Elmore Leonard’s rules of writing are, of course, excellent guidelines.

  1. Never open a book with weather.
  2. Avoid prologues.
  3. Never use a verb other than “said” to carry dialogue.
  4. Never use an adverb to modify the verb “said”…he admonished gravely.
  5. Keep your exclamation points under control. You are allowed no more than two or three per 100,000 words of prose.
  6. Never use the words “suddenly” or “all hell broke loose.”
  7. Use regional dialect, patois, sparingly.
  8. Avoid detailed descriptions of characters.
  9. Don’t go into great detail describing places and things.
  10. Try to leave out the part that readers tend to skip.

The renowned author also offered another fantastic bit of advice when he wrote, “If it sounds like writing, I rewrite it.”

So, totally ignoring Mr. Elmore’s sound advice, I’ll open today’s article with the weather followed by descriptions of people and places that are definitely “purposely overwritten, and suddenly so,” I said.

The need to break a few more of Leonard’s rules were also far too irresistible to pass up.

The horribly overwritten description of the incident, one that’s quite true, went something like this, but with far fewer words that readers tend to skip.

The Night Was Dark, But Not Stormy

It was a quiet summer night, a night when the temperature hovered at the 80-degree mark long after the sun disappeared behind the stands of trees, rolling hills, and urban sprawl that formed the barrier between land and orange- and purplish pink-streaked sky. It was after lightning bugs began their winking and blinking neon-like displays across fields and backyards. Mosquito trucks rolled slowly along, fogging neighborhoods with clouds of stinky insecticide. Humidity-filled air coated the skin and filled the lungs like butter pecan syrup oozes across the surfaces of hot IHOP buttermilk pancakes. Flashes of heat lightning illuminated the distant sky, backlighting clouds and the bats that flew in looping circles around the streetlamps that had begun to switch on throughout the city.

In short, it was a typical southern summer end to a sweltering day.

The evening shift had been reasonably quiet with no real crimes to speak of, when suddenly a sweat-drenched, frightened, nervous, and wild-eyed young man, a teenager, appeared at the lobby window. He was panting as if he’d just finished the last leg of a marathon; his body was rail thin with long and slender arms and legs that protruded from his torso, resembling the wet and steaming spaghetti noodles that limply hang from the holes in the bottom of a colander after all the hot water is drained.

He rambled on and on about a body in the woods. He stammered and stuttered about seeing a man shot to death. Between bouts of uncontrollable sobbing and using a bare forearm to repeatedly swipe at his runny nose, he told of helping three of his friends drag the dead man into the woods. Then they left him there to be eaten by wildlife, or to rot, whichever came first.

An officer took the teen’s information, filled out a report, and then I was called to investigate.

I first bought the young fellow a cold soft drink and then asked him to take a seat in my office where a window air-conditioning unit hummed in the background as it sent artificially chilled air into the room. I handed him a wad of paper towels so he could mop the perspiration from his face. He reeked of sour body odor. Bits of leaves, tree bark, and lint clung to his short hair like teensy Christmas tree ornaments.

I began the interview.

He told me he was sixteen and was a member of a small gang. Actually, his “gang” consisted mostly of a few of his cousins and close friends whose gang activities centered around committing minor B&Es and selling drugs for a local dealer.

Recently, though, the dealer coerced the boys into doing a bit of “collecting” for him. This duty involved strong-arming people into paying their debts. Sometimes, he confessed, the collections involved extreme violence, such as beatings with bats and metal pipes.

This night, the collection of money owed took an ugly turn. Four of the boys drove out into the county to the home of a young man who owed the dealer what he considered a considerable sum of money. He’d been given crack cocaine to sell but failed to turn over the proceeds to the boss. Actually, he, a former crack addict, had relapsed and smoked the entire amount all by himself. So the dealer sent “his young and dumb enforcers to collect, “or else.”

Since the man had no cash the four collectors were faced with a dilemma—fork over the cash themselves, or kill the moocher. Those were their instructions—return with $300 or kill him. So they grabbed the man and forced him into their car. Then they drove him to a remote area of the county where they made him get out of the car in the middle of road. Once outside they forced him to his knees.

The teen sitting across from me wept as he told of the man begging them not to hurt him. Then one of the teens produced a pistol and placed it against the back of the man’s head. The man began to cry, begging for his life to be spared.

The gun-wielding man pulled the trigger twice.

As a group, the four teens dragged the body across the asphalt pavement, down into a rocky and weed-filled ditch, and then into the woods. They pulled and tugged the body across leaves and sticks and fallen branches and over small spindly young trees and bushes. They stopped to rest a couple of times. Then, after they’d caught their breath they continued onward until they’d dragged the dead man nearly 200 yards or so into the forest. Then they drove back to the city where they split up.

I called for a team of officers to help conduct a search. The teen rode with me, guiding us to the spot where they’d hidden the body.

We found the dead man after searching until the sun came up the next morning. He was on his back. His eyes and mouth were open, wide. It was as if he’d seen the bowels of hell and at that point died with pure fear freezing his facial muscles in an expression of absolute horror.

Flies buzzed around the wounds on his head. A couple flew into his mouth and then crawled back out. Black ants, and I’ll never forget this as long as I live, walked on the dead mans eyeballs. They stepped first one way and then other, randomly zig-zagging about. It was an odd sight to say the least. They looked like miniature ice skaters on two tiny frozen and morbid ponds. A wasp stood at the opening of the left ear canal. Its rear end undulating up and down as if the insect was practicing its twerking moves.

So when people ask me about the things I remember most about working death scenes, well, I recall the weather, the suddenness of it all, the vivid descriptions of the people and places, the dialects of the people I questioned and how many times their statements ended in a manner that when written deserved to end in exclamation points. I think of the backstories of the killers and victims—the prologues to murder.

And, I think about the bugs and their lack of respect for the dead!!

Our law demands that searches and seizures of property and people must be reasonable and based on probable cause, not mere suspicion. Actually, the 4th Amendment is pretty specific, stating that no warrant shall issue without probable cause. Therefore, when the police need to cross the line to invade a person’s reasonable expectation of privacy they must have a properly signed search warrant in hand.

A search warrant is actually the combination of three documents—an affidavit, the warrant itself, and a return of service.

The affidavit for a search warrant is the portion of the warrant stating the facts (probable cause) as to why permission to search a particular place, or person, should be allowed.

Affidavit for search warrant

In other words, the affidavit sets the grounds for issuing the warrant portion of the document. An officer must state (under oath) that the facts provided in an affidavit are the truth.

The four corners of a warrant refer to the actual paper itself and to everything written within the physical “4 corners” of the document. If a statement, fact, etc. is not included within the affidavit, the information may not be considered as part of the probable cause for issuing the warrant.

