Wednesday, September 02, 2015

Amazon Prime on Paternity Leave - Grimm and Your Fourth Amendment Rights

Amazon Prime has a couple seasons of the NBC supernatural sorta-police procedural Grimm on it, but I didn't consider watching it while a small child lay sleeping in my arms (but not on any inanimate surface) until I read a graphic novel version of an episode thanks to the blind box service Comic Bento. This month was entirely comic books published by Dynamite Entertainment, so along with New Vampirella #1, I got a Grimm comic, and after reading it, thought, "this is not horrible as entertainment goes, and not particularly intellectually taxing, so perfect for watching at 5AM."
Strangely and perhaps positively, the new Vampirella series' writers make it seem like they feel unjustly saddled with her outfit but can't change it due to tradition.
If you haven't seen Grimm, I will explain it to you in a paragraph:

Nick Burkhardt (David Giuntoli) is a Portland, Oregon police detective who is also the latest in a line of "Grimms," humans who can see the animal- and myth-themed creatures that walk among us in human form. Most episodes, one of these creatures will act out, and Det. Burkhardt has to either kill or subdue it, depending on the creature's dangerousness. There's also some meta-plot about supernatural critters' politics, but it's safely ignored.
For example, Deep Space 9's Nana Visitor is a homicidal bee person in one episode.
It's a fun show in a "brain candy" sort of way, like Lost Girl or Gossip Girl, but the approach to law and policing drives me nuts.

Okay, so we've suspended disbelief that wolf people and bee people and whatever the heck hexenbiests are supposed to be live among us and follow their weird supernatural impulses but we rationalize it as crazy people, serial killers, etc. But the show does the thing I can't stand in most police procedurals, which is commit bad police work, which is why I stopped watching Mysteries of Laura.
Also, even on two detectives' salaries, how could they afford that house? In either Nassau or Westchester County, that's a >$2M home, and they clearly don't live in Jersey.
If you can't solve every crime without violating all the clauses of Amendments 4-6 of the Constitution, you shouldn't be a police officer. But shows where policing is sort of secondary to the plot, this happens all the time and is shown as, at worst, a "meh" thing.

For example, no, examining the "curtilage" of a house does not allow you to jump the fence in the backyard, Mr. Police Officer. And then finding a clue there does not give you probable cause to enter the house. This is what we call "fruit of the poisonous tree" in evidence law.

Or the time they ask a law firm partner for "all the cases" a dead associate was working on, and he says, "sure, full access," as opposed to, "you can have a list of the clients and litigation the attorneys were involved with, but anything involving our client confidences requires a subpoena or we all lose our licenses to practice law."

There's even an episode where a police officer character (not Nick) confesses to conspiring to keep Brady material from a defense attorney because he doesn't want a jury believing that this obviously evil guy might not be guilty beyond a reasonable doubt of the particular crime he probably did. As the defendant was, in fact, a vicious murderer possessed of supernatural strength, this is presented as a sort of defensible act. In real life, this behavior puts innocent people in jail. Also, makes a mockery of our constitutional system. Not everyone is a superstrong serial killer who can eat bullets.

So, when there isn't law, this show is fun. When there is, it's groaningly awful. Fortunately, the legal bits are few.

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