Tagged: Aider and Abettor

The Law Is A Ass

Bob Ingersoll: The Law Is A Ass #411


This week I have something old. Next time I’ll have something new. I’m aged enough that I might be living on borrowed time. But I’m not blue. Because I’m not writing about that which shall remain nameless but which rhymes with drivel bore pooh.

I was watching an old episode of 77 Sunset Strip– there’s no other kind – called “Mr. Goldilocks.” It was a typical episode; private eye’s on a case that he manages to solve in 60 minutes – of 40, if you zap through the commercials on your DVR. This week PI Jeff Spencer was trying to recover some jewels which had been stolen while they were being transported from a Palm Springs show back to Los Angeles. Spencer tracked the thief, Abern Wills, into the desert and got shot in the arm for his troubles. Which was just the beginning of his troubles.

The wounded Jeff stumbled through the desert until he chanced upon the cabin of Luther and Willie Lee Hanks, a grizzled father and dim-witted son who were looking for a lost gold mine and were just a burro shy of hitting the prospector cliché trifecta. Luther’s daughter, Polly, used a first aid kit to treat Jeff’s wound. Then she promised that when she got home, she’d call Jeff’s partners at 77 Sunset Strip to come and get him, because, unlike the cabin, her house had a phone.

Yes, I said “her house.” See, Polly didn’t live with her father. She was married and lived with her husband; you guessed it Abern Wills. She had no intention of calling Jeff’s partners there on the Sunset Strip. Instead, she and Abern planned on going to the Hanks’ cabin the next day, after the Hanks resumed their search for the lost mine, and kill Jeff, so they could enjoy the proceeds of Abern’s jewel theft.

What they didn’t reckon on was that Luther, like most proud papas, had a picture of Polly’s wedding in his cabin; a picture Jeff saw. Jeff recognized Polly’s husband as the jewel thief and realized he had been set up. So, when Polly and Abern returned, Jeff was hiding under the cabin. Polly stayed at the cabin, while Abern walked into the desert to look for Jeff.

After Abern left, Jeff tried to get to Polly’s car to escape, but she shot at Jeff and he stopped. Then Polly held Jeff at gunpoint. She intended to keep Jeff prisoner until Abern returned and killed him, but she only kept him until he escaped and really did flee into the desert. Abern went after him.

Jeff wandered around the desert; well not for forty days and forty nights. Not even for forty minutes, even if you didn’t speed through the commercials on your DVR. But he did wander around long enough to start talking to himself. Then start talking to the vultures, because, if he was talking to them and not himself, he wasn’t crazy; which is kind of a self-defeating distinction. He also wandered around long enough for one night to pass and for Polly to bring Abern a dinner of cold chicken and some more water.

The next day, Abern caught up with Jeff. They fought. Due to his weakened state, Jeff lost. Then, as Abern was talking toward Jeff to kill him, Abern troped and fell down the shaft of the lost gold mine to his death. (And who didn’t see that coming. This episode had more Chekhov’s guns than that Star Trek episode where Kirk, Chekov, and crew relived the gunfight at the O.K. Corral.)

Jeff went back to Luther’s cabin and told the prospectors he had to take Polly in for attempted murder, but not where the lost mine was. (Seems a trite and true dust storm blew up, disorienting Jeff and preventing him from marking where the mine was.) Luther wanted to help his daughter so he gave Polly a gun and had her shoot the arms off a cactus to prove she was a crack shot. If she had wanted to kill Jeff, she would have. She was shooting to scare not to kill, so it wasn’t attempted murder. Jeff promised he would mention this to the judge, which, Jeff being an honorable 50s private investigator hero, I’m sure he did. After which, the judge…

…sentenced Polly to several years in prison for attempted murder. Not to mention conspiracy to commit murder and kidnap. See, it doesn’t matter that Polly might not have been trying to kill Jeff when she shot at him, she was still guilty of attempted murder.