The search warrant is basically a court order to search a specific place for a specific item(s).

Search warrant

The “return” is simply the portion of the document—copies of the affidavit, the search warrant, the inventory list of items seized, and the official portion of the document stating the time and place of service and the signature of the serving officer.

Inventory and return

Probable cause is present “where the facts and circumstances presented would warrant a man of reasonable caution to believe that the items sought to be seized were in the stated place.”

To determine whether or not to issue a search warrant, a magistrate/judge only needs to ask himself/herself one question. Would a reasonably cautious person conclude that there was a “substantial basis” for the finding of probable cause? If the answer to the question is “yes,” then he/she may issue the warrant.

Information presented as probable cause must be current information that exists at the time the request is made for the warrant. For example, an officer may not request a search warrant based on activity she observed 30 days in the past.

Say NO to Those Anonymous Tips!!

Hearsay evidence may not be used to obtain a search warrant. I see this used all the time in books—the officer receives an anonymous tip regarding evidence hidden in a car or home, so the cop drives over and starts searching based on the tip. Doing so would definitely be an illegal search.

In addition, a search warrant would not, nor could it be issued based on “anonymous tip” we so often read about in some novels. Even when using information provided by an informant, officers must first establish the informant’s credibility. Has he supplied reliable information in the past? If so, how many times? Have the details of his information been verified by reliable sources, such as another police officer or person in good standing?

What information is needed within the 4 corners of the documents?

1. Place to be searched. The description of a location must be so precise that it would rule out any other place.

2. Person to be searched. Again, the warrant must be specific as to which persons are to be searched. Having a search warrant in hand does not allow a “search everyone” free-for-all for officers. However, officers may, for their safety, “pat down” everyone in the area. This is a search for weapons only.

3. Property to be seized. Once again, the warrant must be specific, and an officer’s search must be limited to searching for the items listed within the 4 corners of the warrant.

For example, if the warrant directs officers to search for a stolen refrigerator, then he may not search dresser drawers in the bedroom. Obviously, something as large as a refrigerator could not be concealed in a small drawer. However, if the officers are looking for a stolen diamond ring, then they may search anywhere within the house where a tiny ring could be hidden. Officers may seize any other illegal items found during the search, such as illegal narcotics.

In most instances, officers are required to “knock and announce” their presence when serving a search warrant. This means they don’t kick in the doors like you see on TV. Not at first, anyway. If the suspect does not answer the door within a reasonable amount of time (there is no set timeline, merely what the officer feels is reasonable at the time), then the door may be breached by whatever means is necessary to ensure the safety of the officers and to protect and preserve the evidence. Also, warrants are normally required to be served during daytime hours unless otherwise stated on the warrant (day or night).

When safety is at risk, officers may ask the judge/magistrate to issue a “No Knock” warrant, which allows them to break and enter the residence, hoping to catch the suspect(s) off guard.

No knock entries are normally executed when it’s suspected that the crooks are armed, or that they may destroy evidence before the officers could gain entry by first knocking and announcing their presence.

Welcome to MurderCon

It’s a killer event that features renowned experts who train top homicide investigators from around the world.

Writers, please take advantage of this opportunity to learn from those who are the best in the business of crime scene investigation. I say this because this incredible event may not come your way again.

Sign up today while there’s still time.

*2021 Guest of Honor – Andrew Grant

Register here.

Click the play button below to view the video.

2021 MurderCon Video Teaser

Welcome to MurderCon. It’s a killer event that features renowned experts who train top homicide investigators from around the world.

Writers, please take advantage of this opportunity to learn from those who are the best in the business of crime scene investigation. I say this because this incredible event may not come your way again.

Sign up today while there’s still time.

*2021 Guest of Honor – Andrew Grant

Register here.

Click the play button below to view the video.

2021 MurderCon Video Teaser from Sirchie on Vimeo.

The hero of your story had a long night answering call after call—he-saids, she-saids, chasing a Peeping Tom through back yards and alleys, a couple of drunks arguing over a near-empty bottle of Ripple, kids spray-painting Smiley Faces on stop signs, and the guy zooming on meth who insisted he was Jesus and attempted to prove it by damning you to hell a few dozen times after you refused to give him ten dollars “for food.”.

Yep, a looonnnggg night and it was only half over when Jimmy Bob “Peanut” Lawson, Jr. decided to join forces with his good friend Jack Daniels to blacken both of his wife’s eyes.

Well, Earlene, the wife, wasn’t about to stand for that so she poked ‘ol Peanut in the gut a couple of times with a dull carving knife. Didn’t break the skin, mind you, but the act was just enough to send Peanut off the deep end. Oh, he was plenty mad about it, yellin’ and screamin’ and stompin’ his Doc Martens across the kitchen linoleum, kicking at Porkchop, the family’s three-legged dog. But Porkchop, having been to this freak show one too many times in the past, knew to stay ten or twelve dog-dish-lengths away from his master’s size twelves.

After several minutes of plate, bowl, and pot-and-pan-throwing, one of the kids, a snot-nosed, freckle-faced boy of around ten or so, picked up the cordless and punched the speed dial button for 911.

So your character shows up, and Peanut, a Friday night regular, meets her in the driveway, huffing and puffing like an old coal-fired locomotive engine.

Now here’s where things could get a little dicey, so it’s best to run down the unwritten checklist your hero keeps tucked away in her head. You know, size him up. Is he armed? Is he really going to attack? Or, is all that chest-thumping and Tarzan-yelling just a show for the neighbors? Well, she’d better find out in a hurry because Peanut’s starting to spin like the Tasmanian Devil cartoon character.

How can you tell if this guy means business, or not? Well, let’s have a quick peek at the telltale signs that most crooks offer that’ll help you evaluate the situation.

Since weapons and other items that are capable of puncturing your flesh are your first concern, here are some common indicators that Peanut is carrying a hidden gun or knife. For example:

1. It’s 97 degrees outside and Peanut is wearing his heavily-insulated, blood-stained orange hunting jacket. Yes, Einstein, he’s probably wearing it to hide a sawed-off shotgun, the one Daddy gave him for Christmas when he was three. The chew marks on the stock are proof the gun was a go-to favorite during teething (his mama says he loved to bite and chew on anything that would fit in his pie hole).

2. The tail of his flannel shirt is out, but one side is riding higher than the other. A great sign that he’s wearing a weapon on the “high side.”

3. Sometimes, wearing a shirt tail on the outside is a sign that he might be carrying a weapon. Unfortunately, it’s also a sign to crooks, which means they might recognize you as an undercover officer.

Now, for the signs that Peanut is about to attempt to stomp your butt into the mud, and number one is a real doozy.

