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Tue April 5, 2011
Fiction as evidence? Michigan Supreme Court weighs in on words as evidence
The Michigan Supreme Court is faced with the question of whether a work of fiction can be used against the author if they are charged with a crime.
A Bay County man was convicted of molesting his young granddaughter. Used against him during the trial was a fictionalized “sex manual” he wrote about incestuous sex between siblings and their father.
Chief Justice Robert Young summed up the question before the court during today's hearing.
“We’re now trying to determine the extent to which this incest fantasy is admissible, and why if it is.”
Sylvia Linton is the prosecuting attorney. She says the trial-court judge made a valid point about fictional works:
“Just because Sophocles wrote about incest doesn’t mean he would do that. Well that’s true, but if Sophocles was on trial for having incest with his mother, then I think it becomes extremely relative.”
To which Justice Stephen Markham asked:
“So if Agatha Christie is charged with murder, the fact that she wrote several first-person stories about murder would be relevant as evidence?”
The prosecutor says in some cases, yes, Agatha Christie’s stories could have been used against her.
The defense attorney says allowing works of fiction to be admitted as evidence would open the door for what could be used against a person, and prevent people from receiving fair trials.
The Supreme Court is expected to rule on the case later this year.