Things I've Learned From Watching Discovery ID Channel.
I personally have to admit right here and right now that I am an ID channel addict. It's gotten to the point that when I do watch TV, which is rarely, I am most likely watching one of the ID channel's many deliciously macabre shows. Here are a few for my favorites in case your not familiar with the channel--Deadly Women, How (Not) To Kill Your Husband, Murder Book, Scorned: Love Kills, 48 Hours on ID and of course my absolute favorite Behind Mansion Walls....What!..What!...
I enjoy most everything about this channel. It's kind of like watching a channel that featured Dexter (another favorite of mine) 24 hours a day. Except you know that all the cases are real. And the acting...don't get me started. Every single murder and assault case is depicted by silent actors in nicely designed sets. The number of overly-dramatic expressions and cheesy dialogues are enough to make your gut burst with laughter. But you grow to love it all the same.
Anyway, over the course of about 3 years I've extracted most of my ad hoc legal and criminal knowledge through this channel. And while it is not the most reliable source of information; I believe there are some common themes running through each program that deserve some special attention. Below I have concocted a list of observances, lessons, and fairly sensible nuggets of wisdom.
Divorce Is Always The Better Option
Believe me when I say, about a third of all murder cases shown on the ID channel involve some marriage gone horribly wrong. Whether this is a ploy for ratings or a commentary on the state of marriage itself I do not know, but it makes for great TV. The general plot of these murder cases goes as such.
"Boy meets girl...boy woos girl by promising her the world or by being excessively charming....girl falls for boy's ploy/ruse and agrees to eventually marry him. A few years pass whereby the love and passion that was once a major component of the relationship slowly withers and dies. Girl starts to resent boy and how controlling he is....boy starts ogling younger women as he feels his needs aren't being met....boy finds out how much the life insurance payout on his wife is currently worth....boy kills wife and tries to stage the murder as a robbery attempt....boy is caught by police after boy's best friends dog confesses a terrible secret that's been eating him alive." --Justin Muir
There are variations on the theme outlined above but they all describe the same thing....spousal murder. Now if you're like me you will shake your head, roll your eyes and ask the following: Why didn't they just get a divorce?
Now as someone who has never been married I can approach this question with objectivity but not experience. I know that divorce can be very costly, very bitter and a prime example of MAD (Mutually Assured Destruction), but surely it must be better than murder...surely. I guess it all depends on where your moral compass points on the question on human life. This allows you to make the difficult decisions such as: do I divorce my spouse and risk losing half my income or do I murder my spouse and risk a lengthy jail time? On that note, maybe morality should be the main basis upon which we choose the people we want to spend the rest of out lives with....just sayin'.
Get Some Acting Lessons
After watching so many hours of the ID Channel you begin to realize one curious thing; being a good actor can be an important skill set. I'll give you two clear examples that pop up in ID Channel story lines time and time again. Let's revisit our boy/girl model to really drive the point home.
So let's say girl murdered boy after discovering boy had an affair with girl's yoga instructor. She stages the scene to make it look like a suicide and now has come face to face with two different sets of investigators. With one set of investigators she expresses a stern (some would say coldly robotic demeanor). With the other set she puts on a teary-eyed, doeful demeanor. Unfortunately, neither form of countenance sways investigators in her favor. The former group of investigators believes her lack of emotions to denote callous psycopathy, the latter group believes her display of excessive emotion to be fake and suspicious in nature. Damned if you do....damned if you don't I guess.--Justin Muir
The other example I am thinking of always occurs in the courtroom:
Investigators think they have enough evidence to lock girl away for a really long time. Girl finds herself the defendant in a much-talked about local courtroom drama. In order to avoid a sentence of life in prison or the death penalty (cause she committed the crime in Texas); she must convince the jury of her innocence. Despite her absolute best efforts, jurors continuously label her demeanor as either callous, fake or self-serving. Girl gets wind of this fact and feels she only has one choice. She pleads guilty in hopes of avoiding the worst of all punishments. --Justin Muir
Now obviously girl in the previous examples deserved some kind of punishment for her actions; but the subjective judgement on the state her emotions at both the crime scene and the court room raise some serious questions. For example, how many false courtroom judgments have been made using the subjective opinion of a defendant's likeability or demeanor? Or is there a standard way that someone is supposed to act upon encountering tragedy? What if you are accustomed to having botox injections and can't properly express emotions? In either case, acting lessons should definitely come in handy.
