ROBERTA: Last fall, we were pleased to introduce Allison Leotta and her debut novel, LAW OF ATTRACTION. Allison kindly agreed to revisit JRW, this time to answer questions from the perspective of her work as a federal prosecutor specializing in sex crimes, domestic violence, and crimes against children.
Allison has also been blogging about what Law & Order: SVU gets right and wrong, evaluating each episode from her perspective as a real sex-crimes prosecutor. She says it has been much more fun, and gotten much better feedback, than perpetually shaking her fist at the TV. (Doesn't this sound like Hank's lovely husband Jonathan?)
So she's happy to talk about what TV crimes shows get right and wrong. She can answer broad questions about domestic violence, sex crimes, and crimes against children, and talk about the criminal justice process generally. She's also willing to discuss how she manages to balance mommying with prosecuting and writing.
(She can't comment on any real pending cases or give legal advice. And keep in mind that everything she says is in her personal capacity, not as a representative of the Department of Justice.)
HALLIE: Seems like every time I watch one of those crime investigation
shows, it turns out that the teenaged daughter did it, and it always
feels like the least-likely-suspect solution. How common is it in real
life that a young girl is the murderer?
ALLISON: So true! It seems that on TV, the murderer always turns out to be a buxom 19-year-old heiress. In real life, only 10% of homicides are committed by women. I dislike movies like "Fatal Attraction," where a crazed woman stalks a mild-mannered guy. In reality, it's so much more likely to be the other way around. In "Law of Attraction," I tried to paint a realistic portrait of a woman who is a long-time victim of an abusive boyfriend.
ROBERTA: I need help with a lawyer character. My protagonist's father
has hired a defense attorney for her--long distance on the
recommendation of a friend. Now she's hearing rumors that her new
lawyer may have something sleazy in his background. So I'm wondering
if you could think of a thing or two that a lawyer might have
done--and gotten away with--that would fit this bill.
ALLISON: Ooh, sleaziness! The challenge will be keeping this answer short. Let's see, he could try to bribe a witness, judge, or juror. He could coach his clients on how to lie; he could direct his clients to destroy evidence; he could manufacture evidence himself. He could take possession of a gun he knows his client used to commit a murder, and get rid of it. He could take clients' money but not work on their case. In defending a rape case, he could use his subpoena power to get the health records of the rape victim, then intimidate her into not testifying ("If you testify, I'll tell the world that you have herpes, and that you had an abortion when you were 17.") He could obtain the address of a witness and give it to his gangster client, knowing the gangster will use it to kill the witness. On a subtler level, he could go to a witness's home himself to show "we know where you live."
ROBERTA: Fabulous, Allison, thank you! Enough ideas there for the entire series! Okay how about you guys, questions for Allison?