Sunday, 11 March 2018

L.A. Law: The Computer Game – Case #5: The Knotted Stalking

by Alex



We’ve got an apparent suicide. We’ve got the D.A. going after the younger husband. And we’ve only got nine in-game hours until trial. You know the drill. Let’s do this thing.


“I’m ready!”



The Case



Craig Jamison stands accused of murdering his wealthy, older wife, Martha Adams-Jamison. Mrs. Jamison was found by Craig hanging from a knotted stocking around 11:00 p.m. and called the police himself. There was a typewritten suicide note, apparently typed on the Jamison’s home typewriter, which is odd since suicide notes are typically handwritten. There were also signs of struggle.

Mr. Jamison maintains his innocence, despite the facts that (1) he and his wife were on the outs, about to divorce, and (2) Jamison stood to gain a lot more in the form of inheriting his wife’s estate should she die than he would have in the divorce settlement which, while comfortable, would hardly leave Jamison wealthy.

Jamison also claims he was with a friend named Samuel Renald during his wife’s time of death, who can provide Jamison with an alibi.

Now that’s what I call a lead!


Get ready for Phone Calls: The Game! 

Trial Prep


Craig Jamison agrees to come chat with Victor and OH MY GOD LOOK HOW BIG HE IS!



I’m sorry, but these digital stills from the TV show are both hilarious and seriously off-putting. The proportions are so out of whack. I mean, why’s he sitting so damn low in his chair? It’s unintentionally funny and creepy. As is the fact that Victor has been wearing the same suit the entire game. You’d think a big, prestigious firm like McKenzie, Brackman would talk to him about that, but no.



Talking to Jamison provides additional detain from the statement he gave to the police. I learn that:
  • He and his wife were in the process of amicably splitting
  • His wife resented his social life
  • He stood to gain two to three million dollars from Martha’s death
  • Martha had no children or other living relatives
  • He had an outside relationship, which Martha “tolerated,” and that Jamison had a “lifestyle” which recently became public, which could have been difficult for a woman of Martha’s social standing to bear
Details of a “lifestyle.” Jamison is gay, I guarantee it. I’ll bet you anything he was having an affair with this Renald character. So did Jamison murder Martha and make it look like a suicide in order to get the money and be free to be with Renald? Or did Renald do it?

I’m getting ahead of myself here. Renald is next on the list, and he too agrees to come on down to Mckenzie, Brackman.


He looks totally bored.

Renald confirms Jamison’s alibi, although he isn’t exactly sure when Jamison left his place, but stresses that Craig “would never lie.” He also reveals that Jamison has a daughter, but doesn’t recall her name.

It’s here that the chin-stroking begins.


Pictured: Me

So did the daughter do it? My mind is racing—without proof of Jamison’s whereabouts at Martha’s time of death, the best way to create reasonable doubt might be to blame somebody else for her death. It’s scummy, but if my client didn’t do it, he didn’t do it! Or to be more lawyerly, if the prosecution can’t prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Jamison is the murderer, than he doesn’t deserve to go to jail. Legally speaking, that is.

Anyway, I do what any self-respecting lawyer would do at this point and call Joe Spanozi, Private Investigator extraordinaire. Joe’s been the real MVP of this whole game, basically doing everyone else’s job for them.



I ask him about everyone, hoping that somewhere in his snooping he can figure out who Jamison’s daughter is.

While I wait, I decide to bounce some ideas off of Victor’s colleagues. Berkowitz’s response is pretty funny:



But it’s Tom Mullaney who, like usual, has some useful advice to dispense.


The game’s other MVP.

Thanks Tom! That’s a great idea! And it’s only after consulting with Tom first that I get a chance to ask Joe to look into this, since there’s no way for me to otherwise get in touch with Renald’s apartment building. I understand this design choice, but it doesn’t mean I have to like it.

But first, Joe calls me back with the skinny on Jamison, his wife, and Renald:
  • Jamison: Has a daughter, Charlotte. Divorced from her mother. Ex-wife killed in a car crash, and Jamison assumed custody. Married Martha five years ago. Joe also provides Charlotte’s phone number.
  • Martha: From a wealthy family. First husband died after World War II. Worth around $3 million at the time of her death.
  • Renald: A 28-year-old “starving artist” who graduated from UCLA, i.e., unemployed. Jamison is paying for Renald’s car and apartment. 
Interesting. So this could either be a love or a money thing, two of the most primal forms of motivation.



I ask Joe to look into Charlotte and the security footage at Renald’s apartment, and then give Charlotte Jamison a call. It’s a short conversation in which she states that she didn’t know Martha well, only knew Renald a bit since they went to school together, and would get back to Victor if she comes across or remembers anything that could help her father. I won’t hold my breath.

Almost immediately after, Joe calls me back. Charlotte is a 20-year-old art student with a temper—she’s been pinched by the police for fighting a few times, but nothing major. As far as the Tower Apartments, there are no guards, but there are security tapes. Joe agrees to get a hold of them and send Victor a transcript.

