Jessa Nicholson

 

Jessa Lutz is a private bar criminal defense attorney in Madison, Wisconsin. She runs a two attorney firm, Frederick/Nicholson, LLC,  with her business partner, Terry Frederick.  Jessa attended the University of Michigan for her undergraduate studies and the University of Wisconsin law school.  She is a member of the Wisconsin Bar, the Dane County Bar Association, and the Wisconsin Association of Criminal Defense Attorneys.  Frederick/Nicholson, LLC provides all types of criminal defense both state and federal, including felonies, misdemeanors, and OWI/traffic offenses.  Jessa has successfully litigated a number of criminal cases both at the pre-trial stage and through jury trials, winning dismissals and acquittals for clients in both felony and misdemeanor matters. In her spare time, Jessa enjoys art, books, strong ale, good music, and not being in a suit.

 

Jessa Lutz:

One of the (many) things I never expected when I was making the decision to become a criminal defense attorney was what an attraction I would be to the accountants and software developers of the world at cocktail parties. What starts out as quotidian, polite small talk quickly turns into one of those rubbernecking, scene-of-the-accident-stare type things. People immediately take a hushed tone, grab my arm, and, like we’re old friends, say “Can I ask you a question about that?” The inquiry that follows is predictable.  People want to know one of two things. First, how is it that I can do what I do every day and live with myself, defending guilty people, trying to keep them out of prison? Second, is it, in real life, like it is on television?

To tell you anything at all about my job requires me, oddly, to be rather forthcoming about something rather personal—my sleep patterns. That is, am I getting any, or am I waking up every night, tortured with my role as the devil’s advocate? That whole moral dilemma, if you will. What keeps me up at night. I spend the better part of my day, every day, with criminals. These are people accused of doing reprehensible things. I tend to focus on sexual assault and domestic violence cases. Thus, I’m smack dab in the center of crying victims, wounded children, blood spatter, rape kits, photographs of bruises, stitches and missing teeth. You know when the limousine liberals at the aforementioned cocktail parties tell you that they’re for treatment, not incarceration for non-violent offenders? Yeah. They aren’t talking about my average client; at least, they don’t think that they are.

First off, let me start by saying this: I almost never know whether my clients are guilty or innocent. This is true for a host of reasons, but mainly because I don’t ask.  I don’t ask because, first, whatever version of events a client tells me, I’m stuck with, since I can’t knowingly suborn perjury (meaning, if somebody tells me it was self-defense, and then later produces an alibi witness claiming the guy was 200 miles from the scene of the crime, the Bar has a bit of a problem with me putting Joe Citizen up on the stand to flat out lie to a jury) and secondly, it doesn’t really matter to me if they are innocent or not. That might sound strange to some people, but it’s true. To me, what matters is whether the government can prove their case against my client. I believe fervently in the constitutional safeguards put in place to protect the accused, in the right to a fair trial. I believe in the saying that it is better for ten guilty men to go free than for one innocent person to be convicted. Most of all, I believe the government should be held to their burden. If the government can’t show beyond a reasonable doubt that my guy is the one that did the crime, then he should be off the hook. Over time, I think every defense attorney’s focus shifts from innocence and guilt to strength of the evidence and what can be proven. It’s a natural progression.

I’d also note that innocent clients, as a rule, are particularly frightening. They’re the ones that I lose sleep over.  If someone is guilty, and the evidence is strong enough to persuade people of that guilt, and the person has had a good, competent attorney that files motions and challenges things and forces the government to do its job; if all of the procedural barricades are put up and zealously advocated for, and then the person is still convicted, well, that’s one thing.  To be the only person standing between an innocent man and a prison cell is another thing entirely.

A lot of times, it takes the better part of a year to get a case to trial—and that’s in Wisconsin, where, though we have a fair amount of crime, the system isn’t nearly as backlogged as it is in larger, more metropolitan areas.  Somewhere like Cook County or South Central Los Angeles, I imagine the wait is much longer.   Many of my clients come from poverty-stricken backgrounds and simply cannot afford to both pay an attorney and post their high cash bail. Thus, that year or so that they’re waiting for trial, they’re sitting in jail.  Sure, that’s jail, not prison, but whoever tells you that sitting county time without work release isn’t hard time hasn’t ever been to county.  Over the course of this time, clients become increasingly disconnected to family members and friends.  Sometimes, I’m the only person they talk to that isn’t another inmate or a deputy for days, if not weeks.  The lack of human contact, of a person’s utter inability to communicate with the outside world, with loved ones, makes me sick to my stomach when I think about it—even if they’re guilty. It tortures me if they’re innocent.

