Sunday, August 12, 2012

The Case of Preston Hughes III: Singularity

In the Boscombe Valley Mystery, Sherlock Holmes observed:
But it is profoundly true. Singularity is almost invariably a clue. The more featureless and commonplace a crime is, the more difficult it is to bring it home.
Interesting. Something surprisingly unusual is almost always a clue. Consider then, once again, the property invoice.

If the police did indeed search Preston's apartment around 9:15 AM on September 27, why does the property invoice show a time of 2:58 AM on September 27?

Where is the "green leafy substance" Officer F.L Hale recovered from Preston's dining room table, the substance he kept in his "care control, and custody until tagged in the police property room"?

Where are Shandra's eyeglasses that Officer F.L. Hale recovered from between the cushions of Preston's couch? He claims he turned them over to the lab for printing. Why did he not at the same time turn the Busch beer can over to the lab for printing?

In the Hound of the Baskervilles, Holmes advised:
The more outre and grotesque an incident is the more carefully it deserves to be examined, and the very point which appears to complicate a case is, when duly considered and scientifically handled, the one which is most likely to elucidate it.
Interesting. An investigator should welcome confusing evidence, since that evidence, carefully considered, is most likely to bring clarity to the case.

Consider then this photo.

At first blush, it seems to be nothing more than a shot along the hallway looking into Preston's bedroom. Those are his jeans lying on the ground, and his blue work shirt lying just beyond.

But there is mystery here. Look again at the photo.

Do you see it?

Look again. Tilt your head so that the doorway is vertical and walk forward a bit.

How about now?  Do you see it?

Focus above the chest of drawers.

Now you can see what has been bothering me for quite some time. It shouldn't have taken me so long to figure it out, but I now believe I understand. Off and on, during that all that time, I kept thinking of Holmes.
Singularity is almost always a clue. (BOSC)
It shouldn't have taken me so long to figure it out, but it did. I kept wondering if I was only imagining what I see in the picture. I kept wondering if someone had falsified the 2:58 AM time stamp on the property invoice. It was always so simple, just as I had been told it would be.
It is a mistake to confound strangeness with mystery. (STUD)
You see it now as well, don't you. There is light coming from behind the sheer curtain. It is light outside. The photograph was taken in the daytime. The police could not have recovered the items photographed during this search and turned them into the locker room by 2:58 am. They cannot violate space and time any more than you can.

No need to look for a street light outside Preston's second floor window. I already did, using Google satellite view and Bing birds eye view. There is none there. I know the search engine images are not from 1988. I realize that maybe a streetlight had been removed between now and then.  But I don't think so.

The table lamp is turned off. It does not need to be on because it is light outside. Don't believe me? Just back up and take another look down the hall.

The hall light isn't on either, because it is light outside. As icing on a well-illuminated cake, the light switch is in the off position.

So, I figured, the 2:58 AM time on the property invoice must be wrong. Maybe someone falsified the document? But who and to what end? Maybe it was just a simple clerical error. Maybe the typist meant to enter 2:58 PM. The "A" and "P" keys, however, are just about as far apart as they can be on the keyboard. Surely the person typing the document knew whether it was the middle of the day or the middle of the night.

It seemingly made no sense, but it was so, so simple. And I was so, so slow to figure it out.
As a rule, the more bizarre a thing is the less mysterious it proves to be. (REDH)
The police searched the apartment twice.


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Anonymous said...

Looking at the inventory sheet, it looks like the Time entered is in a different font then the rest. So it looks like what happened was that they entered in all the items and then later went back said opps we needed to put in the time. So what was the normal operating procedure for entering items at different times? Were they supposed to create different invoices if half the stuff was entered in at 3am and the rest at 9am?


tsj said...

Yes indeed, Mike. At least it is more bold than the other typewritten text. Note that it is also vertically spaced in a fashion inconsistent with the remainder of Hale's text. It is, however, vertically spaced properly with respect to the property officer's name.

In the next post, you will see that I suspect the property officer took Hale's property invoice, entered it into his typewriter, entered the date and his name, then signed the document.

The time looks more bold than his name because the entire document has been copied / scanned such that it is darker on the left and lighter on the right.

The time looks more bold than other typing along the left side of the image because it was typed with a different typewriter. I suspect the typewriter was that of the property officer.

Anonymous said...

I agree. But the question becomes what is SOP for items dropped off at the property room at different times? Do they prepare two reports or just one? I'm not sure how it worked with HPD at the time. 3:00 am would have been the time that he would have dropped off the initial evidence (crime scene and hospital) and then he started preparing his other reports and then he gets called to the scene at 7:30 am. I didn't see anywhere where he was called to the scene around 3am. They took Preston into coverage at 2:30 am. So they would have had to watch him leave, go inside and round up the items and get back to the stations with all the evidence and drop it off by 3am. Very close, and it would depend on where the police station is.


Anonymous said...

One piece of evidence that I don't think that mattered was the ring. It's listed on the invoice, but in his report Hale said he found it in the field in the morning. If the invoice is really from 3am, why lie about a non-important ring?


tsj said...

