[ Important Note: I have been reliably informed by someone who watches more television than I do, that Law and Order is no longer being shown. In fact, it folded three years ago, which shows how out of it I am. I was fooled by the fact that every time I turn on the TV, there’s an episode of Law and Order being shown. Turns out, they are all re-runs. Still, I think the premise for this post is valid. Just substitute CSI for Law and Order and it still works.]
At the end of each episode of Law and Order, a program that has run longer on TV than anything else except The Simpsons, there is a disclaimer that the show was complete fiction and not based on actual crimes in any way. Everyone knows that this is a lie. You read about a bizarre murder case and, a few months later, there it is with whoever is playing the lead roles this season tracking down, arresting, charging, discovering they haven’t enough evidence, going back and re-investgating, charging the right criminal this time, trying the person, and finally convicting them, or not. That’s the way it is in the Criminal Justice System. So here are three cases currently in the news that I expect to see on Law and Order. And possibly CSI. One of the CSIs or maybe all of them.
1 — The Murdered Gun Nut:
Keith Ratliff called himself a “gun nut”. He loved guns. He produced a YouTube series called FPSRussia that was all about guns including weapons that he had built himself. His body was found in his workshop on January 3. Ratliff had been shot in the head. The murder weapon was missing (or maybe not, the GBI has said they don’t know if one of the many guns in Ratliff’s workshop did it, but the wound was not self-inflicted). The police call it a homicide and have ruled out robbery as a motive — Ratliff’s workshop was full of expensive weapons.
The YouTube program, FPSRussia, was exceptionally popular — perhaps 11th overall amongst YouTubers. It featured Ratliff’s friend, Kyle Myers, who affected a Russian accent as he demonstrated the firepower of automatic 12 Gauge shotguns or a machine gun attached to a radio control helicopter. He blew things up and people loved it.
So who and why? Well, there are theories:
1– Ratliff had both a level 10 and a level 11 firearms license, meaning that he could import all kinds of weaponry, including machine guns, and manufacture his own copies. So one theory has it that an arms deal went wrong;
2–Ratliff’s brother says that the killer had to be someone Ratliff knew or else he would have blown the intruder away. After all, he died surrounded by weapons;
3–Maybe it was a local resident who didn’t like him. Ratliff had only recently moved to Carnesville, leaving his wife and child in Kentucky, where they still live. Maybe there was some bit of difficulty with his new neighbors — Carnesville has only a little over 500 residents, maybe someone felt crowded. The sheriff says that he was called out to Ratliff’s place by neighbors at least once;
4– Maybe it was an anti-gun liberal that murdered Ratliff as part of a conspiracy to end Gun Rights in America. You think?
Of course, Law and Order doesn’t have to follow the actual facts of the case — it’s fiction, they say — so who knows what they will come up with. But considering the heightened debate about guns in the US, I suspect the Ratliff murder to spark an episode. One thing: I think the writers should change Ratliff’s buddy, the YouTube star, to a real Russian. I think Alexander Ovechkin would be perfect and it would help launch a new career for him, now that his hockey days are numbered.
2 — The Cannibal Cop:
In February 2012, Gilberto Valle, a New York City police officer, had a series of e-mails with a New Jersey mechanic named Michael Vanhise. The topic was one of kidnapping, rape, murder, and cannibalism. Vanhise wanted Valle to deliver a young woman to him so that they might both enjoy her body. Valle agreed, for a payment of $5000, payable on delivery, but warned Vanhise that she might be unconscious when delivered. He wouldn’t rape her, though, he wanted to be “professional”. Valle’s wife discovered the e-mail correspondence (which also included discussion of eating her) and turned it over to the police. Valle’s trial is due to begin February 25; Vanhise has only now been charged. (The defense says that this was a move to prevent him from testifying for Valle.)