Since I can sometimes be the only person they get a chance to talk to, I get to know my clients fairly well. I get the lion’s share of their fears, their hopes and dreams, their feelings of frustration about the system. Through the hours and hours I spend hearing about their lives, I’ve come to the following conclusion.  I think it’s worth nothing—and, feel free to completely write this off, because most people don’t believe me—-but my clients, by and large, are not monsters.  They aren’t evil, despite being accused of doing some pretty evil things. Most of the time, they didn’t have a grand plan. Most of the time, there’s no plan at all. Said reprehensible action is undertaken through instinct, or substance abuse issues, or mental health issues, or learned behavior, or some combination of all of the above. Many of my clients lack significant formal education or job skills. They lack stable home environments, and any semblance of normalcy in their peer group. Many of them have said or written things that have made me stop and think about how I’m living my life. I’ve walked out of the jail on a number of occasions shaking my head at what a waste it is that we’re keeping a client of mine locked up.  I’ve handled hundreds of criminal cases, and I can count on one hand the number of clients I’ve represented whom I would describe as being truly “bad” people. This is true in spite of what they may have done.

This is one of my biggest complaints about novels and television shows about the criminal—that there’s this dream of a great criminal mastermind. I’ve yet to meet one. I’m not saying they aren’t out there, but it is rare, at best.  The twenty-two year old kid who decides to rob a convenience store to support his smack habit sure as hell ain’t it. Neither is the drunk guy at the party who grabs a girl’s ass without her permission.

Otherwise, the differences are more mundane. Most of us in real life aren’t nearly as good looking as the television stars that portray district attorneys and defense counsel on television. We probably aren’t as articulate, either—but I like to think I can string together coherent sentences for a closing argument. We certainly don’t seemingly effortlessly get “the real killer” to confess on the witness stand. (Though I do have a friend in the DA’s office who had one faint once, under the pressure of cross-examination). Public defenders, though undoubtedly overworked and underpaid, are often some of the best trial attorneys you’ll ever encounter—this is a far cry from the myth of the hapless PD who misses crucial evidence.

Something that is true? It gets wild. I’ve had clients dragged out screaming at the judge, had bizarre sexual videotapes show up as “evidence” in unmarked packages, uncovered sinister plots beneath the surface of seemingly simple arguments, and gone countless rounds at high volume, arguing my point.  In criminal law, as compared to civil, many motions are made right on the spot, without time to research the issue thoroughly and brief it, so a lot falls on your wits and ability to think on your feet. The things that happen in my average work week don’t happen to other people.  I’m in jails, prisons, mental hospitals, and the courtroom—and it is, at the end of the day, fascinating.  I suppose that’s why I’m always asked about it at cocktail parties.

 

Mass murderers kill at least four people in a single location. Sometimes, that location may even be divided into separate areas, such as an office building, an adjacent parking lot, and a nearby warehouse.

In 1984, James Huberty, shot and killed twenty-one people in a McDonalds restaurant in San Ysidro, California. Huberty’s crime is a classic example of a mass murder.

The above photo (Wikipedia photo) is of mass murderer, Richard Farley. Farley fired 98 rounds of ammunition inside Electromagnetic Systems Labs in Sunnyvale, California, killing seven people and wounding four others. He killed because he had been rejected by his love interest, Laura Black.

Timothy McVeigh killed 168 people, and wounded 800 others, in the Oklahoma City bombing.

(Wikipedia photo)

Cho Seung-Hui killed 32 people at the Virginia Tech campus.

Spree killlers commit a series of murders related to a specific event. The killing spree usually lasts for a short period of time – rarely over a few months. The spree killer devotes all his time to killing and running from law enforcement.

Lee Boyd Malvo – one of the two DC Snipers who shot thirteen people in Maryland and Virginia. They killed nine.

Serial Killers are killers who murder three or more people with a period of psychological rest, or cooling off, between killings. A serial killer normally has a specific motivation for killing, such as thrill or lust. The serial killer’s need to kill subsides after each murder, but rises again after a period of time which often becomes shorter and shorter. However, the time between murders can last years.

Ted Bundy investigated for more murders

Ted Bundy

Jeffrey Dahmer

Serial killers normally use the cooling off period to plan and prepare for their next murder. They may stalk, or watch their victim, for a period of time before they make their move. Their murders are acts of satisfaction, not reactions to a specific event. Their behavior and murderous acts are often quite addictive.

 

Thermal imaging and night vision are NOT the same. Night-vision equipment needs some sort of light to work properly. Thermal imaging devices don’t use light to operate. Instead, they detect differences in temperature. For example, TI can see various building materials, such as wall studs, floor joists, HVAC ducting, and window and door frames, inside a structure. The equipment is able to do so because of the differences in densities of the materials (different densities radiate heat differently).

TI devices cannot see people inside buildings. That’s a TV and film myth. There is technology available that does detect the presence of people inside buildings, but that’s a topic for another day.

A thermal imaging device can detect hidden compartments inside a building, such as hiding places and secret compartments used for concealing narcotics, cash, and weapons.

