The Declarer (Floyd McWilliams' Blog)

Tuesday, February 10, 2004


There must be a whole lot of people who love Agatha Christie. I mean I do. Can't get enough. I have two shelves full of Christie paperbacks, another shelf of Rex Stout, all the Dorothy Sayers mysteries, and even a few books by Simenon.

But -- I realize that when you read a murder mystery you have to suspend disbelief. In real life there are no perplexing homicides where there are six suspects with equally strong motives, and the bodies continue to pile up. (Have you ever heard of a high-profile murder where shortly thereafter someone materially involved was murdered?) And of course in real life the most likely suspect really did do it. A real-life murder mystery is, "Did Von Bulow inject his wife with insulin?" Or, "Is O.J. Simpson guilty?"

(No, wait, that last one is an IQ test. Sorry.)

So what do we make of the crowd of people in front of San Quentin who protested the imminent execution of Kevin Cooper? Do they think that Christie mysteries are filed under "true crime?" Let's see: A guy breaks out of prison and is hiding in a neighborhood where four people are hacked to death and blood found at the scene is determined by DNA testing to be his. Well obviously he is the least likely suspect, huh?

Cooper's defenders claim that police planted Cooper's blood. (Very foresighted of them to have done so as DNA testing would not be a standard criminological procedure for several years!) This is an unfalsifiable fantasy. Why not blame UFOs, or possession by demons? Cooper's lawyers "want the sample retested for a particular preservative agent" -- well that's just a no-fuckin'-brainer for a blood sample that's been around for twenty years, eh? What else do they want to test for? That the blood sample was in a laboratory? That it was kept in a test tube? And why would police need to frame a guy who was caught escaping from prison and was sure to go back for a long stretch? So when Southern California cops caught Sirhan Sirhan the first thing they did was to leave his hairs on shoplifting evidence?

Amazingly, the Supreme Court bought into this nonsense and concurred in the Ninth Circuit's stay of execution. (In 1992 the Supremes got so irritated at the Ninth Circuit's perpetual stays on behalf of convicted murderer Richard Alton Harris that they forbade that court from issuing any more stays.) I can only assume that the Supreme Court justices are also taking a page out of Christie's book, and are doing the unexpected to keep the Ninth Circuit on their toes.


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