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A criminal justice degree assists in conducting police investigations.

Mid Term

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Conduct an analysis of one of the “true crime” novels listed on this page (they are available via hyperlink from this site to Amazon.com, bookstores and libraries).  Your analysis should be four to six pages in length and minimally include the following:

1.         A brief description of the crime or crimes (one page).

2.         An analysis of the investigative techniques (not all

            of  these issues apply)     

A.      How was the initial crime scene(s) protected?  Was evidence lost, contaminated, or did the protection of the crime scene prove to be ultimately critical to the investigation?

B.      Which forensic science techniques were used?

C.      Which forensic science techniques were not used?  Were they available?  Would science developed in later years used have proved useful?

D.      How were investigative efforts and leads coordinate?  Were there coordination problems?  How were clues handled and investigated? Would technology have helped in the management of clues, leads and resources?

E.       Were their management problems?

F.       Did the novel provide insight into report writing?  If so, what issues were raised?

G.      What legal issues were raised or explored during the investigation?  Did investigators obtain search warrants?  Did they seize evidence when they should have sought a warrant first?  Did the investigator’s early actions, regarding search and seizure, or perhaps Fourth Amendment issues, impact the case at trial?

H.      How were witness interviews conducted?  Did they take notes, use audio or video recording?  Did this impact the case?

I.       What technology was used?  What technology could have been used?  What technology was later developed that might have proved instrumental?

J.       Did they interview the suspect?  If so, were there legal issues?  What type of interview tactics did they use?  What could they have used?


This assignment will be graded on content as well as exposition.  Moreover, students are expected to reference back and forth between the required texts and their “true crime” novels.