1. For some unknown reason, many offenders/would-be attackers feel the need to rip off their shirts prior to delivering the first blow. Therefore, when a drunk starts ripping cloth and zinging buttons across the Piggly Wiggly parking lot, well, that might be a good time to reach for the pepper spray. There’s plenty of time to grab the spray, by the way, because the shirt-ripping and cussing and hollering and posturing and yelling things about your mother takes quite a while to complete.

They sometimes decide to fight wearing nothing but …

I’ve even encountered a couple of losers who decided to fight me while wearing only their tighty-not-so-whities. Believe me, the sight is not one you can easily forget. And then there’s the uncomfortable situation of having to place your hands on a nearly naked person who’s almost always sweating profusely while smelling like like the south end of a northbound skunk.

Anyway, the shirt-ripping is usually accompanied by lots of top-of-the-lung screaming and yelling, especially nasty comments about your wife and mother. Sometimes I wonder if the latter is because theirs (mother and wife) are possibly one and the same.

Of course, if this (above image) is what you see when the shirt comes off, well, maybe it’s time re-think your career choice.

2. Another clue that Peanut is about “go for it” is when he starts glancing at a particular spot on your body, like your throat, stomach, or even a knee. Instantly, you should go on alert for a possible strike to that area. Peanut is announcing his intentions and he’s ready to pounce.

3. Peanut repeatedly glances behind you or to a spot off to your left or right just out of your line of sight. Watch out, because his partner may be approaching for a rear ambush. And, his partner is often Mrs. Peanut. Yes, even though her “loving husband” had just moments ago beat the ever-loving snot out of her she’ll often defend her man until the bitter end. Unfortunately, the end sometimes results in a funeral … hers.

These quick glances are also good indicators that Peanut has a hidden weapon nearby. For example, you’ve stopped Peanut for drunk driving and he’s constantly looking toward the glove compartment. Well, there’s a good chance that a weapon or other illegal items are concealed there.

The Lights Are On But Nobody’s Home

4. You arrive on scene and you approach Peanut, who is standing still, staring off into space—the “lights are on but nobody’s home” look. His jaw is clenched and he’s sweating profusely, even though you’re both standing in two feet of freshly-fallen New England snow (New England snow, to me, is the coldest snow on the planet). He doesn’t respond to you in any way, but you see the anger rising. Face is growing redder by the second. Veins poking out on his forehead. Eyes bulging. Yeah, you get the idea. Believe me, it is time to take a step back and start pulling every tool you’ve got on your duty belt because this guy’s getting ready to blow. Silence is definitely not golden in this case.

5. Peanut might have a “I’m not going to look at you” personality. This is another indicator that an assault may be on the way. If he’s staring at place on the ground, refusing to listen and obey your verbal commands, then be prepared for an attack. At the very least, be prepared for a battle when the time comes to snap on the cuffs.

I guess a good rule of thumb is to always assume the worst and hope for the best, which includes delivering the bad guy to the county jail without a single scratch on either of you.

Angry prisoner



Only three days remain to submit your entries for the fun 200-word Golden Donut Short Story Contest. Winner receives the coveted Golden Donut Trophy! Contest is sponsored by the Writers’ Police Academy.
The rules are simple. Write a story about the photograph provided, using exactly 200 words — including the title.


Homicide investigations are the crème de la crème of all investigations.

To solve a murder, investigators use all available resources. No sparing of the horses. Sometimes it’s a race to catch the killer before he strikes again. But detectives must still use caution and care when evaluating and examining all evidence, including the crime scene.

To maintain order, and to prevent disaster in court, detectives and other crime-scene investigators follow a mental checklist of things to do at a murder scene. Some use an actual written guideline. The list is actually a series of common sense questions that need to be answered before moving to the next stage of the investigation.

Crime Scene Dos and Don’ts – Click here.

Investigators should always determine what, if anything, has changed since the first responders arrived. Did the officers turn lights on or off? Did they move the body to check for signs of life? Did anyone else enter or leave the scene?

Crime Scenes … Watch Your Step!

Did the patrol guys open or close windows and doors? Did they walk through blood or other body fluids?

Crime-scene searches must be methodical and quite thorough. Every single surface, nook, and cranny must be examined for evidence, including ceilings, walls, doors, light switches, thermostats, door knobs, etc. Not only are they searching for clues and evidence, they’re looking for things that aren’t there, such as a missing knife, jewelry, or even the family car. Did the suspect take anything that could be traced back to the victim? Where would the killer take the items? To a pawn shop? Home? Toss them in a nearby dumpster?

Investigators must determine if the body has been moved by the suspect. Are there drag marks? Smeared body fluids? Transfer prints? Is there any blood in other areas of the scene? Is fixed lividity on the wrong side of the body, indicating that it had been moved after death

Does the victim exhibit signs of a struggle? Are there defensive wounds present on the palms of the hands and forearms?

Is there significant blood spatter? Is there high-velocity spatter? Did flies cause false spatter?

What is the point of impact? Where was the shooter standing when he delivered the fatal blow, or shot. Are insects present? If so, what types, and at which stage of their lives?

False spatter – “Hey, it’s what I do,” said the fly.

Once the detective is satisfied that all the checklist questions have been answered she can then move on to the next phase of the murder investigation, collecting physical evidence.

How do officers know, at a glance, when they’re addressing a ranking officer from another department? Well, the answer is as clear as everything else pertaining to law enforcement…it depends.

Police departments use many symbols of rank designation. Some department supervisors wear white shirts (some departments issue white shirts to all officers), while others issue gold badges to their higher-ranking officers. But the easiest way to tell an officer’s rank is to look at their collar insignia. Each pin is a representation of the officer’s rank.

Collar insignias, beginning with the top ranking officer (chief)

An eagle (birds) on each collar—Colonel, or Chief (some chiefs prefer to be addressed as Colonel).

Sheriffs and chiefs may also wear a series of stars to indicate their rank.

Oak leaf on each collar – Major

Two bars on each collar – Captain (the two bars are often called “railroad tracks”)

One bar on each collar – Lieutenant

Three stripes – Sergeant

Sometimes, a supervisor’s rank is indicated on their badge.

Two stripes – Corporal

Chevron, or single stripe – Private, or line officer

* An officer without a collar insignia is normally a line officer.

Hash Marks and Stars

Hash Marks on the sleeve indicate length of service. For example, each hash mark normally represents five years on the job. In the case of the chief of police above who has served his department for many years, each star in the circle above the hash marks represents five years of service, plus the four hash marks = a total of 29 years on the job.

Other pins and medals worn by officers may include (from top to bottom):

  • Name tag
  • Award ribbons – Community service award, length of service, expert marksman, lifesaving award, medal of valor.
  • Pistol expert (to earn this award the officer must consistently shoot an average of 95% or better on the range).
  • FTO pin worn by field training officers.
  • K9 pin worn by K9 officers

*Remember, ribbons and pins may vary in individual departments and agencies.

