Sunday, February 01, 2009

Quick *ahem* postmortem on the Murder Mystery Dinner Theatre and excursus about my sucky January

I am very slowly learning the lesson that other people just aren't as into mysteries as I am.

This year we had a crime scene that people could examine themselves and there was a trashcan there with some trash and a clue in it*, and as far as I know, nobody ever even looked through the trash.

Last year, two people got whodunnit and why. This year, something like a dozen people got whodunnit, but nobody got why.

Both years that I've written the MMDT, I've gone around for days worrying that the solution to my mystery will be obvious and everyone will get it and I will look stupid, and so far both years the day after the MMDT, I feel sheepish that so few people got it and that I should have left more clues.

Part of it is that I am used to writing mysteries on paper where:
1. All of the clues are literally inches from your nose
2. If you don't get it, you don't mind.

In a murder mystery dinner theatre, people don't actually look very hard for clues or question people very carefully, but it's sort of weird and awkward when only a couple of people figure something out, or when nobody gets it.

I'll probably write it next year, too. So next year I will make it a little easier, but not too much easier. Sigh.

I spent a lot less time on this year's MMDT because my January has completely sucked. I was really sick for a week or so, my work has been really stressful over the last few weeks and school is complicated as well.

I had a really unpleasant experience in class last week where we were doing Hudson v. Michigan and the professor asked about potential consequences to the police no-knocking one's house**. People said the usual answers "Embarassment, property damage, greater chance of violence." I raised my hand and said that the police would likely kill one's dog.

Everybody laughed like either they thought I was kidding or it was just a really stupid answer in general. The professor said something snarky like "That's a new one."

There was only ten minutes left in class at that point and I spend said ten minutes googling and arranging a set of links about police raids where dogs have been killed, often in raids where the police had the wrong house. I assembled ten or so of them, most of them from the last six months. For pure spite reasons, I put the family dogs killed in front of little children on top. Then I sent the links to my professor.

Knowing that I was right about the dogs and that my answer hadn't been stupid, I left the class head held high. Then I got into the car and burst into tears because, hey, 100 people had just laughed at me to my face and my professor had mocked me. I called a friend as I drove home and poured out my tale of unjustified woe.

As she listened to my sniffling, my friend gently pointed out that the professor probably hadn't meant it the way I'd taken it and the rest of the class probably consisted of people who had never had their houses searched by the police, having not grown up with younger brothers who tended to get them into that sort of situation. I thought about it for a moment and conceded that she was correct that the tone of the discussion made it clear that for most of the rest of the class, police raids are something that happen to criminals, not people like them. That's a pretty crucial difference in point of view.

The professor sent out my links to the entire class. In class on Friday, several people said things like "Wow, CC, I had no idea!" and went on about the brutality of some of these raids.

Damn straight.

Now for people who didn't get the point the first time, an innocent person's dogs killed in a police raid are on the cover of the Washington Post Magazine.

I wish I'd been wrong, though.

Anyway, I'm at work at 8am for a reason and have hours to bill before I sleep.


Ps. At noon on Monday, the small-town mayor who was a victim of the police raid that the post wrote about took questions on

*We did California vs. Greenwood in my criminal procedures class like three days ago.

**My theory is that just about every UU has a civil rights or civil liberties issue that they know most people don't care about but that they feel is vitally important and a moral necessity that we deal with. Police raids are mine.


nkjvcjs said...

Did you see Rob's post on our houseblog a few months ago?
Police Raids are something we definitely worry about. Good to see that other people think about these things too.

PG said...

:-( Sorry that you felt like your prof and classmates were making fun of you -- that's always a potential nasty dynamic in law school classes. I'm glad you turned it into something positive. And yeah, crim law and crim pro always comes across as "this is something that happens to other people, to wit, your future clients." If there was anyone in my crim law class who had faced these issues himself, he kept his mouth shut. Oh, except for one of the super-lefty kids who had gotten arrested for protesting or something, but that's more to do with pat-downs than with a fear of home invasion.

Chalicechick said...

