Castle: Anatomy Of A Murder – A Review of the Police Procedure

Castle: Anatomy Of a Murder

Another episode of Castle has come and gone and now it’s time for the review. Along with the commentary will come the usual small mountain of hate mail from die-hard Castle fans who read this blog every week and then declare open season on me for the comments I write about their beloved characters. I’ve tried to explain to the haters that I actually like the show. I like the characters. I like the actors. And I like the stories…for the most part. Oh, and I really don’t take it personally when the writers butcher the world of forensics and police work. I know that Tamala Jones is an actor. I know she’s not really the worst medical examiner in the world, even though her character is. You know why the horrible portrayal of cops and pathologists doesn’t bother me? Because the show is fiction and, for the most part, it’s a comedy.

The purpose of this blog post is to educate anyone who’s interested in learning about what’s real and what’s not (about police procedure and forensics) on Castle. For example, this show frequently uses lividity to determine the time of death. That’s not real, and I’ve pointed it out several times.

One can forgive an error if it’s close to the truth, but this one is so far off base they may as well have used something from another field entirely to determine TOD. Hmm…speaking of field, why not use something from the farm in place of lividity? It would sound just as dumb to those of us in the business of crime-solving. So let’s substitute “pig’s snout” in place of lividity each time Lanie incorrectly uses the term.

Okay, that’s out of the way. So off we go…

This week’s body find was a double play—two stiffs in one casket. Now that’s a brilliant way to dispose of a body, isn’t it. Well, it is if the killer is a mortician. Anyone else would have a hard time sneaking a body inside the casket after it was sealed by the funeral home folks. And I think the embalmers would notice an extra corpse prior to sealing the box.

I figure the best two places to commit a murder would be a funeral home (then you could easily incinerate the evidence) and a morgue (tough place for CSI to sort out DNA, huh?).

Did you know there was a third murder this week? That’s right, a third victim was brutally killed off screen and M.E. Lanie P. should be charged for repeatedly stabbing me with her stupid babble. And one of the first words out of her mouth was lividity (I wrote the first section of this post BEFORE I watched the show). That’s how predictable she is.

Again, let’s get Lanie’s goofiness out of the way:

– So (remember, we’re substituting words here) Lanie says, “According to the pig’s snout the time of death was between 7 and 9 last night. See how ridiculous that sounds? Well, that’s what it sounds like to me when she uses other terms and procedures incorrectly.

– Lanie P. also said she found a bruise on the back of the victim’s neck, but it wasn’t the cause of death. The only way she could possibly know that is because she’d already read the script. Anyone else would have to wait until the autopsy was complete.

– She said she found gray nylon fibers on the body. How’d she know they were nylon? They hadn’t been tested yet. BUT, she did say later that she’d sent the fibers to the lab for testing. HOORAY! She finally sent something to a lab instead of doing it all herself. Castle writers…that wasn’t too hard, was it? That’s all you had to do to make this character more believable. Doesn’t take any more time or space to have her say things like that. Lanie even sounded more credible (for that one split second) when she mentioned it.

– She told Beckett that she’d found a needle mark in the victim’s neck. She then said the person who caused the needle mark to be there had inserted an empty syringe into the carotid artery and then pumped an air bubble into the brain, which caused the death. How’d she know the syringe was empty? No way to tell. Besides, it was far too soon to have any tox results back. Cause of death could have been any number of things.

Okay, enough of L.P.’s nonsense. Let’s move on…

– I like it when Beckett and Castle bounce ideas back and forth. Good way to come up with theories.

– Beckett tells the guy (an investigator) who was last seen with the victim that he’d better cooperate or she’d have to arrest him. For what?

– Beckett tells one of her partners to have a prison fax her a list of everyone who’d visited an inmate during the past six months. I’m sure the prison officials are still laughing at her request. And they had even more reason to bust a gut when she told her cohorts to go to the prison and tell the warden to search an inmate’s cell and then bring that prisoner back to the police department. An officer has no authority at a prison. None. And a prison would never allow a police officer to simple drive over and pick up an inmate. If officers need to speak to a prisoner they go to the facility. Prisoners aren’t allowed outside without a prison escort, and only then for court or medical reasons (unless they’re on a work detail).

– The whole “fake a stroke using morphine and other drugs” scenario was totally unbelievable. Apparently, no one from the show did any research about prison procedures. Where were the mandatory prison guards/officers during this entire silly scenario? What about how the nurses obtained the drugs? Narcotics have to be accounted for. They’re kept in a locked cabinet that requires a code or key to be opened. And the requirements for documentation are tough.

And someone from the morgue released the body of a prison inmate before prison officials were able to confirm the death?? No way…just plain silly.

At the end we see the suspects (the male nurse and the prison escapee who faked her own death) sitting in the same cell. That would never happen. Male and female prisoners are segregated for obvious reasons. And these two offered double the reason for separation—they’re lovers and they’d just pulled off an escape.

And wasn’t it sweet that Beckett was able to report that charges would be dropped against the two because of a lack of evidence in the female inmate’s original trial.  Well, I’m sorry, but that has nothing to do with the escape, the illegal drugs, document falsifying, abuse of a corpse, and the dozens of other crimes she and her boyfriend had just committed. Those charges would stand.

The rest of the show (the lovey-dovey stuff) was pretty believable, and good, with the exception of one major point. Someone said Taylor Swift could…well, you be the judge. Here she is with Stevie Nicks.

