So Cal Mystery Writers’ Con

So today was day one of the So. Cal. Mystery Writers of America and Sisters in Crime joint conference. This is a “writer” con, far more than a “fan” con…but there are small book-signings after each panel since authors are readers too. I pretty much spent my day in one room and, except for the time when I’m doing room set up for a panel in another room, will be there all day tomorrow as well.

There are all sorts of panels going on about agents (don’t really want one at the stage), contracts (I got that one pretty covered), editors and writing process. The panels I’m attending, and the reason I chose this con, are the guys/gals doing it for a living and sharing that with us panels.

The first two panels were kinda joined together. First an overview and then a “hands on” type of course. An LA County coroner set up a crime scene and showed you how she worked it, dealt with the bodies and how she did what when (and do you know there is a chemical that completely obliterates DNA?..Its what they clean their equipment with). Presenting in conjunction with her was the LA Sheriffs Detective who worked that case as well and picked it up about how she interviewed the witnesses and at what point she would look at the computer in the office (it was an workplace double homicide) and how¬† they found the hidden security cameras and got access to the footage. They played the footage and showed how what looked like a robbery gone bad was a murder/suicide where, because of how the shooter held the gun and stood, he was knocked a good ten feet away from the gun.

In the afternoon, we had a detective from the El Cajon PD come in and discuss witness interviewing and suspect interrogation. He also touched on DNA cross-contamination…how the tests are so sensitive now that sometimes they’re useless — a rope used in a hanging became so cross-contaminated just from the officers and investigative staff in the room with it that they couldn’t use it. We got to watch “sting” tapes with him pointing out exactly what the officers were doing and why.

The last presenter was an FBI agent. He discussed investigation from their agencies standpoint and went into the FBI’s culture. He’s married to an LAPD detective and could use that experience to explain how she can get a victim to make a call to a perp while she listens in on her own decision, while he has to fill out six forms with four higher ups signing off — B/C FBI has been “burned” on the privacy invasion thing (think Watergate) whereas he never has to worry about Use of Force investigations but she lives under that shadow every call out she gets (think Rodney King). He also discussed the realities of inter agency cooperation in a post 9-11 world, now that most police agencies and federal agencies are on joint terrorism task forces (federally mandated program). 15 years ago most cops had never met an FBI agent. Now it is highly likely that there is someone in the FBI and that Department who have worked together.

Sue Grafton was the luncheon speaker. I haven’t read any of her books (I never got sucked in by the blurb). But she turned out to be a charming, amusing and very engaging speaker. Surprising as many writers are not the most outgoing folks in the world.

Tomorrow I’ll attend the Arson Investigation workshop, the Homicide Prosecution and the Gang Crimes panel on taking down LaEme members.

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