 

Police aircraft are often fitted with thermal imaging equipment called FLIR (Forward Looking Infrared ) systems. These devices are normally attached to the front of the aircraft, like the one pictured above (the upside-down, black and white, dome shaped object hanging below the door).

 

Thermal imaging/FLIR device and videocamera. The device can rotate a full 360 degrees, and has zoom capability.

The FLIR (pronounced – fleer) is gyro-stabilized to ensure steady imagery (images can be recorded on a video recorder inside the aircraft). A cockpit monitor also allows the crew to view the images in real time.

 

Law enforcement officers are able to search large areas at night, in total darkness, for missing and wanted persons. They’re also able to detect freshly turned earth (graves), which enables officers to locate the body of a murder victim.

Thermal imaging devices are also available as handheld models.

Handheld thermal imaging device

Thermal imaging detects a human walking  through a neighborhood.

Thermal imaging shows a man wearing a bullet resistant vest, holding a handgun.

 

Night vision scopes must have some sort of light source to operate properly. The images are seen in the familiar green tone.

Thermal image of author Terry Odell and her husband. Now that’s a hot couple!

 

The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that the use of thermal imaging devices on private property, such as a home or personal office, requires a search warrant.

 

SUPREME COURT OF THE UNITED STATES

KYLLO v. UNITED STATES

CERTIORARI TO THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE NINTH CIRCUIT


No. 99—8508. Argued February 20, 2001–Decided June 11, 2001


Suspicious that marijuana was being grown in petitioner Kyllo’s home in a triplex, agents used a thermal imaging device to scan the triplex to determine if the amount of heat emanating from it was consistent with the high-intensity lamps typically used for indoor marijuana growth. The scan showed that Kyllo’s garage roof and a side wall were relatively hot compared to the rest of his home and substantially warmer than the neighboring units. Based in part on the thermal imaging, a Federal Magistrate Judge issued a warrant to search Kyllo’s home, where the agents found marijuana growing. After Kyllo was indicted on a federal drug charge, he unsuccessfully moved to suppress the evidence seized from his home and then entered a conditional guilty plea. The Ninth Circuit ultimately affirmed, upholding the thermal imaging on the ground that Kyllo had shown no subjective expectation of privacy because he had made no attempt to conceal the heat escaping from his home. Even if he had, ruled the court, there was no objectively reasonable expectation of privacy because the thermal imager did not expose any intimate details of Kyllo’s life, only amorphous hot spots on his home’s exterior.

Held: Where, as here, the Government uses a device that is not in general public use, to explore details of a private home that would previously have been unknowable without physical intrusion, the surveillance is a Fourth Amendment “search,” and is presumptively unreasonable without a warrant. Pp. 3—13.

(a) The question whether a warrantless search of a home is reasonable and hence constitutional must be answered no in most instances, but the antecedent question whether a Fourth Amendment “search” has occurred is not so simple. This Court has approved warrantless visual surveillance of a home, see California v. Ciraolo, 476 U.S. 207, 213, ruling that visual observation is no “search” at all, see Dow Chemical Co. v. United States, 476 U.S. 227, 234—235, 239. In assessing when a search is not a search, the Court has adapted a principle first enunciated in Katz v. United States, 389 U.S. 347, 361: A “search” does not occur–even when its object is a house explicitly protected by the Fourth Amendment–unless the individual manifested a subjective expectation of privacy in the searched object, and society is willing to recognize that expectation as reasonable, see, e.g., California v. Ciraolo, supra, at 211. Pp. 3—5.

(b) While it may be difficult to refine the Katz test in some instances, in the case of the search of a home’s interior–the prototypical and hence most commonly litigated area of protected privacy–there is a ready criterion, with roots deep in the common law, of the minimal expectation of privacy that exists, and that is acknowledged to be reasonable. To withdraw protection of this minimum expectation would be to permit police technology to erode the privacy guaranteed by the Fourth Amendment. Thus, obtaining by sense-enhancing technology any information regarding the home’s interior that could not otherwise have been obtained without physical “intrusion into a constitutionally protected area,” Silverman v. United States, 365 U.S. 505, 512, constitutes a search–at least where (as here) the technology in question is not in general public use. This assures preservation of that degree of privacy against government that existed when the Fourth Amendment was adopted. Pp. 6—7.

(c) Based on this criterion, the information obtained by the thermal imager in this case was the product of a search. The Court rejects the Government’s argument that the thermal imaging must be upheld because it detected only heat radiating from the home’s external surface. Such a mechanical interpretation of the Fourth Amendment was rejected in Katz, where the eavesdropping device in question picked up only sound waves that reached the exterior of the phone booth to which it was attached. Reversing that approach would leave the homeowner at the mercy of advancing technology–including imaging technology that could discern all human activity in the home. Also rejected is the Government’s contention that the thermal imaging was constitutional because it did not detect “intimate details.” Such an approach would be wrong in principle because, in the sanctity of the home, all details are intimate details. See e.g., United States v. Karo, 468 U.S. 705; Dow Chemical, supra, at 238, distinguished. It would also be impractical in application, failing to provide a workable accommodation between law enforcement needs and Fourth Amendment interests. See Oliver v. United States, 466 U.S. 170, 181. Pp. 7—12.