What Polly intended doesn’t matter, because what Abern intended was more than enough to convict her. Abern followed Jeff into the desert and shot at him a few times – and Abern was shooting to kill, he was just a member of that hoary villain cliché, the gang who couldn’t shoot straight. Then Abern was about to beat Jeff to death but forgot to mind his step then mined his step. So Abern did commit the crime of attempted murder.

Polly helped him do this by, if nothing else, bringing him that cold chicken dinner and extra water so he could keep looking for Jeff to kill him. Which means Polly was an aider and abettor to Abern’s attempted murder. She was just as guilty of the attempted murder as Abern was.

It didn’t even matter that Abern wasn’t convicted of attempted murder; what with him being dead and all, that would have been overkill. Under the aider and abettor law, an accomplice can be convicted of aiding and abetting the principal offender’s crime, even if the principal offender is never convicted. You might say Polly’s conviction and sentence was a fate accomplice.

At the story’s end, Luther and Willie Lee went back to looking for the lost gold mine. Jeff went back to his offices at 77 Sunset Strip and his next adventure. And Polly went to prison. Where, I understand, she asked that her cellmate be a woman who became a prostitute to raise money to buy drugs. Because – and all together now – Polly wants a crack whore.

The Law Is A Ass


inspectordanger2I realize that most of you probably don’t have a deerstalker cap. So go get a couple of baseball caps. Wear one brim facing forward and the other brim facing backwards. You need the right visual. Because it’s time to look for the clues and solve a crime by matching wits with Inspector Danger.

Inspector Danger’s Crime Quiz is a comic strip produced by Werner Wejp-Olsen. In it the good inspector is presented with a weekly mystery to solve. Inspector Danger and his witless assistant Alfie – a foil who is so unobservant and dim that he makes the Nigel Bruce Watson look a positive luminary – investigate the crime. The strip provides you with all the clues you need to solve the crime before the Inspector. The Inspector solves the crime and his solution is printed upside down at the bottom of the strip. Meanwhile, Alfie stands around, and might as well have cartoon question marks floating around his head.

Now let me present you with the mystery from the December 8th installment of Inspector Danger’s Crime Quiz. We’ll see how well you do in solving the mystery.

Herbert Hudson, CEO of the recently bankrupt company Hudson Tech, drowned when his car drove off the pier and into the harbor. It looked like suicide. Hudson’s widow confirmed that Herbert had been depressed and threatened to take his own life. She wondered why he bothered to drive the ten to fifteen miles from his house all the way to the harbor to kill himself. She also came across as less-than-sympathetic when her chief concern was that all the money was gone and she, who was “used to a certain life style,” would soon be “walking the streets.”

The lab tech who examined Hudson’s car said the crime wasn’t suicide. The brake cables had been cut so it was murder. Apparently, the police department’s budget had been cut too. If the lab tech was talking about brake cables, his police lab’s stocked with really old reference books. Automobile brakes don’t use cables anymore. They’re all hydraulic. Have been since around the 1940s. Yes, the emergency brake still uses a cable, but if that cable had been cut, the car’s regular brakes would still have worked. Hudson’s car could have stopped on a dime and spotted you a nickle.

Unless …

So Hubert Hudson drove his 1934 Hudson Eight into the drink after the brake cables had been cut. (Notice how skillfully I made a play on words and saved the story?) Now the good Inspector Danger was investigating Hudson’s murder.

Hudson’s attorney said Hudson’s widow had money as Hudson left a $5,000,000 insurance policy with her as the beneficiary. The attorney also said the contract had an anti-suicide clause http://www.businessdictionary.com/definition/suicide-clause.html, so the death benefit wouldn’t be paid if the death was a suicide. But that clause wouldn’t apply here, as the death resulted from a murder.

Inspector Danger paced around in circles for a panel. He didn’t think the wife was mechanically inclined enough to have cut the brake cables. He wondered whether she had someone helping her. Then he came up with his solution. Now while you read, my spoiler warning, think about the clues and see if you can identify the criminal.


