the Pygmalion Effect were conducted in regards to certain students performing better in the classroom because the teacher expected them to do so. Interestingly enough, this same concept can be applied to judges unintentionally influencing the juries decision based on their own perceived notion that the defendant is guilty. Studies found that if the judge believed that the defendant was guilty, he gave many non-verbal cues that would indicate that belief despite appearing unbiased. Also, despite jurors believing that they were unswayed by the judge's demeanor, studies found that juries would return with a guilty verdict more often when the judge believed the defendant was guilty.
 I found this topic extremely interesting and I'm currently in the process of researching more about it. From the information I gathered so far on the topic, there was a study conducted where a mock jury was shown a video tape of a trial then a separate video of the judge giving juror instructions. The separate video was of the juror instructions the judge had given from an entirely different trial (one which the judge had an unspoken belief of the defendant's guilt). The mock jury was then asked to render a verdict. The study found that jurors who viewed the instructions from a trial in which the judge believed the defendant was guilty came back with a guilty verdict between 43%-57% (cited from Applied Psychology New Frontiers and Rewarding Careers, chapter 5: Applying Psychological Research on Interpersonal Expectation and Covert Communication in Classrooms, Clinics, Corporations, and Courtrooms by Robert Rosenthal)!

Criminal and Beyond

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This link is to the TruTv site. It has articles over serial killers, and other horrible criminals and how they sort of become. It is interesting to see what may predispose someone to being a horrible criminal, and what environmental factors contribute to it. The things that these people do are just horrifying, but, at the same time, make them so unique to study because of such the stark differences to typical people. There is some fascinating information available.

This article reveals some techniques based on psychological studies that scam artists use to swindle us out of our money. It's extremely informative and is worth reading because it helps you learn what to look for to help protect yourself and your assets better. Some of the principals include Milgram's study about compliance and Asch's study about conformity.

Tru TV crime library

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Im a pretty big fan of Tru TV. I tend to watch a number of shows on that channel and when i made my way to the website i came across this crime library. This is a website that is devoted to all sorts of information on all different types of offenders including murderers. The website has a number of different types of cases on the main page such as celebrity siblings arrests, false convictions, "dumb" criminals etc. and you can also look at specific kinds of murders and cases that have happened in history. I thought this website was interesting and could be beneficial for someone that was looking for a certain case or someone that is interested in reading about all types of crimes in general 

Erin Brockovich

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When watching the movie Erin Brockovich for one of our weekly projects, I was amazed that it was based on a true story.  So, I decided to do some more research on her and find out what really happened, and what she is up to today.  I found two websites, her official website and her blog, that tell Erin's story.

Here is a link to her biography on her website:

"It's been 10 years since Julia Roberts starred in the Oscar-winning, tour de force, "Erin Brockovich". The film helped turned an unknown legal researcher into a 20th century icon by winning the largest medical settlement lawsuit in US history. Since then, Erin hasn't been resting on her laurels... she continues to fight hard and win big!"

Here is a link to Erin's blog:

Psychology, Crime, and Economics (Oh My!)

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Recently in my economics classes we have been talking at length about the economic theory of "Prisoner's Dilemma." Prisoner's Dilemma uses a combination of psychology and economic theory to asses a situation in which two people (commonly prisoners) can be made better off by working together rather than working individually, but because of psychological decisions, both prisoners chose a strategy that better suits them, thereby, making both prisoners worse off than they would be if they decided to work together. To illustrate this idea here is the following example.

"Two suspects are arrested by the police. The police have insufficient evidence for a conviction, and, having separated both prisoners, visit each of them to offer the same deal. If one testifies (defects from the other) for the prosecution against the other and the other remains silent (cooperates with the other), the betrayer goes free and the silent accomplice receives the full 10 year sentence. If both remain silent, both prisoners are sentenced to only 6 months in jail for a minor charge. If each betrays the other, each receives a 5-year sentence. Each prisoner must choose to betray the other or remain silent. Each one is assured that the other would not know about the betrayal before the end of the investigation."  

From this analysis, one might think that both prisoners will choose to remain silent in order to receive only the minor charge and both prisoners are better off. But, assuming that both prisoners are somewhat rational, psychology and economics tells us that both prisoners will choose the strategy at which (on an individual level) each prisoner will be better off. Therefore, the prisoners will both choose to betray the other and both will serve a harsher sentence because of this.

This theory is not only applicable in a prisoner-type scenario. Watch the video I have attached below and see how quickly personal greed takes control of our decision making process. Not only is greed a factor here, but also there is the factor of fear of betrayal. Both prisoners can safely assume that the other is being made a similar deal and does not know which strategy the other will choose. In order to not be completely "screwed" by the other person, the prisoner must choose to betray the other in order to protect one's self. This is a perfect example of how behavioral psychology and economic theory coincide. Watch the video below and pause it at 2:46 and try to guess the outcome. I think you will be pleasantly surprised.

Decomposition of Bodies

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I did the online activity that shows you how an autopsy is done. After I completed the activity, the website suggested another site I could go to. This site talks about what happens to your body after you die (including larva and what happens to fat cells), it also talks about the morgues, autopsies, and how long decomposition actually takes. The site is very informative and educational, although slightly disturbing because it's very apathetic to the issue of death. I looked for 30 minutes on this site and never got bored, it's extremely entertaining. The fact I found to be most interesting was the legal issues dealing with bodies. I didn't know that you actually HAD to have a casket for the body (unless of course the person is cremated). Also, the morgue or funeral director can only hold a body for 7 days (it makes sense because after that the body would start majorly decomposing). I highly suggest you all check out this site! 

See how juries are being affected by television shows like CSI. Are shows like CSI really informing people about crime scene investigations? Or is it giving people false perceptions of how things really work?

CSI Season 10 (Image by: )

As I researched more into the CSI effect people there is actually some what of a debate whether or not it is helping or hurting out jury systems. Some argue that it is bad because it shows overly fast procedures, lots of evidence, and gives the audience a view on how evidence and cases should be handled. On the plus side, some argue that if anything it is making juries more aware about what is happening during investigations. Some believe it has raised positive awareness on things like evidence.

Below are links or both sides of the argument.

The CSI effect is real!

 The CSI effect is more legend than fact!

Life After Innocence Project

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The Life After Innocence Project advocates for innocent people adversely affected by the criminal justice system, helping them reenter society and enabling them to reclaim their rights as citizens, through individualized legal and support services and wider-reaching public policy initiatives.

InnocenceBlog on Twitter

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The twitter account of the Innocence Project - Exonerating wrongfully convicted people through DNA testing and reforming the criminal justice system.

Innocence Project of Florida

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The Innocence Project of Florida (IPF) began in January of 2003 in response to an October 1, 2003, filing deadline for post-conviction DNA motions. Beginning with two advocates (Jennifer Greenberg and Sheila Meehan) working out of a hallway at the FSU College of Law, IPF has been screening, investigating, placing and litigating innocence cases for the past five (5) years. We have to date received well over 2000 inquiries and/or requests for assistance.