(d) Since the imaging in this case was an unlawful search, it will remain for the District Court to determine whether, without the evidence it provided, the search warrant was supported by probable cause–and if not, whether there is any other basis for supporting admission of that evidence. Pp. 12—13.

190 F.3d 1041, reversed and remanded.

Scalia, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which Souter, Thomas, Ginsburg, and Breyer, JJ., joined. Stevens, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which Rehnquist, C. J., and O’Connor and Kennedy, JJ., joined.

 

Friday's Heroes - Remembering the fallen officers

 

January 1, 2008

Corporal Courtney Brooks (40 years of age) – Maryland Transportation Authority Police. Vehicluar assault. Hit and run driver.

January 5, 2008

Deputy Sheriff Jason Zunker (31) – Chippewa County Sheriff’s Department. Struck by vehicle while directing traffic.

January 8, 2008

Detective James Walker (30) – Miami Police Department. Gunfire (AK-47). The detective exchanged gunfire with a criminal suspect.

January 10, 2008

Deputy Sheriff Sean Pursifull (31) – Bell county Sheriff’s Department. Vehicular assault. The deputy’s patrol car was intentionally rammed by suspects fleeing from police. Deputy Pursifull’s canine, “King,” was also killed.

January 13, 2008

Deputy Constable David Joubert (60) – Harris County Constable’s Office – Motorcycle accident. A passenger vehicle made a left turn from the right lane in front of Deputy Joubert.

January 16, 2008

Officer Eric Barker ( 33) – Dekalb County Police Department. Gunfire

Officer Ricky Bryant, Jr. (26)  – Dekalb County Police Department. Gunfire

Officers Bryant and Barker were ambushed.

January 17, 2008

Detective Jarrod Shivers (34) – Chesapeake Police Department. Gunfire. Shot and killed while serving a search warrant.

January 19, 2008

Senior Border Patrol Agent (31) – Luis Alberto Aguilar. Vehicular assault. Intentionally struck by vehicle.

January 20, 2008

Officer Matthew Thebeau (25) – Corpus Christi Police Department.  Automobile accident while responding to an assault-in-progress.

Officer Akeem Basil (Teddy) Newton (43) – Virgin Islands Police Department. Automobile accident. Oncoming car crossed the center line striking Officer Newton’s car head on.

January 25, 2008

Detective Christpher Ridley (23) – Mt. Vernon Police Department. Accidental gunfire. Shot by police officers who mistook him for an armed criminal suspect.

January 27, 2008

Trooper Daniel Roy Barrett (25) – Indiana State Police. Automobile accident while attempting to stop a car.

January 28, 2008

Officer Nicola Cotton (24) – New Orleans Police Department. Gunfire (Officer’s weapon)

Officer Cotton was eight weeks pregnant when she was killed.

February 1, 2008

Lance Corporal James D. Haynes (38) – South Carolina Highway Patrol. Automobile accident while responding to an automobile accident.

February 4, 2008

Sgt. Richard LeBow (51) – Arkansas State Police. Automobile accident. Hit head on by a tractor trailer.

Deputy Sheriff Dustin Duncan (28) – Latimer County Sheriff’s Office. Automobile accident. Hit head on by a pickup truck.

February 7, 2008

Officer Thomas Fredrick (Tom) Ballman (37) – Kirkwood Police Department. Gunfire

Sgt. William King Biggs, Jr (50) – Kirkwood Police Department. Gunfire

Both officers were shot in the head by an armed suspect during a city council meeting. The suspect was angry with council members.  He also killed two members of the council and the director of public works before being killed by police officers.

Officer Randall (Randy) Simmons (51) – LAPD. Gunfire. Shot and killed during a SWAT team entry of a private residence.

February 14, 2008

Criminal Investigator Denise Phoenix (43) – US Department of the Interior Bureau of Indian Affairs . Exposure to toxins (Meth lab)

February 20, 2008

Corporal Harry Thielepage (57) – Harris County Constable’s Office. Gunfire (Officer’s weapon) Shot while arresting a susoect for drug possession.

February 22, 2008

Senior Corporal Victor Lozada, Sr. (49) – Dallas Police Department. Motorcycle accident while escorting  a U.S. senator ‘s motorcade.

February 25, 2008

Officer Mark Beck (33) – Baton Rouge City Police Department. Automobile accident. Collision with tractor trailer.

February 28, 2008

Trooper Kara M. Kelly Borogogone (33) – Nevada Highway Patrol. Automobile accident while responding to a call involving a possible bomb.

