Tag Archives: detectives

Dublin’s murder squad hunts for a killer in ‘The Trespasser’

Though Detective Antoinette Conway always dreamed of working in the murder squad, now that she’s made it to the Dublin Castle grounds where Ireland’s best detectives track down killers, she wants out.

Her co-workers harass her, and the majority of cases that make it to her desk involve domestic disputes, not the psychopathic serial killers she’d imagined hunting. When her boss assigns Antoinette and her partner a new case complete with a smarmy third detective to act as a baby sitter, Antoinette considers this her last stint on the squad before trading in her badge for a job at a security agency.

When they arrive at the scene, Antoinette stares into the face of the murder victim, Aislinn Murray, and recognizes her, though she can’t place the memory. The scene of the crime, complete with a candlelit table set for two and dinner in the oven, points to yet another date gone bad.

This should be a slam dunk. But from here, the case proves a wild animal nobody can read, sometimes bounding in a predictable direction, other times leaping down a path that catches everyone off guard. On top of this, Antoinette notices a strange man frequenting the road outside her house.

Author Tana French incessantly pushes the plot of The Trespasser forward with absorbing dialogue and shifty villains. When the investigation hits walls, relationships grow and morph, making the work as much about internal conflicts as external. Antoinette narrates with a rich, raw voice. Her sarcasm combined with a wry, hard-edged view on life may weary readers, but keep reading, because as in all of the author’s work, meaning lurks beneath every quip and glance.

French not only spins a twisty cop tale, she also encases it in meticulous prose, creating a read that is as elegant as it is dark.

Maryland lays out reasons against new trial in ‘Serial’ case

A Baltimore judge was wrong to consider “a novel standalone claim” about the reliability of cellphone tracking evidence in granting a new trial for a man whose murder conviction was re-examined in a popular Serial podcast, the Maryland attorney general’s office says.

The podcast attracted millions of listeners who became armchair detectives as the series analyzed the case for weeks in the winter of 2014.

Appealing the decision to retry Adnan Syed, attorneys for the state contend that retired Baltimore Circuit Court Judge Martin Welch should not have ruled that his initial attorneys were constitutionally deficient because they failed to bring into evidence a warning from AT&T.

The cover sheet says: “Outgoing calls only are reliable for location status. Any incoming calls will NOT be considered reliable information for location.”

The first three words — “Outgoing calls only” — are underlined in the fax AT&T sent to Baltimore police.

Defense attorneys said prosecutors improperly used unreliable tower data on incoming calls to place Syed’s phone near the burial site of his former high school girlfriend, Hae Min Lee, who was killed in 1999.

Welch agreed, ruling that Syed’s attorney provided “ineffective assistance for the failure to cross-examine the state’s cell tower expert about the reliability of cell tower location evidence.”

In its appeal filed Monday, the state counters that Syed’s trial attorney, Cristina Gutierrez, “was far from ineffective in her challenge of the state’s cellphone evidence.”

“For one thing, there is no consensus among experts in the forensic community that Syed’s interpretation of the fax cover sheet is valid,” wrote Thiru Vignarajah, a deputy attorney general.

“Where one expert concludes the disclaimer does not apply, another finds it does, and yet a third opines it is ambiguous, trial counsel cannot be declared ineffective for a sustained and vigorous cross examination that does not incorporate an uncertain line of attack.”

The state also argued that Syed waived his right to raise the issue about the cross-examination failure now because he should have raised it in a prior proceeding. But the judge ruled that Syed didn’t “intelligently or knowingly” waive his right, noting that he never completed his high school degree.

“We think Judge Welch reached the correct decision in granting Syed a new trial,” said C. Justin Brown, Syed’s attorney.

Syed’s attorneys also argued that he deserves a retrial because his original attorney did not contact Asia McClain Chapman, an alibi witness who swore in an affidavit that she saw Syed at the Woodlawn library about the same time prosecutors say Lee was murdered.

Welch disagreed with the defense on that point. He also disagreed that prosecutors breached their duty by withholding exculpatory evidence.

But the attorney general’s office says the judge was wrong to include arguments about the cover sheet in reopened legal proceedings that were supposed to be predicated on Chapman’s newly available affidavit.

“Maryland’s courts have imposed few limits on what qualifies as in the ‘interest of justice,’ but limits remain,” wrote Vignarajah.

On the Web…

Find the podcast Serial here.

Social media sleuths aid investigation into gay couple’s beating in Philadelphia

Police in Philadelphia searching for a group of people suspected in the beating of a gay couple got an outpouring of help from Twitter and Facebook users, who located a photo of the clean-cut young men and women at a restaurant and helped match names to faces.

Attorneys representing a number of those seen in the video notified police they would bring in their clients to tell their side of the story, a police spokesman, Sgt. Eric Gripp, said.

A security video of the group strolling downtown was posted by police earlier this week and set the online community to work.

Within hours, a Twitter user posted a photo of the well-dressed men and women gathered at a restaurant on the night of the attack. Social media users soon figured out which restaurant, used Facebook to find people who had “checked in” there, and started coming up with the names of those pictured.

“This is how Twitter is supposed to work for cops,” Detective Joe Murray tweeted as the crowd-sourced investigation exploded online. “I will take a couple thousand Twitter detectives over any one real detective any day.”

“Love the outpouring of social media sleuthing happening in our city tonight! Let’s keep it up!” another department posting said.

The victims, a gay couple in their late 20s, were held down, punched and beaten after they bumped into a group of about a dozen people on the street, just blocks from a part of town known affectionately as “the Gayborhood.” Members of the group hurled gay slurs as the men were pummeled, police said.

One man was left with a broken eye socket and a wired jaw, while his partner had bruises and a black eye.

A defense lawyer, who spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because he had not been formally retained, suggested the fight could have stemmed from random contact, not bias. Pennsylvania’s hate-crimes law, in any case, doesn’t cover crimes motivated by a person’s sexual orientation.

The lawyer said he was contacted by a potential client before police posted the video. He said the group consisted largely of working professionals.

Philadelphia police routinely seek the public’s help with criminal investigations through Twitter, YouTube, a department website and other online forums.