Pins on the back of name tags, ribbons, etc. are used to attach the insignias to an officer’s uniform. A small clasp (similar to an ear ring backing) is pressed over the pin tips to hold them in place.

Unfortunately, the clasps often fall off during scuffles with rowdy bad guys, and (if the officer is not wearing a bullet-resistant vest) can result in the pin tips puncturing the officer’s skin.

For a quick fix in the field, lost clasps can be temporarily replaced with pencil erasers.


It’s Saturday night, almost midnight, and your hero has just arrested a couple of strangers who sort of sound as if they’re speaking English. Sure, every third or fourth word is recognizable, but phrases such as, “If’n you don’t let me go I’ma gonna stomp a mud hole in your a**,” well, they just don’t quite make sense. But the drawl is a dead giveaway. Yep, those folks are from the deep south, where life is just about as fine as frog hair and the cotton grows pert near weevil free.

Still, without an interpreter your hero’s caught twixt a rock and a hard place. But this ain’t her first hog-callin’, no sir. She’s been in this pree-dict-a-ment a’fore. So she reaches for her handy-dandy Officer’s Guide To Southern Speak, and within seconds she’s a hootin’ and a hollerin’ with the best of of ’em.

You, too, can join in on the conversation, if’n you have a mind to. All you have to do is print out the handy guide (below) and keep it nearby because you’ll want to know exactly what to do when Bubba Lee Johnson, Jr. says, “You feel froggy, Bubba? Well … jump.”

Yes, dear old Bubba wants to fight, bless his heart, and now it’s time for the officer to go on high alert.

After his reference to hopping amphibians, Bubba spat out his Redman chew—the whole wad—and snatched off his grease-stained I LUV Jeff Gordon t-shirt, while puffing out his sunken, narrow chest. Those actions sealed the deal. He was definitely ready to fight and his “froggy” words were a dare for you to make the first move (why they always, always, always tear off the t-shirt when they’re riled up is a mystery of the universe, along with black holes and Stonehenge). I know, it’s complicated.

Anyway, poke your finger at the print button, ’cause if the good Lord’s willin’ and the creek don’t rise, I’m fixin’ to help you understand Southern Speak (remember, these sayin’s vary, depending upon where in the south you choose to hang your hats).

To help us out, Cap’n Bubba Lee is going to share some of his favorite expressions. Take it away, Cap’n.

Cap’n Bubba Lee

1) He’s so poor he cain’t pay attention: A person of meager means. “There’s goes Billy Buck over yonder. I hear tell that since the cops shut down his meth-making operation he’s so poor he cain’t even pay attention.”

2) D’rectly: In a little while. “I’ll be there d’rectly.”

3) Like white on rice: Extremely close to something or someone. “Bobbi Sue is so stuck on Junior she’s like white on rice.”

4) Looks like two bulldogs in a gunny sack: The motion of a female’s rear end is very appealing. “Hey, Junior, look at ‘ol Bobbi Sue a-walkin’ over yonder. Looks like two bulldogs in a gunny sack.”

5) Fixin’ to: Going to. “I done worked up a powerful thirst a lissnin’ to Preacher Buck rattlin’  on about sin and whatnot, so I’m fixin’ to head down to the liquor store. You want anything?” 

*Fitzen’ is an acceptable synonym.  Its use depends upon locale and/or the amount of snuff packed between the teeth and lower lip. “I’m fitzen’ to drive the lawnmower over to Uncle Billy’s house. I’ma ask him if’n I can borry his pistol to shoot that rat what keeps a pokin’ ’round the kitchen stove. Dang near scared mama to death this mawnin’.”

6) Blessed me out: Fused or cussed. “I got Bobbi Sue preg-nit and dang if’n her husband didn’t bless me out. Twice!”

7) Like a cow peeing on a flat rock: A downpour. “It’s raining so hard it sounds like a cow peeing on a flat rock.”

8) Slicker’n snot: Eextremely slippery. “That dad-gum snow made my driveway slicker’n snot.”

9) Fine as frog hair: Exceptionally nice. “Why, I’m as fine as frog hair. Thanks for asking.”

10) Rode hard and put away wet: Looking pretty bad. “Dang, what happened to ‘ol Robbie Roadkill? He looks like he’s been rode hard and put away wet.”

11) Hungry enough to eat the south end of a northbound skunk: Famished. “I ain’t eat in three days. I’m hungry enough to the eat the south end of a northbound skunk.”

12) Mouse peeing on cotton: Extremely quiet. “It so quiet in here it’s, well, quieter’n a mouse peeing on cotton.”

13) Dancing in high cotton: Successful/wealthy. “My tax check just come in the mail and I’m dancing in high cotton. Gonna buy me a mess of scratch tickets down at the Piggly Wiggly.”

14) Stove up: Sore muscles. “Dang, Lulu’s old man come in the back door and I hadda run all the way home. Now I’m all stove up.”

15) Nabs: Lance snack crackers. “I’m going to the store to get me a pack of Nabs”.

16) Catfish are carrying canteens: Dry conditions/drought. “It’s so dry the catfish are carrying canteens.”

So there’s 16 expressions your hero is likely to encounter in the south. So listen closely and keep your guide handy. And, bless your heart, not everything that sounds nice is a compliment.

Bless your heart – normally an expression meant as a polite insult, meaning you’ve just been called an idiot, ugly, dumb, etc.

The phrase is often used in a sentence to contradict the subject. “That baby is cute, bless her heart.”  Or, “Sure Junior’s smart. So don’t you worry none. He’ll soon graduate the fifth grade, bless his heart. And now that the judge gave his driver’s license back—I know, his fourth DUI—he can stay late more often to study with that new teacher, Miss Take. They been studying at night in her car, you know.”

Junior, Junior and his dad, Junior, Senior

Mindless Superhero

Remember, the above terms and phrases may or may not carry over to all areas of the South. This is a tongue and cheek piece and I mean no disrespect to anyone, and that goes for you, too, Junior, Jr. Yes, I once came across a guy whose actual, real name was Junior, Jr. His father, of course, was Junior, Sr.

Now, before any of you “bless me out,” I’ve lived somewhere in the south most of my adult life. I’ve actually heard the expressions listed above, many, many times.

How about you? What are your favorite southern sayings and slang?


Stop rolling your eyes!

This article is intended as a tongue in cheek piece. None of my fellow southerners were harmed in the process … bless their hearts. And yes, I know I’m corny so you can stop rolling your eyes …

Please, NO political comments.


Leading characters should be written as real people with real problems and real goals. They’re people a reader wants to care about. Protagonists are likeable and smart, yet flawed in some way.