 

March 1, 2008

Officer Derek Owens(36) – Cleveland Police Department.  Gunfire (handgun) Shot and killed while chasing four suspects into an alley.

March 7, 2008

Special Agent Robert Patrick Flickinger (37) – Chickasaw Lighthorse Police Department.  Automobile accident. Head on collision with a pickup truck.

March 29, 2008

Officer James D. Fezatte (41) – Millbrook Police Department. Automobile accident while responding to a civil disturbance.

March 30, 2008

Border Patrol Agent Jarod Dittman (28) – U.S. Department of Homeland Security. Automobile accident while on the way to his assigned area.

April 1, 2008

Constable Joe Howard (55) – Harlan County Constable’s Office. Heart Attack while struggling to arrest a wanted suspect.

April 22, 2008

Correction Officer Kenneth Duncan (40) – New York City Department of Correction. Gunfire. Shot in the face during an attempted larceny – off duty.

April 29, 2008

Trroper James Scott Burns (39) – Texas Department of Public Safety. Gunfire (shotgun) Shot and killed after a high-speed pursuit.

May 1, 2008

Deputy Sheriff Robert Griffin (44) – Decatur County Sheriff’s Office. Automobile accident while responding to a juvenile who was threatening suicide.

May 3, 2008

Deputy Sheriff William Howell, Jr.  (46) – Orangeburg County Sheriff’s Office. Gunfire. Shot and killed during a domestic disturbance.

Sgt. Stephen Liczbinski (39) – Philadelphia Police Department. Gunfire (SKS rifle). Shot while attempting to apprehend three bank robbers. The Sergeant’s last words were, “Tell my wife I love her.”

May 7, 2008

Special Agent Aaron Garcia – Union Pacific Railropad Police Department. Automobile accident while on patrol.

Crime Fighting Robots

 

The remote controlled Andros F-6 robot has the capability to stand tall at 6 feet 5 inches. It can also squat to a compact three-feet. The 500 – 800lb robot can be equipped with attachments to suit the needs of its department. Some of the available attachments and devices are: water pistols for breaking apart explosive devices, gripper arms, video cameras, shotguns, and microphones.

 

R2-D2  of the Butler County Ohio Sheriff’s Office – Richard Jones, Sheriff

Special tires and tracks enable the robots to travel across almost all terrains, such as sand and mud. Some robots are even narrow enough to travel along airplane aisles. They can even climb stairs.

 

Robots can be equipped to detect the presence of hazardous chemicals.

 

Robot armed with shotgun.

 

Robot equipped with window-breaking gear.

 

Robots can be used for handling dangerous chemicals.

 

U.S military robot disarming roadside explosive device.

*Photos by Butler County Ohio Sheriff’s Office – Sheriff Richard Jones, and Northrop Grumman – Remotec.

 

 

Insect Evidence

We’re still trying to work out the bugs in the new system.  In the meantime, here’s some real-life, crime-solving bugs.

 

Maggots are true eating machines. One end is comprised of biting and chewing parts. The other end is an open airway. That’s right, they have the unique ability to breathe while they eat – like cops at a buffet. 

If detectives discover only fly eggs on a body, with no live maggot presence, the victim has probably been deceased  approximately one day. The presence of larvae 5mm long indicates the  victim has been deceased for approximately 1.5 days, etc.

* Notice – Due to the technical difficulties we experienced during the past few days Tuesday’s guest blogger will be rescheduled. Nathan Bransford will be here as scheduled on Wednesday. Thanks for your patience.

Robin Burcell

Robin Burcell has worked in law enforcement for over two decades as a police officer, detective, FBI-trained forensic artist and hostage negotiator. She is the author of the Anthony Award winning SFPD Homicide Inspector Kate Gillespie novels: Every Move She Makes, Fatal Truth, Deadly Legacy and Cold Case, and the upcoming novel The Face of a Killer. You can visit her website at: http://www.robinburcell.com/

Robin Burcell:
When our fight-or-flight response is activated, chemicals in our body are released into our bloodstream. This causes our body to undergo dramatic changes. Respiratory rate increases. Blood is directed into our muscles and limbs for the specific purpose of fueling that “fight or flight.” Most of us know this part of it. But it’s the other responses I find fascinating. You’ve probably experienced it yourself, or heard others say things like “my life flashed before my eyes.” In a way, they were right. In the fight-or-flight response, our awareness intensifies, our sight sharpens, our impulses quicken, and the biggie, our perception of pain diminishes.
It’s the reason you can be injured in a serious car accident, get up, help others in more serious need, but not realize you are even injured until later.