I have no unique insight into HPD's standard procedures. I do have a general understanding of chain of custody documents.

The property invoice is a chain of custody document. The movement of all evidence is supposed to be always and clearly tracked by various chain of custody documents. It seems proper that Hale entered the date on which he prepared his document and intended to submit it. It seems proper also that the property officer entered the specific time he received the property. That is the time he accepted and resumed responsibility for all the items in the invoice.

If either of them were to argue that the time reflected only the time the first of the items was turned in, and therefore argue that some of the items may have been turned in later than the time specified, that would destroy the value of the chain of custody document.

I can't imagine any police department, even the HPD back then, would allow such a vague chain of custody document to be part of their SOP.

Regarding the 2:30 am time, I will argue in a self-rebuttal post that it is not possible that the property invoice could have been turned in at 2:58 am if police arrived at Preston's door at 2:30 am, as they claim. For now I'll simply note that there is good reason to doubt the 2:30 am time and leave it at that.

Be aware that I treat all statements by all parties in this case with skepticism. I try to compare all statements against the physical evidence and other well-substantiated data.

Dr. Thinus Coetzee said...

You are a modern day Sherlock Holmes, my Friend! Excellent post!

tsj said...

Dr. Coetzee,
So that the readers know, you and I have been recently in communication.

Your comment is generous, and you know that I am little interested in such an honorific. As do you, I seek just treatment for those who have come up short. I simply focus my efforts in a different area than you do.

In return for your kind words, I tip my hat to you for your efforts.

tsj said...

Very good observation on the ring as well. As far as I know, you and I are so far the only people to have noticed that. (I guess that's why I think you made a very good observation.)

The ring is another item I will cover in my self-rebuttal. For now, I will merely note two aspects of the ring evidence.

First, if my alternate scenario is correct, then Hale must have been untruthful in his police report. Once again, I attempt to confirm every claim made by anyone involved in this case before I rely too heavily on it.

Second, we do not have a photo of the ring. Hale was supposed to take pictures of the evidence, and he generally did so, yet we have no photo of the ring. Perhaps the photo would show that the ring was discovered at night. Perhaps the photo was among the 7 (22 actually) that I claim disappeared down a rabbit hole.

The Skeptical Spouse said...

Mike, if you consider a moment, you'll perceive that the only logical way for police depts to operate is to require separate documents or at least the recording of separate times on each submission of evidence to the evidence clerk.

Imagine the questioning by any competent defense attorney..."So, since you don't record subsequent times of submission after the first one, you can't actually say when those other items were taken into custody?"
"Uh, no."

No prosecutor would leave themselves open to the introduction of doubt in this fashion. Their case would end up looking slipshod, and prosecutors are NOT stupid.

Anonymous said...

Mrs Spouse. I agree and any defense attorney should have looked at the time on the invoice and motioned to dismiss all the evidence collected the Preston's apartment because it had been collected prior to him giving consent. Since I don't have the trial records, was that discussed at trial and any defense given for chain of custody?


tsj said...

I'm smiling here for several reasons.

First, everyone should be aware that The Skeptical Spouse and I may be related.

Second, in case it is not plainly obvious, TSS has a mind of her own, and a darn good one at that.

Third, the comments are open to all, including TSS.

Fourth, I was surprised by her comment. Usually she does not comment on my posts. When she does, she has tended to poke fun at me. (At least I hope it has been in jest.) See my recent post Surprising Composure for an example.

Fifth, I am smiling mostly because you addressed her as Mrs Spouse. That is terrific.

Now for a real answer. I have recently received and read approximately half the trial transcripts. The remainder will be available before I write of the trial of Preston Hughes. So far, I have not seen any discussion of the property invoice.

In fact, I have seen no discussion of any of the many substantive points such as I have raised herein. The lack of such discussion before, during, and since Preston's trial is why I have dedicated so much of my effort this year to bring that information forward.

I will not discuss the trial testimony in any detail until I have written of Preston's interrogations and confessions, until I have read all the transcripts, and until I have had an opportunity to compare the trial testimony against all the other evidence in the case.

I will say, however, that I have been surprised by testimony from both State and defense witnesses.

Anonymous said...

Unfortunately this is where the lawyer comes because there are several avenues that can be pursued. However from a legal stance, there may be only a few. Your definitely in a better position having read the transcripts. It just sucks because the court system uses the trial as getting everything out in the open, not waiting 20 years.


Anonymous said...

Why not make the transcripts easily available for all to read?
Surely a mans life is worth the cost of having somebody upload the documents to Hughes blog or why not even here?
Open up a PayPal account & I'd be the first to donate to have the transcripts published online.

tsj said...

I intend to make the transcripts available online, and I do not intend to ask for anyone's help or money to do so. However, I intend to wait until I actually have the transcripts (a complete set), and I intend to wait until I have actually read over them carefully, and I intend to wait until I begin posting on the trial, all of which should not be too far off.

I like your comment about "Surely a mans life is worth ..." Perhaps I have not yet fully appreciated what is at stake here. Thanks for the reminder.

Anonymous said...

yes we need the transcript.

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