Sure, the hero will win, we know that, and we love seeing them doing what they do to solve the murder du jour. But what should they NOT do while poking and prodding through crime scenes? Well, here’s a short list of eight things we shouldn’t see in your books.

Don’t touch!

1. Picking up the murder weapon at an already secure homicide scene is a no-no. First, investigators should be sure the weapon was photographed exactly as it was found. Next, when the time comes to move the firearm, the detective should use care to protect possible fingerprints, trace evidence, and DNA. Of course, if the scene is not secure and 100 people are still running through the area like crazed zombies, officers should immediately secure the weapon using whatever means available, if any, to prevent contamination and to avoid the possibility of becoming murder victim number two.

2. Don’t let your hero cover the body with things found at the crime scene (blankets, sheets, the living room rug) because doing so could transfer potential evidence from the covering to the body, or from the body to the covering. I promise, the dead guy doesn’t care that he’s lying on the floor in his birthday suit.

3. Don’t let TV cops blunder around inside your protagonist’s crime scene. Outsiders are apt to step on evidence, spill things, move evidence, bring things into the crime scene (fibers, etc.) that shouldn’t be there, and they always, always, always touch things.

A crime scene isn’t the place to have a conversation about going to Cape Cod on vacation while walking from room to room drinking a cup of coffee. This also isn’t the time for shyness. If necessary, have the hero use their best command presence and demand that looky-loo’s remain outside the perimeter.

4. Please don’t have your hero dig a bullet from the door casing and then immediately say, “Just as I suspected, the murder weapon is a 9mm SIG Sauer.” It’s darn near impossible to know the caliber of misshapen bullets/fragments merely by looking at them, and cops, or anyone else, certainly wouldn’t be able to guess which brand of gun fired it. The same is true about entrance and exit wounds. You can’t judge the caliber size merely by glancing at an wound in human flesh.

5. Revolvers do NOT automatically eject spent brass. If empty casings are found at the crime scene it’s likely because the shooter manually dumped them there, which would be highly unlikely. Semi-automatics and automatic weapons do automatically eject spent casings, but you won’t find them in a neat little pile beside the body. Normally, semi- and fully-automatic weapons eject brass a few feet away from the shooter, and they may bounce in several directions, depending upon the surface/item they strike—concrete floor, wood flooring, lamps, tables, carpeting, etc.

Inanimate objects cannot be robbed. Stealing from a home is burglary.

6. Robbers cannot rob a house. A robbery occurs when a bad guy forces someone—a person, not an inanimate object—to give him money/items. Breaking into an empty house and taking a TV or jewelry is burglary. The two are not synonymous. They are not the same! I’ll say it again, robbery and burglary are not the same.

7. Cordite. Need I address this again? Your hero won’t smell cordite because the stuff is no longer used in modern ammunition.

Now, let’s delve a bit deeper into a couple of the areas I mentioned in the above list of things a protagonist should not do. For instance, I highlighted the fact that detectives should NOT cover the body with any item found at the scene. I also detailed that people entering a crime scene could contaminate the area by bringing in trace evidence on their shoes, clothing, etc. Tertiary transfer, my good friends, is the reason why these things should never take place, and here’s why not.

8. Tertiary DNA Transfer – DNA can be accidentally transferred from one object to another. A good example could be the killer who shares an apartment with an unsuspecting friend. He returns home after murdering someone and then tosses his blood-spattered shirt into the washer along with his roommate’s clothing. The machine churns and spins through its wash cycles, an action that spreads the victim’s DNA throughout the load. Police later serve a search warrant on the home, seize the clothing, and discover the victim’s DNA on the roommate’s jeans. The innocent roommate is arrested for murder.

Tertiary Transfer of DNA Evidence

The same can occur with touch DNA. A man shares a towel with his wife and his DNA is subsequently transferred to her face and neck. Later, a stranger wearing gloves chokes the woman to death, transferring the husband’s DNA from the victim’s face to the killer’s gloves. The assailant removes the gloves and leaves them at the scene. Police confiscate the gloves, test them, and find the husband’s DNA. He is then charged for his wife’s death while the real killer is free to murder again.

The example above (the choking case) actually happened, and those of you who attended the Writers’ Police Academy session taught by DNA expert Dr. Dan Krane heard him speak of it. He was the expert who proved this was indeed possible and he testified to it in the groundbreaking case involving accused killer Dr. Dirk Grenadier.

By the way, I’ve been talking about tertiary transfer/secondary-transfer of DNA evidence for a few years now. In fact, I first wrote about it in my book on police procedure, but I don’t think everyone believed me.

Here’s what I wrote (page 170 – 171 of Police Procedure and Investigation).


“It’s actually quite easy to transfer DNA evidence. When evidence is transferred from a person to an item, it’s called a primary transfer of evidence. When evidence is transferred from one item to another, it’s called secondary transfer. Tertiary transfer occurs when the DNA that’s been transferred to a second item is again transferred to a third item. 

DNA can also be transferred to people who then use that item, such as a towel that’s been used by someone else. DNA can even be transferred from one article of clothing to another in a clothes washer.

Evidence that’s been cross-contaminated will exhibit false results and could be used to convict the innocent and allow the guilty to go free.”

“In December 2012 a homeless man named Lukis Anderson was charged with the murder of Raveesh Kumra, a Silicon Valley multimillionaire, based on DNA evidence. The charge carried a possible death sentence. But Anderson was not guilty. He had a rock-solid alibi: drunk and nearly comatose, Anderson had been hospitalized—and under constant medical supervision—the night of the murder in November. Later his legal team learned his DNA made its way to the crime scene by way of the paramedics who had arrived at Kumra’s residence. They had treated Anderson earlier on the same day—inadvertently “planting” the evidence at the crime scene more than three hours later.” ~ by Peter Andrey Smith, Scientific American













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There’s been quite a bit of recent discussion among writers about which agencies investigate crimes that occur on tribal lands. Therefore, I thought you might be interested in seeing a few of the May, 2021 indictments handed down by a federal grand jury.

This is one list, from one district, in one U.S. state—the Northern District of Oklahoma.

The list names the defendants and offers a brief description of the crime(s) for which they’re charged. In addition, contained within the descriptions are the investigating agencies. You’ll see that in most of the Indian Country cases, the investigations are conducted by multiple agencies, such as the FBI, ATF, DEA, local police and sheriff’s offices.

*To learn more about the relationships between agencies and how they interact, please read the brief section below the list of indictments.

Federal Grand Jury B Indictments Announced by Acting United States Attorney Clint Johnson

The following individuals have been charged with violations of United States law in indictments returned by the Grand Jury. The return of an indictment is a method of informing a defendant of alleged violations of federal law, which must be proven in a court of law beyond a reasonable doubt to overcome a defendant’s presumption of innocence.

