Criminal

Unlawful Possession of a Weapon Part 7

Now we want to talk about the doctrine of chances. This is my favorite part. The doctrine of chances, basically says, tells us that,” highly unusual events are unlikely to repeat themselves inadvertently or by happenstance.” It says that,” we have an instinctive recognition of this that just human nature is, we know that lightning doesn’t strike twice in the same place” that’s the doctrine of chances. The reason I like the doctrine of chances so much is because they can be used defensively. And one time I was representing somebody in sexual assault case where we learned that the victim had accused several other men of sexual assault and those other cases turned out to be untrue. And so, we wanted to use that evidence and we got it in by using the doctrine of chances.

Now, doctrine of chances really creates some really good interesting stories. Starting with Tucker v State! This isn’t a Texas case or a federal case but it’s such an enjoyable example that I just I had to bring it out. Horace tucker lived in Las Vegas Nevada. And one day Las Vegas police department get a phone call from Mr. Tucker’s house and Mr. Tucker says,” excuse me police, I need you to send somebody out to my house I got a problem” So the police go out to his house, they knock on his door and Horace Tucker opens the door and he’s looking to shoveled and sweaty and he smells like he’s been drinking all night and he says,” Come on in officer” and takes the officer over to his kitchen and on his kitchen floor is lying ‘Omer Evans’ who’s been shot ten times and who is lying dead on Mr. Tucker’s kitchen floor!

So, the police officer says,” Who’s this guy?” Mr. Tucker says,” I don’t know” “So how’d he get here” Tucker says,” I don’t know” “ Who shot him?” Tucker says,” I don’t know” says,” I got drunk last night and I woke up in the morning and look there’s this guy lying on my kitchen floor shot ten times. Can you imagine!” So then, the police investigate and they really investigate the hell out of this case. They interview 57 different people to try and pin Horace Tucker on this murder. They can’t do it, so eventually they had to let the case go. Couple of years later, five years later let me see I’m going to get you the exact year here. Its 1962 I think. Well anyway, 5 years later, the police get another phone call from Horace tucker’s home. He tells the police, “ Police, I need you to send somebody over” they say,” why?” “Well, just send somebody over, and I’ll show you” The police arrive at Mr. Tucker’s home and he leads the police officer to his kitchen where again, there’s a dead body of a man shot several times lying on his kitchen floor! The police ask him,” Who is this guy?” can you guess what Tucker says? He says,” I don’t know” “what’s he doing here?” “I don’t know” “How’d he get shot?” “I don’t know!” This time they indict him, believe or not and they try and get evidence in concerning the first guy who got killed in his house! Ok? Now this is how much things have changed since 1966. [Speaker laughs sarcastically] they can’t get it in!

The government doesn’t let the state get evidence of the first shooting is why? because the court finds that there’s not enough evidence to prove that he was even guilty of the first one. So, I just think that that’s such an enjoyable story that I couldn’t pass up telling you that. Ok, here we go! This is probably the most famous instance of the, and we’re getting close to the end here, I think this is the last thing. This is George Joseph Smith. And this is the subject of what is commonly known as the ‘bribes in the bath’ case. This is the most famous doctrine of chances cases of all time. This is where the idea started. And the reason let me stop here for a second. Why am I talking about the doctrine of chances? Well, you see the principle underlying the doctrine of chances is really the same principle underlying rule 404(B). It’s the same thing. The idea that we know that lightening doesn’t strike twice in the same place. And anytime you’re looking at 404(B) cases, particularly the older ones, you going to run into mansion of the doctrine of chances. But the thing that I really like about the doctrine of chances is that it’s an easier ways to use for 404(B) in a defensive way. You mention the doctrine of chances; usually the judge and the prosecutor don’t know what the hell you’re talking about. You sound really smart, you sound like you’re well versed in the law they’d be duly impressed and they let it in. because logically it does makes sense.