This case is, literally, falling into my lap, much easier than some of the others, especially the second case. What I’m trying to do here with the security footage is to show that Jamison was not with Martha when she killed herself, or was killed.

I’m a little bit upset I have no way of getting in touch with the medical examiner to figure out when Martha died, so I figure I might as well check with the D.A., Zoe Clemmons, to see what she’s got.



Zoe admits that this is a weird case, but she’s hanging the prosecution on some facts, albeit circumstantial ones:
  • Motive: The impending divorce
  • No other witnesses
  • Shaky alibi
  • Signs of struggle on Martha’s body
  • Typewritten suicide note, typed up using the typewriter at Jamison’s house; as described above, most suicide notes are handwritten
A brief interlude: We see TV lawyers decry circumstantial evidence all the time, dismissing it as “not good enough” and often telling the other side, “Is that all you’ve got?” But let me disabuse you of the notion that circumstantial evidence is somehow bad or inadmissible in court. It is neither. Now, circumstantial evidence is weaker than direct evidence. In other words, “Your alibi placing you away from the crime scene is shaky, there are signs of struggle, you had motive, there are no other witnesses, and there are no other suspects, so it must be you” is weaker than “Joe Smith saw you leave the scene of the crime fifteen seconds after the victim was killed, and Sally Jones heard you say a half-hour before the killing, ‘I’m gonna murder that son of a bitch!’ so therefore you’re guilty.”

But you can still get a conviction with circumstantial evidence. It’ll just be harder. Here, the D.A.’s case seems to be entirely circumstantial, meaning that if the security footage shows Jamison at Renald’s place in the 9:00 p.m. timeframe on the day of the murder, it would go a long way into casting reasonable doubt on the prosecution’s case.



Joe delivers another bombshell. It turns out that Charlotte was in the building at some point with Renald. Weird. The D.A. also has a copy of this video.

Charlotte and Renald . . . did they conspire to kill Martha?

I check Renald’s statement, which magically appeared in my file. He puts Jamison arriving at his apartment around 6:30 and leaving around 9:00 or 10:00 on the night of the murder, testifying that Jamison seemed calm and undisturbed. Which might mean he knew nothing about Martha’s death, or he’s a stone-cold psychopath.



The Tower Apartments video log is interesting. Looks like Charlotte made a trip to see Renald before Jamison got there, stuck around while Renald went out, and then left before Jamison and Renald came in together at 6:17. Jamison left at 8:35 and then came back a little after 10:00, leaving a half-hour later. Charlotte then came in at 11:10. Why? And when was Martha killed?

I wouldn’t mind asking the police, but guess what: It’s time for trial! I’m pretty confident I can create some reasonable doubt here, so I put my misgivings about committing serious legal malpractice by not getting the medical examiner’s report, figuring I’ll learn about the time of death at trial, and decide to roll the dice.

The Trial



The D.A. paints Jamison as angry about potentially losing his wife’s money, going to the house, strangling Martha to death so he’ll get her estate, which is considerably more than the agreed-upon divorce settlement, and then hanged her after the fact to make it look like a suicide. There’s also the typewritten note, no forced entry, no other fingerprints . . . it’s circumstantial, yes, but it doesn’t look good.



Because I’m smart, I don’t base my defense on the circumstantial nature of the evidence against my client. Instead, I focus on the highly likely possibility that someone else, someone about money and had something to lose should she and Jamison divorce, killed her.



My money’s on Renald, but I can’t place him at Martha’s place. And there’s something about Charlotte that bugs me here . . .



The D.A. first calls Detective Saleno to the stand. She gets him to testify about the crime scene—no signs of forced entry, etc.—but my objections the D.A.’s questions about Jamison’s mental state are sustained. On cross, I get Saleno to testify that there were no signs of a struggle and that it’s uncommon for the guilty party to call the police the way that Jamison did in this instance.

On redirect, the D.A. gets Saleno to discuss the oddity of a typewritten suicide note; Saleno testifies that all other suicide notes he’s seen have been handwritten. What a depressing line of work where you have such intimate knowledge about suicide notes, right? Saleno also confirms that they found no fingerprints on the typewriter. The D.A. grandstands, asking Saleno to speculate that Jamison typed the suicide note and then wiped the typewriter down. I objected, and you can guess how that turned out.


Aww yeah.

Next up, the D.A. calls some guy named Owen Landsky to the stand.



Oh, would you look at that. He’s the medical examiner. It sure would’ve been nice to know his name, or for the game to give me his phone number before trial. Landsky testifies to the important fact that the time of Martha’s death was 9:00 p.m. and that there were two sets of marks on her body, likely caused by some kind of struggle. This goes to the prosecution’s “strangled to death by someone, and then hanged after the fact” theory, a theory which, if you recall, I’m not really disputing! I’m just trying to show that it wasn’t my client who did it. It’s a little risky, but I think much stronger than trying to argue that Martha killed herself.

On cross, I get Landsky to admit that he found no evidence that Jamison killed Martha.



