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Agatha Christie's Poirot: Series 1, Murder in the MewsHas anyone seen this Poirot...

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Tamara K. H. | Middle School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted February 4, 2012 at 1:46 PM via web

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Agatha Christie's Poirot: Series 1, Murder in the Mews

Has anyone seen this Poirot episode? It poses some very interesting moral and legal questions. It presents a situation in which a woman comes home to discover that her roommate has committed suicide because she is being blackmailed and cannot bear for her fiance to find out about it. The woman, knowing who the blackmailer is, then sets up the suicide to look like a murder, with the intention of framing the blackmailer. The legal questions that arise from this scenario are: 1) In this country, how would the woman be held accountable for framing the blackmailer; and 2) how would the blackmailer be held accountable in this scenario? For blackmail? For wrongful death? Both?

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pohnpei397 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted February 4, 2012 at 2:28 PM (Answer #2)

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I would imagine that the woman would be charged with some sort of interference with an official investigation or tampering with evidence or false reporting or something of that nature.  I haven't seen the show so I don't know what exactly she did.  I don't think the blackmailer could be charged with any crime other than blackmail.  He might well get sued by the family of the woman who killed herself, but I don't believe he's legally responsible.

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bor | Valedictorian

Posted February 4, 2012 at 11:52 PM (Answer #3)

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While I have never seen crime with a Title/Catchphrase of "Framing a person", see in Ohio.

 2917.11 Disorderly Conduct;

(5) Creating a condition that is physically offensive to persons or that presents a risk of physical harm to persons or property, by any act that serves no lawful and reasonable purpose of the offender.

Definitions;

3) “Physical harm to persons” means any injury, illness, or other physiological impairment, regardless of its gravity or duration.

Framing me for a murder would certainly impair my physiologial being.

Also;

2921.31 Obstructing official business;

(A) No person, without privilege to do so and with purpose to prevent, obstruct, or delay the performance by a public official of any authorized act within the public official’s official capacity, shall do any act that hampers or impedes a public official in the performance of the public official’s lawful duties.

The problem is the person is not acting under color of law, but is a citizen. If the  person who was framing the other was a public servant/police officer acting under color of law, the answer is easier, then deprivation of rights criminal laws would apply, as 18 USC 242, federal law, and in Ohio it would be "Interfering with Civil rights".

 

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bor | Valedictorian

Posted February 5, 2012 at 12:02 AM (Answer #4)

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Continued;

2921.45; (A) No public servant, under color of his office, employment, or authority, shall knowingly deprive, or conspire or attempt to deprive any person of a constitutional or statutory right.

(B) Whoever violates this section is guilty of interfering with civil rights, a misdemeanor of the first degree.

 

 .....2) how would the blackmailer be held accountable in this scenario? For blackmail? For wrongful death? Both?...

 

Blackmail and or extortion are criminal offenses.This may be what is known as a derivitaive tort, where a civil suit is based on the conduct of a criminal vioaltion, as surely Torts were committed against the person being framed.

 However, when the violation of a criminal statute is not specific enough to form the basis of a civil suit, the courts look to see if an "implied cause of action" exists.

On the federal level, at least, I know the case is Cort v. Ash.

Yes, it is also possible the blackmailer could face a Wrongful death suit if they can prove by a Preponderance of the evidence, the usual burden of proof in a civil cases, that a  by a "direct or proximate cause" of the actions of the defendantt, the Plantiff, by and through thier Estate, committed suicide. The case law is important here on "Cuasation".

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litteacher8 | Middle School Teacher | (Level 1) Distinguished Educator

Posted February 5, 2012 at 12:22 AM (Answer #5)

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The woman presumably framed the blackmailer because she did not feel like he would be convicted if he were put on trial for murder. When it comes to suicide, our legal system often results in a lack of responsibility. However, it does happen. The prosecutor has to be able to prove the person's actions led directly to the death.
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literaturenerd | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

Posted February 5, 2012 at 12:35 AM (Answer #6)

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I agree with litteacher. Outside of that, our legal system has flaws. I would imagine that she did frame the blackmailer so that her roommate could have the revenge she could not take for herself. If caught, I think charges would certainly be filed against the woman.

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Karen P.L. Hardison | College Teacher | eNotes Employee

Posted February 5, 2012 at 7:21 AM (Answer #7)

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It seems it is possible to be tried for framing a person even though there may not be sworn testimony, which would be tried as perjury. It seems tampering with evidence and obstructing an investigation are two of the counts that the ill-advised but well-intended roommate would face. At the end of the episode, the police did take her off in handcuffs, didn't they?

1999 Prosecutors and police go on trial in DuPage County, Illinois for conspiring to frame an allegedly innocent man, Rolando Cruz, ... in 1983. Cruz spent 10 years on death row before his acquittal at his third trial in 1995. All prosecutors and police are found not guilty, but the verdict is much less publicized by the media than the trial.

http://www.clarkprosecutor.org/html/death/timeline.htm

Obstruction of justice: http://tinyurl.com/7fp77ql

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booboosmoosh | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Educator Emeritus

Posted February 5, 2012 at 4:03 PM (Answer #8)

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Without a deep knowledge of the law, I would think the friend would be guilty of tampering with evidence/intentionally contaminating the scene of a crime, and obstructing justice...backwards? In other words, the man she is setting up is not guilty, and if the court is determined to find on the part of "justice," it seems to me that the woman is interfering with that intent. As someone else noted, in a court case, should she offer any evidence falsely against the man, she would also be guilty of perjury. (Love Poirot!)

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accessteacher | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted February 5, 2012 at 7:42 PM (Answer #9)

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Can the blackmailer be held accountable for the death of the woman who committed suicide? I don't think so, not legally at least. We need to remember that the woman in this episode (I love Poirot, by the way) chose to commit suicide herself. Although the blackmailer was kind of responsible for creating the stress that led her to make this decision, he did not kill her himself.

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belarafon | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

Posted February 8, 2012 at 2:51 AM (Answer #10)

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Obstruction of justice would certainly seem to be the biggest concern, but there is also the aspect of vigilante justice; the woman is taking the law into her own hands, and that is usually frowned upon. True, she isn't going after him with a gun Death Wish style, but she is causing him to be punished for a crime he didn't commit. Whether he is morally responsible for the woman's death is not an issue; he did not kill her, and so the framer's actions are illegal. On the other hand, I can't imagine any of us would convict her on the stand, if we were assured that she is telling the truth. I guess it would all come down to the better lawyer and the better case.

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