I am about to reveal Inspector Danger’s solution. So, if you don’t want to know it before you figure out the solution yourself, stop reading. End of WARNING, here comes the solution.

Inspector Danger deduced that Herbert Hudson did commit suicide. If someone else had cut the brake cables before Hudson started on his trip, he wouldn’t have been able to stop his car during the ten to fifteen mile drive and would have crashed into something long before he ever reached the harbor. Inspector Danger figured that Hudson drove to the harbor, then cut the brake cables himself just before he drove his car into the water. Hudson wanted to make his suicide look like a murder so his wife could collect the $5,000,000 death benefit. The solution also told us that Inspector Danger left the case “unsolved,” so that Hudson’s wife could collect the death benefit. “Chivalry over duty.”

So did you spot the criminal? If you said Herbert Hudson, you’re right. Kind of. If you said his crime was suicide, you’re wrong. Contrary to popular belief, it’s not against the law to commit suicide. In the United States, the laws making suicide a crime were abolished long ago http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Suicide_legislation. Moreover, even when those laws were in effect, it wasn’t really against the law to commit suicide. It was against the law to attempt suicide. But if you committed suicide, you’d be dead. The police wouldn’t be able to arrest or prosecute you even though they literally had the corpus delicti http://legal-dictionary.thefreedictionary.com/Corpus+delicti.

Let’s try another crime. Remember, Hudson committed suicide but made it look like a murder so that his wife would be able to collect a $5,000,000 death despite his policy’s anti-suicide clause. Voila, another crime; insurance fraud.

Now, I don’t know in what state the good Inspector operates, other than a general state of confusion, so, I’ll use the general definition of insurance fraud. Insurance fraud occurs when someone does a “duplicitous act” so that he or she can obtain an improper payment from an insurance company. Usually, the person collecting the proceeds of the insurance policy is the person committing the duplicitous act, but it can be someone else. If a doctor helps a patient fake an injury, so that the patient can swindle an insurance company, then the doctor is an aider and abettor and equally guilty of insurance fraud, even if only the patient collected the proceeds. In our story, Hudson committed insurance fraud by making a suicide look like a murder, so that his wife could collect an improper death benefit to which she was not entitled.

Of course, Hudson’s dead. He can’t be arrested or prosecuted. So, calling him the criminal is a little unsatisfying. Where’s the justice in the story, if the criminal can’t be prosecuted? Sure Logan and Brisco would be kept busy, but what would Jack McCoy get to do?

How about Mrs. Hudson? Was she guilty of insurance fraud for filing a claim for a death benefit to which she was not really entitled? No. There’s no indication that Mrs. Hudson knew her husband had faked a murder. She honestly thought he was murdered. So when she filed a claim for the death benefit – not if but when, because you know someone as mercenary as her wouldn’t leave seven figures uncollected – when she filed a claim, she wouldn’t know it was fraudulent. She wouldn’t be guilty of insurance fraud. If the insurance company learned the truth, it could deny her the benefit, but it couldn’t have her prosecuted for insurance fraud, because she did not knowingly commit a duplicitous act.

Which leads us to question that still hasn’t been answered: A crime was committed so who was the real criminal in the story? There’s got to be one someone somewhere who can take the fall.

If you said Inspector Danger, you win the prize.

Inspector Danger knew Hudson committed suicide. He knew Mrs. Hudson had no legal claim to the death benefit on her husband’s policy. But he kept this information secret so that Mrs. Hudson could collect the $5,000,000, anyway. He aided and abetted Mr. Hudson in committing insurance fraud by letting Mrs. Hudson collect proceeds which he knew she was not entitled to collect.

So, let’s haul the not-so-good Inspector off to jail and put Alfie in charge of the investigations. I can see the strip now. A crime is committed. Alfie stumbles around for several panels without the slightest idea who the criminal is. Then he stands on his head to reads the week’s solution at the bottom of the page, but still has no idea who to arrest.

And we could say that Alfie never meta criminal that he could catch.