This is pretty damning, if you ask me. Even with all of the circumstantial evidence against Jamison, there’s nothing putting him conclusively at the crime scene during the murder. If this doesn’t create reasonable doubt in the jury’s mind, well, it’s time to rip the Constitution to shreds and be done with it.


Just kidding, George . . .

Renald is next to take his turn on the stand. The D.A. grills him on when Jamison left his apartment—10:00 p.m., says Renald, although he’s really not sure . . . it could have been earlier, but Renald wasn’t really watching the clock . . . Zoe then introduces a photo from the security camera showing Jamision leaving at 8:35 on the night of the murder. This is something we already knew from Joe’s viewing of the security footage, so it’s good not to be surprised. Still, this might give Jamison enough time to go home, kill his wife, and then go back to Renald’s.

I cross-examine Renald, showing him the photo of Jamison at 10:04. Renald also testifies to the following:
  • How Jamison was his patron, paying for his apartment and car so Renald could do his art (i.e., not have a paying job).
  • How Renald would be inconvenienced if Jamison were to be deprived of his wealth (yes he would).
  • Whether he knew Charlotte (he’s heard of her, but had never met her).
My bullshit meter (a technical lawyer term) goes haywire at this point, because (1) I have video logs and photographic evidence showing Charlotte at Renald’s apartment, and (2) Charlotte testified that she knew Renald!

Anyway, the killer piece of testimony is that Renald testified that Jamison mentioned Charlotte also relied upon Jamison’s money—so basically, Martha’s—to sustain her lifestyle.



You see what Victor did there? He’s planting the seed in the jury’s mind that someone else might have done it. He’s provided motive for two other people, who have arguably stronger motives than Jamison.


I’m so bad. So, so bad.

It’s the defense’s turn to call witness, so I call the man himself: Craig Jamison. And hey! He’s wearing a suit!



Of course, this is the only picture of Jamison, but it makes sense here.

Key pieces of information from his testimony:
  • He was not worried about his financial situation from the proposed divorce settlement.
  • He identified Charlotte in Renald’s apartment building 
  • He didn’t kill his wife.
On cross, the D.A. gets Jamison to admit that the doors and windows of the house were secure, and that there were no signs of struggle or forced entry, heavily hinting that he did it. But Victor has one last trick up his sleeve:





Boom.

Victor then recalls Renald. Renald denies killing Martha, stating that, as the videos show, he didn’t leave his apartment that night. But he lies about knowing Charlotte or why she was at his apartment. And he did it in a less-than convincing fashion, especially when shown the photographic evidence of her presence there.

Dropping the mic, Victor rests the defense and provides a powerful closing statement.



The jury, swayed by the sheer force of Victor’s eloquence and overcome by reasonable doubt, do the right thing and acquit Craig Jamison.


There’s nothing quite like the sweet, sweet taste of victory.

Jamison beat the rap, and everybody’s happy. Hell, Leland McKenzie breaks the news to Victor that the firm has decided to make him a full partner!



Well, there’s someone who’s unhappy here . . . Mr. Craig “I Beat A Murder Charge” Jamison.



Mr. Jamison doesn’t like the way that Victor implicated his daughter. Hey Craig old boy: Kiss. My. Ass. Your daughter probably murdered your wife. So don’t get all high-and-mighty with me. If it wasn’t for me, you’d be sitting in jail for a crime you didn’t commit. Maybe you need to—

Ahh, forget it. By having ungrateful clients, this game is hitting too close to home and making me cranky. I helped Victor make partner, and I add another notch in my belt.

What belt you might ask? Oh, just the victory belt.


Pictured: Artist’s Representation of the Victory Belt

Unfortunately, the game doesn’t end with Victor making partner. Sorry guys.

Session Time: 40 minutes
Total Play Time: 3 hours, 55 minutes
Record: 4-1

10 comments:

  1. Nice going! There were only two argument options this time at the start of the trial, while there usually are three, right? I wonder if there was a different winning strategy available, with the right pre-trial research.

    However, "Lisää kuvateksti" isn't as funny as most image captions.

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    1. LOL I didn’t put that one there. As much as I’m flattered you think I speak Finnish...I do not.

      There are usually three, sometimes four if I remember correctly. As to multiple paths to success in each case, I think there is only one for reasons I’ll get to in my final rating post.

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    2. Ah yes, that was admin's mistake - originally, there was no caption with that image.

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    3. Not a mistake. I guess I forgot to add one too.

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  2. I wonder if the full partnership is something you get automatically after four successful cases and not specific to this case?

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    1. That’s how it works in real law firms... /sarc aimed at the game designers.

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  3. Is the actor from the first picture, Jimmy Smiths ? Who by the way appears in the 24 Legacy (best series ever, but not this spinoff in particular)

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    1. That’s right, it’s Jimmy Smits! This was one of his most popular early roles—Victor Sifuentes.

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  4. So what happens in real life in this situation - the defendant is not guilty, but there's been reasonable suspicion placed on a witness through their testimony? I assume the police just instantly arrest that witness?

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    1. They can’t arrest the person because speculation at a trial isn’t grounds enough for probable cause, but they’d certainly look into it.

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