Using Data and Documents More Effectively in Investigations

Imagine that you are an investigator and have access to an insider whose credibility could not be impeached and that this insider could lay out exactly what the defendant did with the money or told his victims. You would spend days with that insider, figuring out how to ask the right questions to elicit the information you need to make your case.

Documents and data can be the equivalent of those potential insiders, and prosecutors and agents should treat them as such. With some time and the right mindset, documents and data…

The case of Farid Fata has gotten a lot of new attention recently with season 2 of the popular Dr. Death podcast, and it is a useful example of what data can reveal about health care fraud. Data probably could have caught Fata even earlier, and data helps suggest an answer to one of the most troubling questions that the Fata case raises — are or were there other doctors out there like him?

For background, Farid Fata was a hematologist/oncologist in Michigan who was arrested in August 2013. A year later, he pled guilty to health care fraud, conspiring…

Hilde (Brooklynn Prince) and Matt Lisko (Jim Sturgess) in Apple’s Home Before Dark

Apple’s Home Before Dark is a great TV series but it is dark. Very dark.

Over the course of the first season, law-enforcement officials commit crimes and ethical violations, and those actions come to light only because of a 9-year-old reporter who breaks the law herself.

Yeesh.

I used to analyze legal issues in TV shows through the now-defunct website FootnoteTV, and I wanted to discuss how events in Home Before Dark could play out in real life, based on my own experiences as a federal prosecutor, a defense attorney, a newspaper reporter, and, finally, a dad who has helped…

In 1854, the California Supreme Court prohibited all non-white people from testifying against white people, freeing a white man who had been convicted for killing a Chinese man in front of multiple witnesses.

I learned about this case many years ago in law school, and my classmates were understandably shocked and horrified at the opinion and the racial views embedded there. But I thought that there was something more to the case. A judge cannot overturn a conviction with a terrible opinion unless other people had done the right thing in the first place.

I ended up researching the case…

Vincent Chin

In June 1982, Vincent Chin was killed by a white man who never spent a full day in jail for the crime.

I remember the case from growing up in Michigan, where the case sparked massive outcry among Asian-Americans. I also have looked at the case from my perspective as a former federal prosecutor, and I think that many people misunderstand what actually happened in the Vincent Chin case.

The case is a tragedy, but it is not simply a case about one allegedly racist man, or one allegedly racist judge, or some allegedly racist or misguided jurors. The case…

My father in the 1960s

You may have heard me tell part of this story before.

On March 1, 2013, This American Life aired the episode “No Coincidence, No Story!” I was featured in the episode — I was the guy who discovered two weeks after getting engaged that his father had almost married his fiancee’s mother, something straight out of a Korean TV drama like Winter Sonata.

The episode has endured. I’ve had people come up years later and ask if that was me on the radio. I’ve been interviewed for British radio and for a possible documentary. …

From the movie

SPOILERS BELOW FOR GONE GIRL

Amazing Amy got away with it. Or did she?

By the end of the book Gone Girl, Amy Elliott Dunne definitely got away with setting up her husband Nick for her fake murder. Nick is clearly trapped and outmatched.

But framing Nick was not all that Amy did, and whether she gets away with everything that she did is less clear, despite everything Amy tells herself at the end of the book as she and Nick approach their sixth wedding anniversary.

And that’s because of a flaw in Amy that is apparent throughout the entire…

Charles Manson being escorted from the courtroom after being found guilty of seven murders. Bettmann/Getty Images

Fifty years ago, actress Sharon Tate and six other people were killed in two sets of murders carried out in August 1969 at the direction of Charles Manson. A year and a half later, Manson was convicted of these murders.

But he might have been acquitted if his case had been handled differently.

The book Helter Skelter by prosecutor Vincent Bugliosi with Curt Gentry is a classic of the true-crime genre, and it holds up today as an amazing case study with lessons for prosecutors, defense lawyers, and even criminal defendants. New prosecutors and veterans alike should read it to…

The man (or woman) who disguised himself as an old woman, outwitted Holmes, and somehow got off a moving hansom cab without the driver or Holmes knowing — perhaps the first link to Moriarty?

No story by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle reveals how or when Sherlock Holmes first learned about Professor Moriarty. The hints in the Final Problem are vague and misleading, and the Valley of Fear corrects the record only in part.

But if we re-examine the very first story, A Study in Scarlet, in light of the Silent Contest that I have argued underlies all the early Holmes stories, signs suggest that Holmes may have learned about Moriarty during the course of this story, around the same time that he met his friend, partner, and publicist Dr. John Watson.

We begin by…

Let’s begin this time with perhaps the first and funniest lie in all of Sherlock Holmes.

You know that Sherlock Holmes is perhaps the greatest detective of all time. And you probably know that, despite all his brilliance, he does not know that the earth revolves around the sun.

“You meant ‘spectacularly ignorant’ in a nice way? … So we go around the sun. If we went around the moon or round and round the garden like a teddy bear, it wouldn’t make a difference. All that matters to me is the work.” …

Stephen Lee

Lawyer, former federal prosecutor in Chicago (2008–January 2019), former newspaper reporter, creator of the defunct website FootnoteTV

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store