In a nutshell, it is a form of stress, and it’s something that cops experience far too often. The problem is that cumulative stress is bad. It manifests itself in unseen ways, such as hypertension, heart problems, etc. I’ve had my share of stressful incidents, many of which resulted in nightmares, or prolonged bouts of PTSD. Any cop who’s been on the street a while will tell you the same. For me, when the stress of the job became too much to bear, when I was experiencing far too many complaints of what I call short-temper syndrome, I knew I was in trouble. I began to hate my job and the people I was dealing with. I needed help.

Strangely enough, I found that help writing fiction. My fictional world became my psychoanalyst’s couch. I could kill off all sorts of people, and never face an IA investigation. I could come back with zippy one-liners that made even the most macho I-hate-female-officers-type cop shiver in his boots. And best of all, those pesky supervisors who never quite recovered from their post-promotional lobotomies, well, they usually found their just rewards in the pages of my manuscripts.

Suddenly I was walking down the hallways of my department with a bounce in my step. I hadn’t even sold my first book yet, but it didn’t matter. When I came home, I fired up that computer, and voil‡, my day’s problems were resolved.

If only real life were that easy.

But I digress. The reason I brought up the fight-or-flight response is because many of you who read Lee’s blog are interested in the real life stuff that you can use in your own writing. I’m no different. Aside from killing off pesky supervisors, I like to pepper my fiction with real-life scenarios, things taken from my own experiences to give my books that ring of authenticity. In FACE OF A KILLER, the first in my new series that debuts this fall (hardcover with Poisoned Pen Press, paper with HarperCollins), my character is an FBI agent/forensic artist, and I’ve tried to include a few scrapes for her to get into that give the reader an idea of what it’s like to become involved in a life-threatening moment where this response occurs.

One of the best scenes I ever wrote that never made it into one of my books (DEADLY LEGACY) was taken from a real life experience that happened when a suspect pulled a knife on me and my partner, a rookie barely on the street a few months. The strange thing about that real life case was that before it even registered in my mind, our guns were drawn. I couldn’t even tell you how my gun got in my hand. I was talking on the phone to dispatch at the time, trying to get information on the suspect, and the next thing I know, I’m pointing my Glock at this guy who has a knife drawn on us. Since I am also a trained hostage negotiator, I immediately began the process of negotiating the knife away from the suspect. The whole thing was caught on tape by dispatch, because apparently I had set the phone down to draw my weapon and the line was open the whole time. Up to that point, everything had happened so fast, but once we drew down on him, or rather once he drew his knife on us, everything happened in slow motion. Much like the special effect scenes in the movie THE MATRIX. It was all very surreal.

And the fictional account that I wrote about it was a great scene. Realistic, because it was taken from real life. Only in the book I changed the bad guy to a bad girl. Gender didn’t matter. Knives, as cops know, are deadly no matter who is holding one. Someone can pull a knife from twenty feet away and kill you before you ever get your gun out. Unfortunately for me, but probably fortunate for the readers of my series, my editor made me take the scene out. Actually she made me take out the entire thread involving this woman, because it didn’t move the story forward. And she was right. But it was still a great scene. It showed the fight-or-flight response in a cop, exactly what happens when danger strikes and a cop has that split second to act.

As humans, we’re all susceptible to this instinctual response. It occurs whenever you have been involved in any near-death experience, and even some not-so-near-death experiences. It’s your body’s way of reacting to protect you. You’ve probably experienced the mildest form on more than one occasion, maybe without even realizing it. Ever had to slam on your brakes in a car, because some nitwit turned in front of you? Felt the pins and needles in your wrists as you gripped the steering wheel, the pounding of your heart after the threat was gone? That was a rush and release of adrenaline, the start of the response designed to allow you to take action far quicker than you could have, had you not been scared.

But what if you haven’t experienced the real thing, and you want your cop or your protagonist in your story to experience it? What does it feel like? What happens when it’s over and done with?

Remember the part where I said I had my gun out and didn’t even know I’d drawn down on the guy? That occurred because when faced with fight-or-flight, a person resorts to training. It’s why cops spend hours on the range doing nothing but drawing his/her weapon at the sight of a threat. And further hours on proper shooting techniques, which sometimes means eliminating bad habits or developing good ones so that when under stress, when faced with fight-or-flight, the automatic response is to do the right thing. Training is all about developing good habits. Had we not been trained over and over to draw our guns for this “threat,” chances are we might have done something else without thinking. Dove. Tried to grab the knife. Fled, which is the other part of the response. Who knows?

But what about this whole Matrix thing? This life-flashing-before-your-eyes feeling, as if time-has-fragmented thing? It occurs because your senses have been heightened. You actually develop tunnel vision, the better to concentrate only on the immediate threat in front of you. In my case, the guy draws the knife, but then points it to his belly and says that we might as well kill him. My finger on the trigger actually releases past that first click. He is now a threat to himself. Not me. But then he lifts the knife. Trigger finger pulls slightly, hearing/feeling that first click. He’s a hairsbreadth away from dying. Then the knife is back down at his belly. Trigger finger releases again. It’s at this moment that our third backup, a lieutenant, arrives, walks in the door, assesses the situation. The suspect reaches up, grabs his sunglasses off his head and throws them at the lieutenant.