9 replies
  1. cf
    cf says:

    Just a note on your comment about embalmers– it was a Jewish funeral. Jewish people don’t get embalmed. But another problem you could substitute for that is that in Jewish tradition, the body is never left alone, from the time you find the person is dead until burial. Very difficult to tamper with a coffin that’s never alone.

    But I love the show anyway.

  2. Lisa Jackson (aka Lisa Haselton)
    Lisa Jackson (aka Lisa Haselton) says:

    Hi Lee,

    Your post covered all the things I noticed this week, and many I didn’t. I lost track of the # of times “lividity” was used this week.

    Sorry for Lanie beating you up with her babble. It is painful listening to her though. And I cringed when she came back a bit past the half-way mark of the show. I’d like the male M.E. back, he seems to get better dialogue.

    What caught my attention the most this week was how anyone could tell the skill level of the person who gave the injection. The carotid is a main artery, so even a newbie could most likely puncture it with the first try. How the M.E. knew it was a syringe filled only with air was mystifying, too.

    I like the character interaction – thought Castle showed sincere caring for the girlfriend/ex-wife. I like how he and Beckett bounce ideas off each other.

    Oh, I think it was last week that you asked, as writers, how we’d write the Castle/Beckett tension differently. For me, I’d have them be professional and every now and then as they are working out theories together they end up saying the same thing at the same time, or there is some moment that happens that makes them pause. The hangdog look Castle gets when Beckett goes out with a date or when she makes a sincere comment like “I’d break you out (of jail)”, don’t work.

    Scott – I hadn’t noticed that about the book, but now I’ll keep an eye out. Guess it’s similar to Seinfeld always having Superman in that shows episodes.

    thanks for doing these summaries each week, Lee. I enjoy reading what other folks notice, too.

  3. Scott
    Scott says:

    Interesting Castle fact I picked up over at imdb, that I never noticed before, and am not completely sure is true, but would be cool if it was…

    Detective Kevin Ryan (Seamus Dever) can be seen carrying a copy of one of Castle’s books at least once in every episode

  4. Lee Lofland
    Lee Lofland says:

    Anon – You’re absolutely correct. I’m without a DVR so my hastily written notes were interpreted wrong. Still doesn’t change anything though.

    Michael – I agree. That place is like a public library…anybody can check out items.

    Kelly – No, written statements aren’t mandatory, or necessary. If they did ask her to write something it wouldn’t matter where that took place.

    Valerie – I, too, was pleased that nothing happened between those two. Besides, she just seems wrong for Castle. She seems wrong for Alexis, too, for that matter. But the show really needs to find another angle on the Beckett/Castle thing. It’s getting old. But, so am I.

  5. Anon
    Anon says:

    In defense of the show; Beckett doesn’t say that the charges that will be dropped against the nurse, only that the prosecutor would recommend a suspended sentence if his GF was exonerated of her original crime.

  6. Michael A. Burstein
    Michael A. Burstein says:

    The part that bothered me most was when Castle was casually playing with the victim’s cell phone and finding information out, which he then gave to Beckett. Isn’t there a forensics team that would go through the cell phone methodically, knowing how important information on it might be? In fact, isn’t there a special name for this?

    Of course, it’s not the first time Castle gets to walk off with evidence (e.g., the “treasure map” from last episode).

    Beckett’s precinct must have the most porous evidence locker in the NYPD. 🙂

  7. Valerie Hansen
    Valerie Hansen says:

    Back to what’s different:
    They’ve softened Beckett some this week. Trimmed her hair at the sides and maybe also added red highlights. It helps but not nearly as much as the shorter hairdo and classier clothes would. She can look so much better – and has – that it bothers me. Although Castle doesn’t seem to care. She must have also gotten a fictional raise because she now has more than 1 coat. Hooray.

    As for the plot, it was totally bogus but the interplay of the characters had nice moments. I loved the look on his face when Beckett said she would break HIM out of jail. Classic.

    Yeah, I’m a hopeless romantic. And glad they didn’t show him sleeping with his ex.

    Gonna miss Cannell in the poker games.

    Valerie Hansen

  8. Kelly
    Kelly says:

    Lee, I have a quick question for you this morning.
    If some one witnessed a suspect from a homicide leaving the scene- she could identify the person, but did not actually see the person commit the crime, I know that she would be questioned at the scene. Would that person also have to give a written statement?

    If so, would that be at the police station, and if so, if she did not have a way to get there, is it possible that a uniformed officer (or detective?) could come to her house or work place and give her a ride? Or would they go to her house/place of work and get the statement there?

    Once I was asked to come to a station to give a written statement, but I could come “at my convenience” It was for a pretty serious crime, but not a homicide.


  9. Kelly
    Kelly says:

    I thought it was a pretty good show last night. I groaned over the lividity. Also, Lanie said there were no other marks on the body, but the body hadn’t been moved, undressed etc.

    I can’t comment much on police/prison procedures, but I knew the “Doctors and Nurses unwittingly getting drugs, signing off on death certificates,” etc, was so bogus. My Mom was a hospital nurse for years and she would be the first to say, “No Way” You might be able, with a lot of luck, get away with one of those, but not the whole list.

    Breaking someone out of prison, even if that person is innocent, is a BFD-I don’t think they would be so quick to drop charges.

    I liked the exchange between Becket and Castle over the love letters. That was a nice little moment.

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