Bryce Martin Agnew. Aggravated Sexual Abuse of a Minor in Indian Country. (21-CR-224)Agnew, 77, of Bartlesville, is charged with knowingly engaging in a sexual act with a minor under the age of 12, on July 9, 2009. The FBI and Bartlesville Police Department are the investigative agencies.

David Abel Alvarado. Assault with a Dangerous Weapon with Intent to do Bodily Harm in Indian Country. (21-CR-232)  Alvarado, 19, of Tulsa, is charged with assaulting a victim on April 26, 2021, by stabbing the victim in the chest. The FBI and Tulsa Police Department are the investigative agencies.

Lucas Wayne Armentor. Assault of an Intimate/Dating Partner by Strangling and Suffocating in Indian Country (Count 1); Assault by Striking, Beating, and Wounding (Misdemeanor) (Counts 2 and 4); and Kidnapping in Indian Country (Count 3). (21-CR-218) Armentor, 37, of Skiatook, is charged with strangling and suffocating an intimate partner on March 27, 2021. He is further charged with striking, beating and wounding the female victim on March 27, 2021, and April 30, 2021. Finally, he is charged with kidnapping the victim on April 30, 2021. The FBI and Skiatook Police Department are the investigative agencies.

Denim Lee Blount; Hunter Lee Hobbs. Conspiracy to Carry, Use, Brandish, and Discharge a Firearm During and in Relation to a Crime of Violence;Attempted Carjacking; Carrying, Using Brandishing, and Discharging a Firearm During and in Relation to a Crime of Violence. (21-CR-233) On May 8, 2021, at 10:29 pm, two men later identified as Hobbs and Blount approached a man who was attempting to hook up his vehicle and trailer. The victim stated that one of the defendants pointed a shotgun at him and the other pointed a rifle at him. According to court documents, the two ordered the victim to get out of his vehicle, and when the victim refused, both men allegedly shot him. The two then fled west in a dark colored SUV, leaving the victim and his vehicle behind. The victim was transported to St. Francis Hospital for non-life threatening injuries. The FBI, Tulsa Police Department, and U.S. Marshals Service are the investigative agencies.

Eric Tyrone Bradford. First Degree Murder in Indian Country; Causing Death by Using and Discharging a Firearm During and in Relation to Crimes of Violence. (21-CR-234) Bradford, 44, is charged with shooting and killing Daniel Watashe on April 30, 2016. He is further charged with using and  discharging a firearm during and in relation to crimes of violence- First Degree Murder and Second Degree Murder in Indian country. The FBI and Tulsa Police Department are the investigative agencies.

Travas Ramon Estrada. Assault of an Intimate/Dating Partner by Strangling and Suffocating in Indian Country; Assault Resulting in Substantial Bodily Injury to an Intimate/Dating Partner in Indian Country; Kidnapping in Indian Country. (21-CR-219) Estrada, 44, of Tulsa, is charged with strangling and suffocating his intimate partner on April 24, 2020. He is also charged with assaulting the woman repeatedly by striking her in the head and throwing her against the wall, which resulted in substantial bodily injury. Finally, the defendant is charged with kidnapping the victim between April 24, 2020, and April 29, 2020. The FBI and Tulsa Police Department are the investigative agencies.

Jock O’Dell Gray. Assault with a Dangerous Weapon with Intent to do Bodily Harm in Indian Country. (21-CR-235) Gray, 41, of Jay, is charged with assaulting a female victim with a machete on April 21, 2021. The FBI and Delaware County Sheriff’s Office are the investigative agencies.

Lee Owen Hallford. Assault With a Dangerous Weapon, with Intent to do Bodily Harm in Indian Country; Failure to Register as a Sex Offender. (superseding, 21-CR-23)Hallford, 39, of Tulsa, is charged with assaulting a male with a knife on Jan. 27, 2021. He is further charged with failing to register as a sex offender. The FBI and Tulsa Police Department are the investigative agencies.

Weston James Hill; Rayna Shianne Parkerson. Possession of Methamphetamine with Intent to Distribute; Possession of Heroin with Intent to Distribute. (21-CR-236) Hill, 29, of Broken Arrow, and Parkerson, 23, of Coweta, are charged with knowingly possessing with intent to distribute 50 grams or more of a methamphetamine. The two are further charged with knowingly possessing with intent to distribute heroin. The Drug Enforcement Administration and Broken Arrow Police Department are the investigative agencies.

Arnold Dean Howell Jr.; Katherine Elaine Freeman. First Degree Murder in Indian Country. (superseding) (21-CR-121) Howell, 30, and Freeman, 33, are charged with aiding and abetting one another when killing Michael Mondier by stabbing him to death during the perpetration of a robbery on April 13, 2015. The FBI, Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation, Creek County Sheriff’s Office, and Sapulpa Police Department are the investigative agencies.

Jeffrey Arch Jones.Aggravated Sexual Abuse of a Child in Indian Country (counts 1 and 3); Abusive Sexual Contact of a Child in Indian Country (count 2). (superseding) (21-CR-23)Jones, 31, allegedly engaged in sex acts with a minor under 12 years of age from Sept. 29, 2015 to Sept 28, 2016. He is also charged with abusive sexual contact of a second child under the age of 12 from Oct. 9, 2014, to Sept. 30, 2016. Finally, he is charged with engaging in sex acts with the second child from Oct. 9, 2014, through Sept. 30, 2016. The Broken Arrow Police Department and FBI are the investigative agencies.

Thomas Anthony Pearce. Coercion or Enticement of a Minor; Production of Child Pornography in Indian Country; Possession of Child Pornography in Indian Country; Distribution of Marijuana. (21-CR-237) According to court documents, Pearce, 53, of Glenpool, coerced a minor to engage in sexual activity from Feb. 3-Feb 8, 2021. During the same time, Pearce also coerced the minor to engage in sexually explicit conduct for the purpose of producing images. Pearce is also charged with possessing and knowingly accessing child pornography. Finally, Pearce is charged with distributing marijuana to the minor. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations and the Jenks Police Department conducted the investigation.

Robert Ray Sheets. Accessory After the Fact to First Degree Murder in Indian Country. (21-CR-240) Sheets, 42, of Owasso, is charged with assisting Tommy Alexander Jones and Wesley Johnston in order to hinder and prevent the offenders’ apprehension after they allegedly committed first degree murder. The crime occurred in October 2018. The FBI, Tulsa Police Department and Tulsa County Sheriff’s Office are the investigative agencies.