I can see the sunglasses spinning end-over-end. The lieutenant later tells me that he has no idea what the guy has thrown at him. Why? The lieutenant’s body has yet to react to fight-or-flight. His perception isn’t as heightened as ours, because he hasn’t perceived that his life has been threatened yet—that is until the sunglasses come flying at him. Because he doesn’t know what that object flying at him is, he perceives it as potential danger, and it changes his body’s response instantly. He sprays the guy with OC (pepper spray). But because I am fully in the threshold of the fight-or-flight response, I can see the clear liquid of the spray, the tiny droplets coming down as it arcs across the room. It hits the suspect in his face, and he’s not fazed—because his body is also in full fight-or-flight response. His sense of pain is diminished. He taunts the lieutenant, asking him what he thinks he’s doing. In the meantime, I’m trying to negotiate with him to drop the knife, because we really don’t want to kill him in his mother’s house, and I tell him to think of how bad she’d feel. Eventually, he tells us he will drop it. He spins, throws the knife into the couch, and it is buried hilt deep. (Open, the knife was eight inches. There is maybe an inch of the hilt left showing. I realize that could have been us, our bodies. But that thought does not enter my mind until later, when we remove the knife from the couch.) We rush forward, take him into custody.

When it’s all over and done with, we escort him outside and throw him in the back of my car, so I can drive him to mental health. The threat is now over, but our bodies have yet to recover. Slowly our senses are returning to normal. We begin to feel things that we were not aware of in the midst of all this. Our suspect begins to scream in pain that the pepper spray is hurting his face. I can actually start to feel the effects in my own eyes, the remnants of a sting, the taste of it in my mouth. I stand there by my patrol car, and suddenly my knees get shaky, and I feel nauseous. The adrenaline is now leaving my body, and the blood that fueled my extremities is returning to other parts, trying to get my body back to normal.

I’m pretty much good for nothing for the next several minutes. But I have an easy job. It’s my call, so I have to drive the guy to mental health, which means I have at least an hour or more to slowly get back to normal. The rookie isn’t so lucky. He has to return to the street.

What I find amusing in cop shows are the scenes where a cop is fully in the midst of the fight-or-flight, saves his partner, or kills the bad guy, or performs some other brave feat, then stands there and has a normal conversation like it’s no big deal, never even breaking a sweat. Hands aren’t shaking, voice isn’t quavering.

Not gonna happen in real life.

Lee Lofland

On Wednesday May 7 our guest blogger will be literary agent Nathan Bransford of Curtis Brown LTD.

Nathan has requested to receive questions in advance of his post. If you’d like to submit a question you can do it here in the comments section, or you can send it to me at lee@leelofland.com and I’ll forward it to Nathan.

Weekend Road Trip will return next weekend

Monday – Author/Police Officer Robin Burcell

Tuesday – Jane Friedman of Writers Digest Books

The Graveyard Shift is temporarily out of order. We’re experiencing some weird technical difficulties. We hope to have the issues resolved before Monday morning. Thanks for your patience.

 

Friday's Heroes - Remembering the fallen officers

Officer Tabke

Gary Tabke has lived a life in motion almost from his birth on an Air Force base. Attending four different high schools in various states and abroad helped to shape the individual he is today. Often the new kid in town, Gary learned early the narrow mindedness and prejudices that permeate society. It was one of the forces that drove him to become a police officer. Fourteen years of patrol including a stint as an FTO (Field Training Officer) on city streets lead to several injuries and an early retirement.

Not one to sit on his laurels, Gary started a successful swimming pool and spa design business and began coaching high school football. Five years later, the pool business has given way to a rising coaching career. Gary is currently coaching college football at a NCAA Division III school and is cofounder of two highly successful football camps in California.

A father of four and married for 25 years to the same romance writer, Gary loves helping Karin mete out plots, scenes and dialog. He also secretly harbors a love of writing and has had numerous sports articles published in his home town paper, as well as several poems of comic relief appear on various web sites. Rumor has it, Gary has the first six chapters completed of a police procedural novel that he hopes to someday see in print. Rumor also has it this is the third time the book has been started…

My book is about cops working the street and life through their eyes. I’ve incorporated many aspects of the job both funny and horrifying, as the main character works through his demons while trying to stop a string of violent bar takeover robberies. I love watching the expressions of surprise and disbelief on Karin’s face as she reads my story. Thank God it’s the story and not my writing she is reacting to. A sampling of Karin Tabke’s published list includes, What You Can’t See, Good Girl Gone Bad, Skin and the soon to be released Jaded, and Master of Surrender, Simon and Schuster.  Gary can be found on his web site at: http://www.linemeninc.com/

Gary Tabke:

Lee, thank you for the invitation to blog on your web site. I am an expert at nothing and couldn’t imagine why you would want my in put along side so many notables already posted here. Then my wife, Karin, pointed out all that has brought me to where I am presently. I think there is value to a life lived and experiences survived and learned from.  In many ways, my life has been one tutorial after another but I’ve taken those lessons to heart. As an FTO and later as a football coach, I have tried to pass on those life lessons to others in the hope of somehow making their journey a little easier.

