July 30th, 2008

A "dead" witness, the Confrontation Clause, and DNA extraction capabilities

Setting: The United States, 1996, midsize city, the exact state indeterminate but probably in the west/southwest.
Searches: (1) variations and combinations of "died before trial," "deceased witness," "confrontation clause," "Ohio v. Roberts" (2) variations and combinations of "DNA testing," "history," "saliva," "dried saliva," "kiss"

Scenario (1): A victim of gang rape heads to the nearby hospital (if relevant, with ID that has him as a seventeen-year-old British citizen) initially claiming to have been "in a fight" and then spilling about the sexual component when the police officer shows up. After his medical examination, the same day of the rape, he gives a long, detailed statement to police. Then, some time later, once back in England, he fakes his own suicide (he doesn't want to appear in court, for various reasons). As far as the legal system is concerned, he's dead. Later, at the trial (his is not the only charge), there's a courtroom argument over the admissibility of his statement.

I understand that as of 2004 the statement would be definitely inadmissible since there was no opportunity to cross-examine, hence violating the confrontation clause of the Sixth Amendment, but as far I can tell things would have been more flexible at this point in time since the decision of Ohio v. Roberts would still be in effect. I'm not sure, however, if its criteria would be flexible enough for his statement to get in, even with a whopping great argument over it. If not, what would be ways to improve the odds? The character is well-educated in American law and very determined to have the rapists convicted, so he would work hard to make his own "posthumous" testimony admissible; the element of the faked death is nonnegotiable and he would rather not personally confront the rapists at any stage.

As a last resort, if necessary, I was considering having him give a recorded deposition, and the other parties would waive their right to be present and cross-examine since they've previously been established to be extremely arrogant pricks. Would that work?

Scenario (2): I understand that it's currently possible to pull DNA evidence from the saliva in a kiss on the skin. I'm not sure whether that would have been the case in 1996, if a swab was taken 2-3 hours after the kiss - let alone whether it could be enough to make a complete match (or a one-in-several-billion match) with a person. Assume top-notch equipment and technicians.

Cafe Musician Session's Pay

Setting: modern day, Boston
Searches: cafe performer hourly pay, cafe performing musician hourly pay, cafe performer musician session pay

I have an RP character who makes a pretty sad living off of performing in clubs, coffee shops and cafes [acoustic guitar, nothing special]. He's decent but not extraordinary, and at first did not have a vocalist, and can't sing for beans. I need a kind of before and after idea of what kind of money they could make.
At first he only played on slow shifts by himself, but after he picked up a moderately talented singer they started getting better hours and better pay. The only problem being, I don't know what a musician actually makes, on an hourly basis or for a pre-set session.

Would they get tips [does that even happen?]?
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Drug interaction resulting in stroke

I'm writing a murder mystery, and need a plausibly fatal interaction between two prescription drugs.

My murderer is a medical intern with access to pharmaceuticals. She tampers with her victim's prescribed medication (probably in capsule form, though I'd take liquid if it would work; definitely should be a form that's possible to ingest). She adds another drug that shouldn't be fatal in and of itself (and thus is unlikely to be looked for in blood work/in a tox screen), but which in combination with the prescribed medication causes a massive stroke.

The victim is a 72-year-old fairly healthy male.

I've Googled "drug interactions," "drug interaction stroke," and various combinations of similar words. I'm not coming up with much except various forms of adrenaline/epinephrine, etc.

Time is present day; location is the United States (Las Vegas, to be precise).

Thank you!

medieval window coverings

It's medieval England, late twelfth century. We are at the manor house of a noble, which is timbered and two-storied (it's the canon I have to work with). It's winter--what's going on with the windows? I assume there are shutters over the windows but that they wouldn't keep the shutters closed during the day in order to have more light. If this is true, what sort of covering, if any, would they have over the windows?

I'm abroad and don't really have access to a) libraries that would have helpful information or b) libraries that would have helpful information in a language I can read. Online I've found lots of information about castles and stained-glass windows, but nothing more modest.

hospital stay after burns& coma, and high school chemistry

Setting: Modern day Phoenix, AZ, slight fantasy twist
Googled: "hospital stay burns" "burn treatment" "length of hospital stay after coma" also checked out a couple hospital websites.

Situation: I have an otherwise healthy, 17 year old boy who got caught in an explosion of his high school chem lab. He was the only one there, so no one else was hurt, or knows exactly what happened. Some of the roof collapsed on him, and he was hospitalized almost immediately. He had some internal damage and a lot of pretty bad burns, and was unconscious/ in a coma for a couple of weeks.  The fantasy twist kicks in, he's fine, heals up alright between some good hospital care and phoenix magic, and wakes up/ considers himself perfectly fine after approx 3 weeks. The only catch- he still has an abnormally high body temperature- 108degreesF. I know this is more than fatal, but it's the aftermath of the magic that saved him. The hospital staff has no knowledge of the magic, and considers him lucky to have survived.
Question: How long would he have to stay after he wakes up? I'm guessing at least a couple of weeks while they do tests to make sure his temperature is the only abnormal thing. And what would his stay/ daily routine in the hospital be like? Would he be allowed to get up and wander around? Would he be allowed visitors? Everything I've googled about the burn treatment just gets me hospital pages recommending their burn centers, without saying what the actual treatment/ procedure is.
Also, less importantly, how realistic is it to have part of the ceiling collapse in the first place, and what would you recommend he have used to do so? The chemistry teacher trusts him, so he has access to a lot of chemicals+bunser burner+matches, so the result could be pretty spectacular, but should only harm the immediate area. (ie, that hallway would need repairing, but the students could continue to attend school, just without any hands-on chemistry.) I was thinking probably just a large amount of methane from the bunser burner released into the air, and then he lights a match.

Since linkslots seem popular lately...

These are my Most Helpful Links.

Translators first - everyone knows Babelfish, but I have a few others I like.
This one, here, is not entirely serious but with a little editing I've found it really useful for writing accents - Scouse and Scots especially.
Want to know how to swear in Swahili? Or Russian, or French? Try here. Also a fairly entertaining quotes site.
Now, random writing research.
If you write yaoi, I would strongly recommend Minotaur's site. I warn you, it's illustrated and is definitely not for kids, but it will help you get your slash biologically and socially accurate. Although there has been a side-effect that since reading this site I've become more annoyed by writers that obviously don't do their research.
Every writer who touches on other cultures should have Encyclopedia Mythica in their bookmarks. No question.
Also, there is of course the Writers' and Artists' Yearbook. Good to have online, especially since the books themselves are expensive to buy.
I warn you, before clicking this link - if you go into Everything2, it can be hours before you come out. But you will almost certainly have found out something new.
And now some specifics, for fantasy writers:
Phases of the moon, 2001-2025. Very useful for werewolf stories.
Tarotpedia - it's a wiki about Tarot cards, their meanings and history. What more can I say?

Hope this has been helpful!

Cross-posted to my journal.
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