Saturday, June 04, 2005

Corpi Delicti?

The citizens of New Jersey seem to have a decided preference for corpi delicti rather than just a singular, paltry corpus delicti. See Suleman Din & Rick Hepp, Chesapeake discovery stymied police for a year, The Star-Ledger p. 1 (June 3, 2005)("More than a year after the dismembered body of a Middlesex County [New Jersey] man was found floating in Chesapeake Bay in three matching suitcases, his wife was charged yesterday with the murder.") The case is reminiscent of the one I reported in the post Corpus Delicti in Plures Partes Divisa Est in My Home Town (March 19, 2005) Of course whether what we have here is one corpus delicti or several depends on how you slice things (mentally, I mean). In any event, perhaps we can avoid the logical, metaphysical, and legal problem of whether we have one body of a crime or several bodies (or several bodies of several crimes?) if we do as rigorous legal thinkers counsel us to do and think of corpus delicti as equivalent to nothing more than "the metaphorical body of the wrong: the acts that constitute the wrong." But doing this would spoil the fun. In any event, logical and legal and inferential problems would still plague us -- because sometimes (as in this Chesapeake Bay case) authorities will still have to figure out answers to questions such as, "Where was the body of this wrong located, in New Jersey or in, say, Virginia (where the suitcases surfaced, so to speak)?"
  • The Virginia authorities washed their hands of this salty case. Apparently they decided that the victim (the husband, the ex-husband, of the accused) was sliced up into tres partes while his physical corpus was still in New Jersey.