In that blog about not getting caught, I mentioned that a full one-third of all murders remain unsolved—a staggering 200,000 cases in the last 50 years. Prior to that time, the clearance rate (defined as identifying a suspect and eventually going to trial or securing a plea deal) was over 90%.
There are several reasons why so many murders remain unsolved today. They include 1) harder standards for charging someone for murder than in the past, 2) deteriorating relationships between police and the public, and a sense of distrust of the police and “the system” that creates a reluctance for potential witnesses to testify, and 3) stranger-to-stranger homicides with few or no suspect leads.
Recently, I was discussing “the perfect murder” subject with a past law enforcement officer and a defense attorney. As you can imagine, the discussion with those two individuals was lively and all sorts of reasons why criminals get caught came out of that conversation.
In essence, however, it boiled down to those who commit serious crimes like murder get caught simply because they are sloppy. They leave DNA evidence, they murder someone known to them and trace evidence somehow gets linked back to them, they have poor or insufficient alibis, and they tend to keep and hide the murder weapon or use a weapon that easily connects back to them.
One particular fact that both the law enforcement officer and the defense attorney agreed with about why criminals get caught is that they talk too much!
The one overall comment on how to commit the perfect murder amounted to “don’t talk about it.” They both agreed that suspects often put the spotlight on themselves by saying too much.
Even if murderers left no trace DNA behind that linked back to them, made sure that the victim and the place of the crime or the murder weapon did not somehow connect them to the crime, they could still incriminate themselves by simply opening their mouths and speaking.
These two professionals told me that criminals usually either over explain or provide critical judicial information to friends, relatives, and acquaintances unknowingly and that information leads police to suspect them; or, they say something in an interrogation that only the guilty party would know.
Experts say that those who have committed a serious crime should walk away and never talk about it—to anyone! They should also avoid television news and newspapers. Police use these media tools to try to psych out suspects into celebrating their crime, thus putting a spotlight on their criminal activity. Criminals somehow eventually vary their daily routines or try to run and that creates interest in their changed lifestyle.
Also, if a suspect is actually arrested, the best way to give the authorities additional evidence is to open his or her mouth to talk about the crime in any way. Police need evidence to convict a suspect. If the criminal has committed the crime perfectly, there will not be enough evidence against the suspect and the police will be “fishing” for any tidbit of information that may not be consistent with the person’s innocence. There are very specific reasons why the first thing an attorney advises a client is this. “Don’t talk to anyone about the crime—the police, civilians, or anyone while in custody.”
The best legal advice, I’m told, is for an arrested person to not speak—AT ALL. Anytime a person speaks in an interrogation, on the witness stand, or to another inmate, that could help the police connect the dots to the crime by giving testimony to facts that only the criminal could know. Whenever a suspect is on the other side of an interrogation room table, anything coming out of the mouth of that suspect is fair game to link that person in some way to the crime.
Any criminal suspect that goes to trial must be found guilty “beyond a reasonable doubt.” The silent criminal has a much better chance of being found not guilty by not testifying in any way, and he or she may not even get to the point of a trial if that person remains silent during the interrogation and holding process; that is, as long as that suspect has done the proper job of not leaving ANY other evidence to link them to the crime.
Thoughts? Comments? I’d love to hear them!