We ask ChatGPT: Are true crime findings admissible in court?
If you haven’t tried ChatGPT before, it’s an automated tool that generates text and copy solely through artificial intelligence. While it can help break through brain fog and writer’s block, it also has taken on a life — almost literally — of its own. I’ve had an idea to write a piece about true crime authors and their findings (are they admissible in court, what’s legal, etc.), and I thought this would be a perfect topic to test out ChatGPT.
Here’s how our AI conversation played out – fascinating!
Martindale-Avvo (MA): How do true crime authors get around detectives and help criminal defense/prosecution attorneys?
ChatGPT: True crime authors typically conduct extensive research and interviews to gather information for their books. They may interview law enforcement officials, witnesses, and experts in the field. Some authors may also consult with criminal defense or prosecution attorneys to gain a better understanding of the legal aspects of the case. However, it is important to note that true crime authors are not typically involved in the actual investigation or prosecution of a crime, and their role is to provide a detailed account of the events for the public.
MA: Throughout history, how many attorneys have relied on true crime author findings?
ChatGPT: It is difficult to say how many attorneys have relied on true crime author findings throughout history, as it likely varies on a case by case basis. True crime authors may provide valuable information and insights into a case through their research, but it ultimately depends on the specific attorney and the circumstances of the case whether they choose to use the information provided by the author. Additionally, the information provided by true crime authors is not always admissible as evidence in court, and must be verified through proper legal channels.
MA: How are true crime authors verified through proper legal channels, if they have information about a case?
ChatGPT: True crime authors are not typically verified through legal channels in the sense that their information is not necessarily vetted by law enforcement or the court system. However, there are some best practices that true crime authors can follow to ensure the accuracy and credibility of their information. These include:
Conducting thorough research and fact-checking: This includes interviewing multiple sources and verifying information through official documents, such as court transcripts and police reports.
Being transparent about sources: True crime authors should clearly identify their sources and any potential biases they may have.
Consulting with legal experts: Some authors may consult with criminal defense or prosecution attorneys to gain a better understanding of the legal aspects of the case.
Following ethical guidelines: True crime authors should abide by ethical guidelines for journalism and nonfiction writing, such as avoiding sensationalism and minimizing harm to victims and their families.
It is also important to note that true crime books, like any other books, are not considered as evidence in court and should not be used as a sole source of evidence. It’s important that law enforcement, prosecution and defense attorneys follow legal protocols and gather evidence through proper channels to build a case.
MA: How did Michelle McNamara help crack the case of the Golden State killer?
ChatGPT: Michelle McNamara, a true crime author and journalist, played a significant role in bringing attention to the case of the Golden State Killer, also known as the East Area Rapist. McNamara wrote extensively about the case on her website, True Crime Diary, and in her book, “I’ll Be Gone in the Dark: One Woman’s Obsessive Search for the Golden State Killer.”
McNamara’s work on the case helped to reignite public interest in the case and led to new leads and tips being provided to law enforcement. Additionally, she conducted extensive research and compiled a comprehensive timeline and suspect profile that helped to connect various crimes committed by the Golden State Killer.
After McNamara’s death in 2016, her husband, comedian and actor Patton Oswalt, worked with McNamara’s researcher and researcher Paul Haynes and journalist Billy Jensen to finish her book. The book was published in 2018 and was a bestseller and helped to keep the case in the public eye.
In April 2018, Joseph James DeAngelo, a former police officer, was arrested and charged with several of the Golden State Killer crimes based on DNA evidence. He later pleaded guilty and was sentenced to life in prison. Many credit McNamara’s work for keeping the case alive and leading to the arrest of the perpetrator.
MA: Is investigative journalism permitted in court?
ChatGPT: Investigative journalism, like any other form of journalism, is protected by the First Amendment of the United States Constitution, which guarantees freedom of the press. However, it is important to note that while investigative journalism is not prohibited in court, the information obtained and reported by journalists is not necessarily admissible as evidence in court.
Journalists are not considered to be part of law enforcement, and their methods of gathering information may not meet the legal standards for admissibility in court. In order for information to be admissible in court, it must be gathered in accordance with legal protocols such as proper warrant or consent, meet the requirements of the rules of evidence and be relevant to the case.
Additionally, journalists have a professional code of ethics that they are expected to follow, which may not align with legal standards. For example, journalists may use anonymous sources or protect the identity of whistle-blowers, but these actions would not be allowed in court.
While investigative journalism may not be permitted in court as evidence, it can be an important tool for uncovering information and bringing attention to issues that may lead to legal action and further investigation by the authorities.
MA: Do attorneys ever use journalists as private investigators?
ChatGPT: It is possible that attorneys may use journalists as private investigators, but it is not a common practice. Journalists are trained to gather and report information, while private investigators are trained to gather information that is admissible in court and can be used as evidence in legal proceedings. Attorneys typically use private investigators who are licensed and have the necessary training to gather information that can be used in court.
Journalists generally have a different set of skills and resources than private investigators, and the information they gather may not be admissible in court. Additionally, journalists are bound by a code of ethics that may not align with the legal standards for evidence.
However, it is possible that an attorney may hire a journalist to conduct research or gather information for a case, but the information obtained by the journalist would not be used as evidence in court. Instead, it could be used to help the attorney build a better understanding of the case, identify potential witnesses or leads, or to gain a better understanding of the public perception of the case.
In any case, it is important to note that the attorney-client privilege applies to the attorney-journalist relationship, meaning that any information provided by a journalist to an attorney is confidential and cannot be disclosed without the client’s consent.
MA: Have journalists been called to the stand before, as witnesses?
ChatGPT: Yes, journalists have been called to the stand as witnesses in court cases. This can happen in a variety of situations, such as:
- Libel and defamation cases: Journalists may be called as witnesses to testify about the accuracy of the information they reported, their sources, and their research methods.
- Criminal trials: Journalists may be called as witnesses to testify about information they obtained during their reporting that is relevant to the case. They may also be subpoenaed to reveal their sources, but many journalist organizations have policies that protect the identity of their sources and the journalists may refuse to disclose them.
- Civil trials: Journalists may be called as witnesses to testify about information they obtained during their reporting that is relevant to the case.
- Grand jury proceedings: Journalists may be subpoenaed to testify or to provide information or documents related to their reporting.
It is important to note that journalists are protected by the shield laws that varies by state, which protects journalists from being compelled to reveal sources or information obtained during their reporting in most cases.
It is worth mentioning that journalists do not have a legal duty to testify and they can always refuse to testify if they believe that their testimony would harm their ability to gather and report the news.
So I learned quite a bit with my ChatGPT buddy. Have you tried it? Recent news reports say that the tool is helping students to pass law school exams. While it’s not ethical to pass exams with it (it’s downright cheating), it is a powerful asset in other respects. We’re expecting copyright and plagiarism cases any day now!