So, getting back to the ‘brides in the bath’! Now, George Joseph Smith! George Joseph Smith had a thing for insurance money and bath tubs for some reasons. I don’t know why! He was a, I don’t if, when you saw his picture, if don’t if, could we put his picture up here again? You see, I don’t whether that he would be considered a handsome man but apparently back in turn of the century, England I suppose he was as he was married about 12 times at the same times. At the same time incidentally. Married to about 12 different women at the same time and any he had this MO that he was doing sort of built the women out of their money, get them to withdraw their live savings, sell things and then abandon them. That was kinda his MO. And, he would also get women to take out insurance policies, life insurance policies. One day about 1915, January 1915, the police department in Black pool Indian, Black pool England they receive a envelope from a gentleman by the name of ‘Crossly’. Crossly was a land lord who would rent out rooms to people and Crossly was sitting in his kitchen with his wife and they reading the paper and they came across a story in the paper that they found interesting. See the story said that there had been a young women found drowned in a lodging house in a bath tub. So, they said,” wow that’s kind of unusual because the exact same thing happened here in our lodging house not last year!” so they cut out the newspaper clippings and they have the old newspaper clipping so they take that and they put it in an envelope and they send it to the investigator. The investigator was a guy named ‘detective Arthur Neil’

And for some strange reason a bunch of really famous people became, not only that it become a famous case, but very famous people were involved in this case from the get go the detective Arthur Neil I mean he was like a big deal, he was Scotland Yard incarnate. He was one of the members of what they’d called ‘big four’ and so the detective Arthur Neil gets a hold of this envelop and he says,” Hmm, this is very interesting. This seems like too much of a coincidence” See, he’s already operating on the doctrine of chances. And so he’s like,” Two women in lodging houses drowned recently married drowned in a bath tub and found in a bath tub. Hmm, well this bares some investigation”

So then they began to go investigate. And they go and they find strange similarities. They find that, they go to the first land lord and they ask him,” was there anything unusual?” “Yeah, well there were a couple of things that were unusual. They kinda moved in here and for some reason the guy bought this bath tub with him. Obviously the bath tub we had wasn’t good enough; he brought his own bath tub. And the bath tub was really small” So they go and they inspect this tiny little bath tub. And the first thing that strikes them is “ how does somebody drown in a tiny little bath tub?” so then they go to the other lodging house, the other woman. They talk to the landlord. They say “ Hey did you notice anything unusual?” “Yeah the guy, he brought his own bath tub” brought his own bath tub?” “Yeah not only that it was a really tiny little bath tub. I couldn’t imagine somebody actually drowning in that bath tub” now the reason I mentioned the size of the bath tub is because not only was his case famous for the principle of extraneous offenses but it was also one of the seminal cases in which Scotland Yard began to use what we now call; forensic evidence, forensic science. Because they were puzzled by how somebody could drown in such a tiny little bath tub.

And so they bought in all of these experts to try and determine how somebody could drown in this bath tub. Anyway, so then they go and they find that; yeah they both had insurance policies, they had both been to the doctor the day before they drowned, they were compelled to go to the doctor by their husband even though they thought that nothing was wrong with them. So they go to the doctor and doctor’s like,” why are you here?” woman says,” I don’t know why am I here” husband says,” because you don’t feel well honey” and doctor says, “Well nothing’s wrong with you. Go on home” and next day she drowns in the tiny little bath tub. Same thing happen again a year later. So by this time Arthur Neil’s like, “No there’s something going on here” right when he decides that they find the 3rd case. The exact same thing! So, he goes to trial, he, they arrest George Joseph Smith. He goes to trial, he is incidentally represented by a barrister by the name of ‘Edward Marshal Hall’ who was again this really famous lawyer for some reason and the government, this is really the first documented case where they used extraneous offenses to try and convict somebody. That they probably otherwise would not have been able to convict and they were successful. In fact, despite the fact that Edward Marshall Hall was a very well-known and a famous attorney, the jury only took 20 mints to find this guy guilty. They find him guilty and he got hanged! And to give you an idea how swift justice was in this case; the letter with the newspaper clip tings arrives in January of 1915 and by August of 1915, this guy is hanging from his neck.

So, moving on, like I said the really important to the doctrine of chances for our purposes is that it can be used defensively; a repeated misidentifications s can be admitted by the way of the doctrine of chances implausibly similar accusations can also be admitted by way of the doctrine of chances. So beware, like I said; this isn’t the how to, this is just may be hoping to familiarize people with these bigger ideas like the doctrine of chances and if you know about these things that just makes all of us a better body of lawyers.

Francisco Hernandez

Author Francisco Hernandez

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