New Page 1
"Until one morning in mid-November of 1959, few Americans--in fact, few Kansans--had ever heard of Holcomb. Like the waters of the river, like the motorists on the highway, and like the yellow trains streaking down the Santa Fe tracks, drama, in the shape of exceptional happenings, had never stopped there." If all Truman Capote did was invent a new genre--journalism written with the language and structure of literature--this "nonfiction novel" about the brutal slaying of the Clutter family by two would-be robbers would be remembered as a trail-blazing experiment that has influenced countless writers. But Capote achieved more than that. He wrote a true masterpiece of creative nonfiction. The images of this tale continue to resonate in our minds: 16-year-old Nancy Clutter teaching a friend how to bake a cherry pie, Dick Hickock's black '49 Chevrolet sedan, Perry Smith's Gibson guitar and his dreams of gold in a tropical paradise--the blood on the walls and the final "thud-snap" of the rope-broken necks.
Veteran crime writer Ann Rule is uniquely qualified to chronicle the grisly career of Gary Ridgeway, the man convicted of being the "Green River Killer," the most prolific serial killer in American history. Not only is she one of the more successful true-crime authors, but for nearly 20 years, Rule was exceptionally close to the case, reporting on it for a Seattle newspaper, preparing a long-delayed book on the subject, and living within a few blocks of the strip of highway where most of Ridgeway's victims were abducted. In Green River, Running Red, Rule lends unique humanity to the string of murders that haunted the Seattle area throughout the '80s and '90s by exploring the lives of the dozens of young women who fell into prostitution and were ultimately murdered. Similarly, she catalogues Ridgeway's troubled and bizarre life in such a way that the reader becomes uncomfortably familiar with Ridgeway, although it's never truly clear what drove him to commit such heinous crimes. Along the way, she traces the decades-long struggle of the law enforcement officials assigned to the case as they tracked down countless leads, questioned innumerable suspects, and explored multiple theories that came up empty before finally cracking the case through a series of technological advancements and a little luck. But the most disturbing aspect of the Green River killings (named for where the first victims were found) is how they occurred in relatively plain sight, with Ridgeway, seemingly living an unremarkable life, dwelling and working within a few miles of where his lengthy killing spree took place and evading capture for years. Rule skillfully weaves herself into her account, relating the psychic and cultural impact of the case as it evolved, but she never takes the spotlight off Ridgeway, his eventual captors, and the women who died at his hands.--John Moe
  Prosecuting attorney in the Manson trial, Vincent Bugliosi held a unique insider's position in one of the most baffling and horrifying cases of the twentieth century: the cold-blooded Tate-LaBianca murders carried out by Charles Manson and four of his followers. What motivated Manson in his seemingly mindless selection of victims, and what was his hold over the young women who obeyed his orders? Here is the gripping story of this famous and haunting crime. 50 pages of b/w photographs.
  After his first grisly crime, Harvey Louis Carignan beat a death sentence and continued to manipulate, rape, and bludgeon women to death--using want ads to lure his young female victims. And time after time, justice was thwarted by a killer whose twisted legal genius was matched only by his sick savagery. Here, complete with the testimony of women who suffered his unspeakable sexual abuses and barely escaped with their lives, and of the police who at last put him behind bars, is one of the most shattering and thought-provoking true-crime stories of our time.
On the evening of March 10, 1981, 19-year-old Wanda Fay McCoy, her head nearly severed from her body, bled to death on her bedroom floor. The small-town police who investigated the case quickly narrowed their focus on her brother-in-law, Roger Coleman. Their suspicions made sense: Wanda had been raped; Roger had once served time for sexual assault. The facts, at least superficially, all pointed to him as the killer. As the story unravels, though, the case seems less cut-and-dried, and the police's decision to focus so much of their energies on Coleman seems more and more a travesty. Yet, despite growing evidence of his innocence, Coleman was quickly tried, found guilty, and condemned to die. May God Have Mercy documents his long battle with the legal system and the ongoing efforts of his lawyers, as well as the media and numerous private citizens, to prove his innocence. John C. Tucker has written a chilling condemnation of politics as usual that is bound to challenge the assumptions of anyone who believes that the American justice system is concerned primarily with justice. Coleman's story is compelling, disturbing, and overwhelmingly frustrating. Even if you remember the case from its media coverage, you'll be shocked and horrified at this story and at the lack of concern, common sense, and basic humanity the American legal system can possess.
  From Publishers Weekly