Don't Spill The Beans In Prison. They're Watching You
So now let's say that you yourself are a criminal mastermind. In fact, let's give you a nickname...El Chupador. Everything from extortion in Chicago's seedy underbelly to the Cuban drug trade is a result of your doing because your just that badass. Ironically, one night you manage to get busted by the cops on a simple drug possession charge. While your enjoying your stint in prison you confide in your cell buddy Carl that you are in fact the criminal mastermind El Chupador. Suddenly, you have a visit from FBI agents the next morning....what happened?
Carl's a snitch...that's what happened. The feds have mastered the art of severing and/or manipulating close or loosely connected social connections. People can essentially be "bought " for money or favors in return for any incriminating piece of information they might have. And while snitching is considered dishonorable and often grounds for shanking in prisons across the U.S; many prisoners will seize any opportunity to exchange incriminating information on another inmate in exchange for a reduced sentence or various other prison perks.
I'd say that about a sixth of all criminal cases shown on the ID channel we're solved in this fashion. Where the perp wasn't done in by some new fangled piece of DNA technology, but rather by his own gosh darn mouth. On another related note, anyone following this piece of advise should also heed....
When Your On The LAM or Under Suspicion....Trust No One
As I will elaborate on later, being a fugitive is a horrible experience. You always have to watch your back cause you never know who will identify you and report your location to the authorities. You often have to settle for less than accommodating living situation so you won't get caught. And the best thing you can hope for is to leave the U.S. and wind up in a country that doesn't have an extradition treaty with the U.S.
Yet, in addition to all these inconveniences, you can add another. All your friends, family and close relations become potential FBI informants. Go ahead...try to reach out to that ex-girlfriend who said she would never do anything to hurt you. Guess what, all your conversations are being taped by the G MEN. Wanna collect-call grandma to wish her Happy Birthday.....soon you'll be wishing her a happy 90th from behind prison bars.
And the situation doesn't get any better when your simply named as a suspect in a police investigation. Ever heard of a wire? Yeah it's real and it's really incriminating if you say the wrong things. Say for example you made a particular statement that only someone at the murder scene could possibly know. Or you named a particular location where jewelry was stolen from. Or you simply confessed to the whole crime, thinking that you were confiding in a trusted neighbor. There are no lengths to which the feds will not go to see justice served. As a general rule (assuming you're guilty), don't trust anybody, especially friends who approach you out of the blue or ask too many questions.
The Computer is Not Your Friend.
To go along with the whole "trusting no one" theme in the last section; I feel like I should make a special mention on the use of electronic devices. Why? Because it amazes me how people nonchalantly incriminate themselves when using the average computer or cell-phone.
On many ID shows, you can see that one of the first things that investigators take in the process of a search or seizure is the suspect's personal computer. They do this because many of us reveal things to our personal computer that we wouldn't say to our best friend. Among the most incriminating activities, people often search for how they are going to commit a murder or how to proceed after a murder has occurred, insurance policy payouts/ schemes, and the legal implications of someone's death.
Even more amazing (to me) is the incriminating evidence that people post to their social media profiles. Take the case of Vincent Franklin, a North Carolina man who was suspected in the murder of his girlfriend Cheyenne Van Treese. Investigators on the case did not have the proper warrant to go after Vincent's digital information and concretely build a criminal case against him. However, after presenting Facebook posts that showed Vincent expressing rage towards Ms. Van Treese to a judge; investigators had everything they needed to demand digital information about Vincent from Facebook and other companies.
***Self-incrimination on social media is more common than you think. See this hub for more details: Can Facebook be used against you.
Do The Right Thing
Of course, in all seriousness, this is the most important lesson of the entire hub. A guilty conscience weighs down the soul and slowly consumes the best parts of you until there is nothing left. Violence is never the answer and lies are seldom ever justified. Just do the right thing. The right thing is a fuzzy concept in its own right, but most people have enough experience and intuition to gauge its relevance.
- Can your Facebook profile be used against you in a court of law?
Ah Facebook, Zuckerburg's pet project that serves to unite 1/10 th of the entire planet virtually through simple (though effective) digital posts. And posting on Facebook is safe enough right? Some people have even described it as therapeutic. So...
- Lie Detection...Pseudoscience or Just BS (Believable Stuff).
- Why Do Courts Need Stenographers?
Some Useful Links
- ID - Investigation Discovery : Hollywood Crimes, Forensics, Murders
Hollywood crimes, murder and forensic investigations. Investigation Discovery gives you insight into true stories that piece together puzzles of human nature.