Both Valle and Vanhise are members of the Vore community which likes to talk about eating people. They met on line in a Vore discussion group and things proceeded from there. Vore folk, when questioned, say that it is all fantasy and that aren’t interested in pain or torture, just sex resulting in cannibalism. The idea that this was all a fantasy and play-acting is Valle’s defense.
Valle’s public defender has shown pictures taken from Vore sources to prospective jurors. The pictures included a photo of a bound naked woman with an apple in her mouth and some graphic artistic renditions. Those who became too squicked out to continue were excused from jury duty.
Now, this defense of fantasy might play in New York, I don’t know. But, in Canada, there was the case a few years ago of a guy who had written some pedophilia fantasies on his computer (never published, IIRC) and was convicted of owning child pornography. And there is the case of Mike Diana, the Florida comics artist who was convicted of obscenity and forbidden from drawing. Now you may say that there is a difference here, that these two guys were convicted of pornography and obscenity charges only, but Diana’s prosecutor made a big point that Diana’s work might lead a person to become a serial killer. So: thought = deed.
Except that isn’t true in American jurisprudence, or at least it wasn’t true, before the Patriot Act. See, there is lots of grist for the Law and Order mill here — a lot of room (well, maybe five minutes after commercials and stuff) to discuss whether or not people should be convicted of fantasizing. It might be worth noting one on-line article defending Vore fantasy that exempted pedophilia from acceptability — it’s okay to fantasize about murdering and eating someone, but not okay to think about sex with children.
Anyway, the real Valle case will probably play out differently. Valle used his police credentials to obtain confidential info about a young woman that he stalked — that’s five years right there — and he was seen hanging about the places where two potential victims worked. And there are the e-mails and the offer of money and… However this works out on Law and Order, Valle is going to get locked up.
3 — The Rogue Policeman:
Back in 2008, Los Angeles police officer Christopher Dorner witnessed an incident where another officer kicked a suspect — a schizophrenic man — and reported her. The internal case was dismissed by the LAPD, but Dorner was not satisfied; he knew that there was a DVD of the incident that had been provided to a hearing. Dorner’s persistence got him fired in 2009 and he became a very bitter man. He accused the LAPD of racism and excessive use of force.
Everything was quiet until February 3 of this year when the bodies of Monica Quan and her fiancé were found in a parking garage. A long manifesto that Dorner posted on line contained the words: “I never had the opportunity to have a family of my own, i’m terminating yours”. It is believed that these words were aimed at Quan’s father who defended the police officer that Dorner accused of assault. Dorner’s description went out to California police officers and, a few days later, a patrol car was following a truck believed to be driven by Dorner, when the driver opened fire on the police car, wounding one officer. A second police car was shot up by Dorner shortly afterward and one man was killed, another is seriously wounded. After some misadventures, including an attempt to steal a boat, Dorner escaped into Big Bear Park. A huge task force is hunting him down as I write.
In his manifesto, Dorner swore to confront police officers with “unconventional and asymmetrical warfare”. The authorities have taken this to heart. Some police spokespersons have stated that this is a War on Police: “This is a vendetta against all Southern California law enforcement,” said one and another remarked: “Of course he knows what he’s doing; we trained him. He was also a member of the Armed Forces… It is extremely worrisome and scary.” Scary indeed! Officers pursuing Dorner have already shot up two vehicles containing innocent civilians, one is in serious condition. This is what asymmetrical warfare is all about: goad your enemy into over-zealous responses.
It is unlikely that Dorner will live through this ordeal — in his manifesto he says that his life ended when he was dismissed from the police force and that he does not expect to survive. But in the TV show, he has to live so that we can have the trial and legal manuverings. The defense will claim Diminished Responsiblity because of being unjustly fired (it will turn out that Dorner was telling the truth about the schizophrenic being kicked) or maybe because of service-induced PTSD and, say! when a vet accuses the police force of a culture of violence, well, he probably knows what he’s talking about. Of course, Law and Order always has a hard time dealing with issues of police violence, so this may be an episode that we don’t see.