Returning to print after a six-year hiatus, former LAPD detective sergeant and bestselling author Wambaugh (The Onion Field, etc.) focuses on firefighters rather than his usual police beat. It's a surprising switch, but Wambaugh's regular readers will not be disappointed, since sparks fly throughout this potent probe into the life of arson investigator John Leonard Orr. Fascinated by fires in his L.A. childhood, Orr learned fire fighting in the air force. An eccentric loner with few friends and a womanizer with a string of failed marriages, he was rejected by the LAPD and LAFD. In 1974 he joined the Glendale Fire Department, where his gun-toting, crime-crusading capers earned him the label "cop wanna-be" from both police and firemen. Rising in the ranks, Orr became well-known as an arson sleuth. He had a sixth sense for tracking pyros, but there was one serial arsonist, responsible for the deaths of four, who remained elusive. In 1990, during the worst fire in Glendale's history, some noted that Orr's behavior "seemed very peculiar." That same year, Orr was appointed fire captain and began writing a "fact-based novel" about a serial arsonist who turns out to be a firefighter and in it Orr revealed certain facts about the unsolved arson case that he couldn't have known through his work. Was Orr the serial arsonist? Wambaugh recreates these events for a suspenseful, adrenaline-rush account of what one profiler dubbed "probably the most prolific American arsonist" of the 20th century.
  Flaunt magazine declares LAbyrinth "absolutely impossible to put down" -- a book whose stunning discoveries are nonetheless "incredibly thorough and surprisingly credible." Acclaimed journalist Randall Sullivan follows Russell Poole, a highly decorated LAPD detective who in 1997 was called to investigate a controversial cop-on-cop shooting, and eventually discovered that the officer killed was tied to Marion "Suge" Knight's notorious gangsta-rap label, Death Row Records. During his investigation, Poole would come to realize that a growing cadre of black officers were allied not only with Death Row but with the murderous Bloods street gang. And incredibly, he began to uncover evidence that at least some of these "gangsta cops" may have been involved in the murders of rap superstars Notorious B.I.G. and Tupac Shakur. Still more shocking is what happened when Russell Poole became lead investigator in the murder of Notorious B.I.G.: as his shrewd detective work pointed to crooked cops such as David Mack, who orchestrated one of the biggest bank heists in Los Angeles history, Poole found his investigation stifled by a police chief wary of doing further damage to a department already sullied by the O. J. Simpson trial, the Rodney King beating, and the Rampart corruption scandal. Could it be that the Rampart scandal -- in which dozens of officers were implicated in a conspiracy of robbery, brutality, drug dealing, and false imprisonment -- was only a smokescreen for a far more damaging debacle? Igniting a firestorm of controversy in the music industry and the Los Angeles media, the hardcover publication of LAbyrinth helped to prompt two lawsuits against the LAPD (one brought by the widow and mother of Notorious B.I.G., the other by Poole himself) that may finally bring this story completely out of the shadows. Entertainment Weekly insists that "no single source presents so complete or damning a record" of this "compelling" epic tale of L.A. noir.
  From Publishers Weekly
Weaving together cutting-edge genetics and forensic criminology, courtroom drama and multiple perspectives, Weinberg's book is an ambitious and riveting tale of crime and the science that has been developed to counter it. In 1984, Helena Greenwood, a chemical pathologist and successful executive in the burgeoning biotech industry, is sexually assaulted in her San Francisco home. Paul Frediani is eventually arrested as the primary suspect-after he is caught exposing himself to a 13-year-old girl. But following the initial arraignment, Greenwood is found viciously murdered in the front yard of her new home in Southern California. Lacking conclusive evidence, the police store Greenwood's bloodied clothing and fingernail clippings in Ziploc bags, the case is shelved and the murder goes unsolved for 15 years. Although this crime is not as sensationalistic as some, Weinberg plucks out the gripping details and fortifies her account with a crisp history of DNA, from Watson and Crick's discovery of the double helix to the pitched legal battles over the validity of DNA evidence. Weinberg (A Fish Caught in Time) is at her best when she is the beat-stomping journalist faithfully letting her well-chosen story tell itself. She is far less assured, however, with hard-hitting metaphors ("One by one, she picks up Bartick's points, then neutralizes them, as if killing mosquitoes with a giant can of Doom"), and least successful when she tries to write herself melodramatically into the story: "I have been sucked into the spinning spirals, and even if I wanted to jump out, I do not think I could." Thankfully, Weinberg rarely gets in the way.
  From Publishers Weekly
The bizarre, seven-year-long case of an Upper Merion, Pa., high school teacher, Susan Reinert, found murdered in 1979, and her two missing children receives masterful treatment from police novelist Wambaugh, who is now building a reputation as a true-crime writer. He shows the dead teacher's lover, colleague and beneficiary of her insurance policies amounting to about $750,000to have been a superficial intellectual, able to dazzle impressionable high school students and to gather around himself a coterie of naive and trusting neurotics. There is no doubt in the author's mind that William Bradfielda Pied Piper of the chronologically adult but psychically underdeveloped committed the crime in concert with the former principal of the school, Jay Smith, whom he portrays as a sociopath. The skein of murder is highly complex, but Wambaugh unravels it superbly.
  Wambaugh, best known for his books dealing with American crime and detection, here tells the engrossing story of two British sex murders and the police hunt for the killer. The title stems from a procedure of genetic fingerprinting detected by examining blood samples, and used by the police to catch the murderer. Armed with the new discovery for detection, the police launched a massive drive to "fingerprint" men in the Narborough village area. Wambaugh gives an inside look at the police and their intense and, at last, successful drive to catch the murderer. He also discusses the process, and some of its limitless possibilities. An excellent account of murder, detection, and this amazing scientific discovery.

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