Gerald Smith. First Degree Burglary in Indian Country (count 1); Kidnapping in Indian Country (counts 2 and 3); Assault Resulting in Substantial Bodily Injury to an Intimate/Dating Partner in Indian Country (count 4); Robbery in Indian Country (count 5). (21-CR-225) On May 4, 2021, Smith, 27, of Tulsa, is alleged to have forcibly opened a locked sliding door at a former girlfriend’s apartment and entered without permission. He then threatened the victim and told her she needed to get him a hotel room. Due to previous violent acts, the victim went with the defendant, taking her young child with her. Once at the hotel, the woman attempted to escape with her child but was unable.  Smith then beat the woman, striking her in the head repeatedly which resulted in substantial bodily injury. Then the defendant allegedly drove off in the victim’s vehicle. The FBI and Tulsa Police Department are the investigative agencies.

Louden Dewayne Swaim. Felon in Possession of a Firearm and Ammunition. (21-CR-238) Swaim, 35, of Bluejacket, is charged with being a felon in possession of a GForce Arms 12-gauge shotgun; Smith & Wesson .223 rifle; and 116 rounds of ammunition. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and the Craig County Sheriff’s Office are the investigative agencies.

Aleta Necole Thomas. False Statement to a Financial Institution (counts 1-5). (21-CR-239) Thomas, 42, of Tulsa, is charged with lying to five different banks for the purpose of securing multiple loans as part of the Paycheck Protection Program, which is administered by the Small Business Administration. Some of the false businesses Thomas allegedly used to apply for the loans were Lead Us Kids Home Daycare, Coming Correction Community Ministries, Coming Correct Community Ministries II, and Lead Us Kids Daycare II. The Office of Inspector General Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System; U.S. Department of Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration, and Small Business Administration Office of Inspector General; are the investigative agencies.

Clinton Kyle Veley. Felon in Possession of a Firearm and Ammunition; Assault with a Dangerous Weapon with Intent to do Bodily Harm in Indian Country. (21-CR-220)Veley, 39, of Nowata, is charged with being a felon in possession of a Rock Island Armory M5 12-gauge pump action shotgun and ammunition. He is further charged with assaulting a man on Oct. 14, 2020, by using the shotgun to strike the victim in the face, causing severe lacerations. The FBI, Nowata Police Department and Cherokee Nation Marshal Service conducted the investigation.

Kevin White. First Degree Murder in Indian Country. (21-CR-222)White,62, is charged with the first degree murder of Donald Iwanski by repeatedly beating him with a metal pipe on Feb. 4, 1995. The FBI is the investigative agency.

Edgar Gene Willhite. Assault Resulting in Serious Bodily Injury in Indian Country. (21-CR-226) Willhite, 57, of Tulsa, is charged with assaulting a man by punching him, causing the victim to fall. The assault resulted in substantial bodily injury. The FBI and Tulsa Police Department are the investigative agencies.

Steven Dale Worcester. Conveying False and Misleading Information Concerning an Explosive Device. (21-CR-221) Worcesteris charged with conveying false and misleading information about an explosive when he made statements to a city of Tulsa bus driver that “you better get off now and call somebody because I have a bomb.” The FBI and Tulsa Police Department are the investigative agencies.


The Bureau of Indian Affairs is comprised of nine districts.

  • District I is located in Aberdeen, SD and covers ND, SD and NE;
  • District II is located in Muskogee, OK and covers KS, OK, and TX;
  • District III is located Phoenix, AZ and covers AZ, NV, and UT;
  • District IV is located in Albuquerque, NM and covers CO and NM;
  • District V is located in Billings, MT and covers MT and WY;
  • District VI is located in Nashville, TN and covers the entire Eastern Region;
  • District VII is located in Bloomington, MN and covers MN, IA, IL, MI, and WI;
  • District VIII is located in Vancouver, WA and covers ID, OR, WA, and AK; and
  • District IX is located in Sacramento, CA and covers the state of California.

Now that Oklahoma, in District II,  now has over five dozen Indian Casinos situated within Indian Country, there’s been a significant rise in serious crimes, such as embezzlement, money laundering and illegal drug distribution. To assist District II tribal law enforcement Special Agents with investigations, they’ve implemented over one hundred Memorandums of Understanding (MOU’s) for cross-deputations involving county, municipal and tribal law enforcement jurisdictions.

District II does not have detention facilities or staff; therefore, they’ve contracted with county jails to house their prisoners.

*Source and images – BIA, USDOI, Department of Justice 

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MurderCon Guest of Honor

Andrew Grant was born in Birmingham, England in May 1968. He went to school in St Albans and later attended the University of Sheffield where he studied English Literature and Drama. After graduation Andrew set up and ran a small independent theatre company which showcased a range of original material to local, regional and national audiences. Following a critically successful but financially challenging appearance at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival Andrew moved into the telecommunications industry as a ‘temporary’ solution to a short-term cash crisis. Fifteen years later, after carrying out a variety of roles – including a number which were covered by the UK Official Secrets Act – Andrew escaped from corporate life, and established himself as a critically-acclaimed author. He published nine novels under his own name, and in 2020 began a collaboration – writing as Andrew Child – with his brother Lee, to continue the internationally-bestselling Jack Reacher series. He is married to novelist Tasha Alexander, and lives on a wildlife preserve in Wyoming, USA.

A Confidential Informant (CI) is a person who, while acting under the direction and control of a law enforcement handler(s), sometimes plays a participatory role in a criminal investigation. Since CIs are typically known to be involved in criminal activity or are associated with criminals, they’re in the unique position of having the means to provide solid insider information that’s extremely useful to investigators. In exchange for their services, informants generally seek something of value, such as financial gain/cash payment, or a reduction or dismissal of pending criminal charges.

NOTE – Police officers do not have the authority to reduce or dismiss criminal charges. It is the prosecutor, or Court, who has the authority to do so.

Confidential Informants (CIs) are typically used to supply probable cause for the issuance of search warrants, or to justify an arrest. Therefore, it’s an important part of policing to seek and develop criminal intelligence through the use of confidential informants.

For their safety, informants highly prefer to remain anonymous. Protecting an informant’s anonymity can pose problems for prosecutors because the 6th Amendment’s Confrontation Clause guarantees criminal defendants the opportunity to face their accuser(s) in the case(s) against them, and to dispute the witnesses’ testimony. Therefore, it’s always best to build a criminal case on evidence that doesn’t solely rely on an informant’s contribution. However, many times cases are dependent on the evidence supplied by informants. More on protecting an informant’s anonymity in a moment.

When using confidential informants officers must consider:

  • The risk that a CI could violate an individual’s rights.
  • CIs are not trained law enforcement officers, legal authorities, etc. Therefore, they may, unknowingly, intrude upon privileged communications, which could lead to a compromised investigation.
  • The character and motivation of the CI. Is he/she involved in the matter under investigation and is using his role as a CI to shift the blame.
  • Has he/she proven to be reliable? Is there a means to verify information which he/she provides.
  • There must be a means for police to control the CIs activities when he/she is acting on their behalf.
  • Is it possible to ensure that the CI’s actions are consistent with his instructions and the law?
  • Is the value of the information provided by the informant worth the reward sought by the CI?
  • When a CI acts according to instructions provided by the police, then the CI’s actions are governed by the same laws and standards was if they were a police officer. Simply put, in certain circumstances they’re an agent of the police.