((( If there was anyone in my crim law class who had faced these issues himself, he kept his mouth shut. )))

The professor sent out a confidential survey about prior experiences with law enforcement and I answered that honestly.

But I wouldn't bring up Jason and Oliver in front of my law school peers for a thousand bucks.


Joel Monka said...

Police at all levels routinely shoot the family dog or dogs as the prelude to a bust. It has happened a number of times here in Indiana, and then of course there is the famous "Ruby Ridge" incident. From the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, State of Idaho Vs. Lon T. Horiuchi :"That the first shot was Roderick's shooting of the dog is consistent with the early reports from the scene. An Idaho State Police Captain reported that he understood from talking to Roderick on the night of August 21 that he shot the dog first." For some reason, it still doesn't occur to police that someone might take exception to their dog being killed, or worse, not immediately understand that it was the dog the officer was shooting at, leading to an exchange of fire.

PG said...

I think the police view the Criminal Other as someone who must be keeping dogs as a form of protection rather than as a beloved pet. I assume that the dogs shot tend to be breeds that could appear threatening to a paranoid cop, not poodles and chihuahuas.

Chalicechick said...

The two dogs shot in the Maryland raid mentioned in the Washington Post story I linked to were labrador retrievers, which according to the American Kennel Club are the most popular dogs in America.

I'm sure the police shoot poodles and chihuahuas a lot less, but people should still not have to worry that the cops are going to shoot their bigger dogs for no reason.

Also, if they are busting into someone's house and the dog is not behaving in an aggressive manner or is on a leash, then they don't need to shoot it even if it IS a doberman.


Joel Monka said...

How about HALTOM CITY -- A police sergeant who fatally shot a Jack Russell terrier last month while serving a search warrant has been exonerated in the shooting For the record, according to the dog breeder info center, a Jack Russell's chest may be spanned by two hands, and they weigh 14-18 lbs. My cat is bigger than that.

Joel Monka said...

Yes, we euthanize dogs who are running the streets ownerless and uncontrolled- but breaking into a house and shooting them is another matter. I'm not a trained police officer, but I'd think if one were planning a raid on a house, the possibility that there may be a dog inside might be taken into consideration, and having one of the officers holding pepperspray to deal with it would be reasonable to me. Given the number of bad busts and mistaken addresses that have happened, and the dangers of beginning negotiations with a spray of gunfire, it might just save a few officers' lives.

PG said...

Not just the "ownerless and uncontrolled" dogs are euthanized.

Chalicechick said...


I think it is universally accepted that the cops fucked up in the Dillallo shooting. Even the cops seem to think so, they just regard it as an innocent mistake that they shouldn't be punished for.

Part of my concern is that shooting dogs that aren't particularly a threat is business as usual and nobody even begins to recognize that it's wrong.


nkjvcjs said...

Part of the problem is that we use words like euthanize, which is a selfless, and humane act, when we really mean execute, in the case of a dog who is killed for its behavior, or exterminate, in the case of unwanted animals with no behavior 'record'.
People don't want to think of us exterminating or executing pets, but they are the only truly appropriate terms.

Chalicechick said...

Even dogs that are "euthanized" get relatively quick and minimally painful deaths.

Not so for dogs that are shot and left to die on someobody's kitchen floor.

Claire said...

I appreciate that you have brought up the police raid dog-killing issue. The first time I considered the issue was when I saw a sketch on Chappelle's Show where the black drug runner was treated like a white-collar criminal and the white banker white-collar criminal was treated like a gangster drug-runner. It's a great sketch because it shows the total absurdity of the differences in way people are treated, and manages to stay funny because of little weird mannerisms of the characters. But one of the first scenes is where the white guy's house gets raided and they shoot the yellow lab. It's such a shitty thing to do. i also strongly agree with Joel's point, "or worse, not immediately understand that it was the dog the officer was shooting at, leading to an exchange of fire."
Duh, shooting is scary and if you enter a home where people have guns (those "other" criminals, or even a hunter...), they might bloody well return fire