Training a recruit is always an experience, whether they are fresh meat out of the academy or an old salt that just transferred to your department. As per Wikipedia:  The duties of the FTO involve being a role model of the expectations of training, teaching the trainee the policies of the department and to correctly apply the concepts they learned in the classroom to field operations, and evaluating the trainee on his or her progress in the program. Ultimately, the FTO is responsible for making sure shift duties are performed properly and completely, making the position a particularly challenging one.

Along with the department line, I always felt it was the duty of the FTO to make sure his recruit knew how to stay alive at three in the morning, alone in the meat grinder. The meat grinder is that section of the city where the crime rate is the highest, the income level the lowest and the neighborhoods the toughest. We worked one man cars, approximately ten-twelve per shift, plus two S-units. More than anything else, I needed to know my recruit could survive on their own.

There are several names of affection that can be given a recruit; rookie, boot, probie, trainee, asshole, idiot, Gomer Plye. The list is endless and varies with each individual and where they are with their training. There are just as many ways to test their metal. Most are by assuring the recruit gets to be in the middle of the action as often as possible. They love it when you answer up for someone else’s detail, “One-Adam-Twelve, we’ll take that for training.”

One dinosaur I worked with was a former Marine and Golden Gloves boxer. After about one week with a recruit he would have them drive to a quiet out of the way place and advise dispatch that they would be off the air for a few, “training”. He had one particular spot he liked to go and when we heard it come over the air everyone knew what was up.  This officer would get out of the car and light up one of those short, thin black cigars and invite the rook to get out as well. He’d start by questioning them about their life’s experiences and then move onto personal physical altercations and self-defense training taught at the academy. This was followed by a hand to hand demonstration and finally he would invite the recruit to punch him. Actually, he’d tell the recruit to kick his ass or get his own ass kicked. Relax, almost all survived, almost all.

“Many here the call but few are called to answer.”

One young redheaded lad who was affable enough but just not very tenacious had heard the stories and was getting ribbed pretty good about his upcoming tour with the old salt FTO. To say he was nervous would be an understatement. The moment he heard his FTO advise dispatch that they were headed to the sacred spot for some training, he broke into a sweat, getting out of the car and into the conversation just added to his tension.  When the big moment came, he ran around the patrol car in a panic refusing to engage his FTO who was in hot pursuit. After several minutes of this the FTO got back in the vehicle and told the rook to drive them to the station.  25% of our recruits washed out for one reason or another and Red ended up in that group.

There is much a recruit must learn and be taught. Being an FTO is a huge responsibility and must be taken seriously. They need to learn procedure, report writing, citation writing, officer safety, General Orders, the penal code, the traffic code, municipal codes, investigation techniques, driving skills, firearms, self defense, patience and when to escalate things. Knowing how to roll code three, talk on the radio and hold a cup of coffee at the same time isn’t bad to know either. However, common sense and a command presence pretty much have to be inherent.

When I left the FTO program I was told they were going in a different direction than in the past.  They wanted training officers who would be “cheerleaders and mentors”. I never wanted to work with a guy or gal who needed a hug to get through a shift. In the end, I guess I too had become a dinosaur.

Books by Karin Tabke

Master of SurrenderWhat You Can't See

Homicide investigations

 

How many of you thought murder and homicide were the same? That’s what I thought. Well, they’re not.

Homicide is the killing of one person by another. It can be legal if the killing is in self-defense, in the defense of others, or in the case of court-ordered executions.

 

Murder is an illegal homicide.

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Manslaughter is a criminal homicide without deliberation, malice, or premeditation.

Involuntary Manslaughter is usually where a death occurs as the result of an accident.

The first officer – normally a patrol officer –  to arrive at the scene of a homicide is in charge of the scene until she is relieved by her supervisor, or a detective.  It’s the job of the first responding officer to:

– Assess the scene. Make sure it’s safe to enter – no dangerous fumes, chemicals, or armed subjects.

– Check the victim for signs of life

– Administer first aid, if needed

– Call for emergency medical and fire services, if needed

– call for back up, if needed

– Secure the scene

 

– Make the scene safe for arriving officers and medical personnel

 

– Obtain initial information from witnesses

 

– Call for investigators

– Call for medical examiner or coroner (there is a difference)

– Protect the evidence

– Provide security for investigators

– Keep media and citizens at a safe distance

 

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Tomorrow – Field Training Officer Gary Tabke