The business of utilizing CIs should be well-documented. In my former departments, each CI submitted biographical and other background information, such as criminal history, known associates, etc. Also included in their file was a current photo of the CI, list of vehicles driven/owned, and a signed copy of the “Informant Conduct Agreement.”

If the CI was on probation or parole, the detective/officer  was responsible for notifying the appropriate probation or parole officer to alert them of the CI’s agreement to help the police.

The CI’s file was sealed and maintained in a secure location. To ensure anonymity, each CI was assigned a number and alias that was to be used on all records in place of their actual names. Numbers were used to identify CIs in all reports and paperwork, including affidavits for search warrants.

Itemized records were kept for all expenditures such as “buy money” and payments made to CIs. CIs were required to sign receipts/distribution of funds when receiving payment for services.

Buy money is cash provided by the handler to CIs that’s used to purchase evidentiary items , such as illegal drugs. These purchases are called “controlled buys,” and they go something like this:

  • The CI meets with his handler and says, “Rocky’s holding a few kilos of coke and said he could let me have one for 28.” The handler calls her supervisor who agrees to the deal. He, along with a second supervisor who serves as a witness, prepares the necessary paperwork and then pulls the $28,000 from the safe. The detective signs for the cash and tells he informant to call the suspect to arrange the drug sale. The call is recorded on video and audio.
  • Cash used for drug deals is marked, meaning serial numbers are recorded. The reason police use currency with pre-recorded serial numbers is to prove that the money in the seller’s pocket at the time of his arrest later in the day is the same money police gave to the CI.
  • Detectives often equip the informant with a body wire to record audio of the transaction. Sometimes a covert camera is used to video the buy. Covert cameras can be disguised as practically any object imaginable, from a ball cap, to a pen, to a button on a shirt, and everything between. The list is nearly limitless.
  • An undercover officer may accompany the CI to the meeting with the dealer. Most of the time, though, the CI is on his own. However, officers often maintain surveillance of the area from unmarked vehicles, such as fake utility vans, delivery vehicles, etc. Undercover agents might be nearby in the event something goes wrong, or if the intention is to raid the place after the sale is complete.
  • The deal is done, and if all goes well, and it should, the informant meets detectives to hand over the recently purchase drugs. The officers again conduct searches of the CI and his vehicle.
  • If the suspect is arrested immediately after the sale, police search him to confirm that any cash discovered includes the marked money.

To protect the CI’s identity, it’s best to wait until several transactions by a variety of “customers” are witnessed at the drug house before raiding the place.

As mentioned above, when all is a said and done, the drug seller will have his day in court, and it is the 6th Amendment that guarantees criminal defendants the opportunity to face their accuser(s). Meaning that defendants have the right to confront the folks who said they committed an illegal act, such as selling cocaine.

In the case of a CI, though, there are protections in place to help preserve their anonymity.

“The identity of one providing criminal information to the prosecution is generally considered privileged, to further effective public law enforcement. Webb v. Commonwealth, 137 Va. 833, 120 S.E. 155 (1923); Roviaro v. united states, 353 U.S. 53 (1957). A defendant’s need to learn the identity of the CI must be weighed by the court against the government’s need to maintain confidentiality in the particular case, taking into account the crime charged, the relevance of the CI’s prospective testimony, and other factors. It is a case by case analysis.” ~ Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Drug Prosecution Manual

Prosecutors typically have privilege against disclosure of a CI’s identity. Still, defense attorney’s know that pressing again and again for the identity will sometimes force a prosecutor to nolle prosequi the case (basically, drop the charges) rather than “give up” the CI.’s identity. Hey, it works, sometimes, if the judge leans toward the side of the defense.

I once had a case where I used a couple of CIs to purchase cocaine from several dealers. One of those dealers was a major player who supplied large quantities of cocaine to other dealers.

She was convicted of distribution of cocaine and sentenced to serve 15 years in prison. At her sentencing hearing I was called to testify about her extensive history of maintaining a significant drug operation that included buying, transporting and selling large quantities of cocaine and other drugs. Part of my testimony included information obtained from reliable confidential informants.

On appeal, her attorneys demanded that I provide the names of the informants. The appellate court ruled that disclosure of their identities was not required because the informants were not participants in the events which led to the defendant’s convictions, but were only witnesses to previous criminal activities.

The conclusion:

Her conviction was constitutional under the 5th, 6th, and 14th Amendments, and the identities of the informants was not required. Conviction Affirmed.


When uses CIs in criminal cases, it’s important to understand their motivation for wanting to help police. Knowing why they do what they do helps police better manage and understand their vulnerabilities. “To address this, Ian Stanier and Jordan Nunan of CREST have developed a new mnemonic, FIREPLACES: Financial, Ideology, Revenge, Excitement, Protection, Lifestyle, Access, Coercion, Ego, and Sentence.

F — Financial: Includes the receipt of monetary reward or in-kind payment (i.e. payment of rent, tools, vehicles, phones, clothes).

I —  Ideology / Moral: Information is provided about a person or group who possess ideas or beliefs at odds with those held by the informant (i.e. drug dealing or terrorist tactics).

R — Revenge: Information is provided to harm or place another in a detrimental position (i.e. arrested) in response to a previous injury or perceived wrongdoing (i.e. as a result of an acrimonious breakup of a personal or criminal relationship).

E — Excitement: Undertaking the role of an informant offers the individual a feeling of excitement, eagerness, or arousal.

P — Protection: Passing information to authorities to protect the informant from persons or networks threatening them, their criminal enterprises, or family. The cooperation aims to provide information that encourages police action to diminish this threat.

L — Lifestyle: The role played by the informant provides the individual with an enhanced lifestyle, either as a consequence of deployments and/or payments.

A — Access: The informant relationship provides an opportunity for counter-penetration to identify agency interest in offending networks and associates. This may include deliberate infiltration by criminals to understand the nature of police tasking and levels of interest in their or their competitor’s criminal enterprises.

C — Coercion: Information is provided to avoid carrying out a threat made by an official (i.e. the threat of deportation; being prevented access to or from a country; or blackmail after being caught in compromising situations).

E — Ego: Undertaking the role of an informant enhances the individual’s self-esteem or self-importance. Where this ego starts to impact the veracity of provided information, these are sometimes colloquially known as ‘Walter-Mitty’ informants.

S — Sentence: Information is shared to mitigate the length of a likely forthcoming prison sentence or release from detention.


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