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Old 11-03-2017, 07:11 AM   #1
stevencwood
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Writing a Courtroom Drama

UPDATE!

I wrote out the opening statements, I think I'm missing some of the procedural stuff but let me know what you guys think.

I'm writing from the prosecution point of view, and they don't have all of the evidence yet as someone will come forward with additional information. Yes, this is similar to A Few Good Men, but I'm fine with that.

Secondly I'm trying to go for a sympathetic defense. The defense's strategy is basically "yes, our client is guilty of somethings, but what he's created outweighs that." So in the end, I'm pretty sure I'm letting this guy off the hook. The message I want to convey is that of "this man is far too important to the future of science to spend time in jail."

It would be like if Elon Musk was on trial for murder while he's in the middle of curing cancer.

https://drive.google.com/open?id=1aO...We9njL2SbpC1T8
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I understand you have to get pretty technical with courtroom or police stories, but is there such thing as too technical?

There are some movies that breeze through technical or other complicated mumbo jumbo without explaining it, but is that the way to go? I look at something like Ex Machina when Nathan shows Caleb the "wetware" stuff in his lab. A lot of what comes out of his mouth will have a typical person saying "I guess what he's saying is correct."

I'm writing a sci-fi story that takes place primarily in a court room. A medical research company that developed a revolutionary device is under investigation. When their test subject - the only person using said device - winds up dead under mysterious circumstances, reports of misconduct come flooding in.

The main characters are the lawyers that are handling the complaints against the company, along with the person who filed the complaints in the first place.

I wrote a cold open, followed by the two lawyers discussing the case after just learning about it. My dialogue is meant to be fast-paced between these two, and I'm dropping information without giving away the most obvious question - what is the device and what does it do?

https://drive.google.com/open?id=1uO...RRMfqDlj27uX3r

Last edited by stevencwood; 11-09-2017 at 06:53 PM.
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Old 11-03-2017, 07:25 AM   #2
mlesemann
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I like it - it definitely makes me want to read more. And I think the level of technicality is about right.

My only criticism is that the FDA does not do its own investigations - it only reviews investigations that labs do. So replace it with a different agency - coroner? local police? FBI? Take your pick.
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Old 11-03-2017, 07:30 AM   #3
stevencwood
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I like it - it definitely makes me want to read more. And I think the level of technicality is about right.

My only criticism is that the FDA does not do its own investigations - it only reviews investigations that labs do. So replace it with a different agency - coroner? local police? FBI? Take your pick.
Thanks for checking it out. How does the quick dialogue work for you? I thought the same thing about the FDA and actually emailed their Medical Device Complaints Department. They responded back saying "The FDA does not get involved in legal matters." My original plan was to have these guys be FDA attorneys, which do exist, but do not serve whistle-blowers.

As far as investigations, they will do it if they receive "regulatory misconduct" reports. The following excerpt is taken from HERE


Quote:
If contact information is provided, CDRH (Center for Devices and Radiological Health) sends an acknowledgement letter to the submitter which includes an FDA-assigned identification number for the allegation report. This number is used in all follow-up communication to ensure that the report information is filed together.

CDRH assesses the allegation and determines the potential risk to patients, and CDRH will investigate further if warranted. After our assessment, we take appropriate action, which could include:

Regulatory actions such as sending a warning letter to the medical device firm, conducting an inspection of the manufacturing facility, or requesting a device recall.

Contacting the individual, firm or medical device manufacturer for additional information.

Monitoring the allegation using additional sources of reported information (e.g. medical device reports (MDRs), new complaints, inspection reports) to determine any action needed.
To avoid a potential bore, I skipped ahead to when the whistle-blower retained a firm. These guys specialize in medical device fraud (something I didn't know existed), which explains why they're so familiar with what should have happened prior to them getting a case file.

My only issue is finding out how this court case works. The firm will serve the company (New Life), and the case will be for manslaughter. The primary person on trial is the head of engineering. It will eventually come out that whatever was inside Robert Chavez's body, was able to be remotely shut down. This bit of functionality was left out when submitting he device to the FDA for approval.

Last edited by stevencwood; 11-03-2017 at 07:37 AM.
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Old 11-03-2017, 07:37 AM   #4
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If that's essential to your story, then certainly go with it.
It's just the one thing that really feels "off" to me, especially the idea of them doing something "a couple of times."
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Old 11-03-2017, 07:40 AM   #5
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If that's essential to your story, then certainly go with it.
It's just the one thing that really feels "off" to me, especially the idea of them doing something "a couple of times."
I edited my response to you since you posted this, by the way.

Yea, I get what you're saying. I need to re-word that or come up with something else. I know this exchange is exposition heavy, but in the context of the scene, I think it works.

The reason why these guys are so taken aback by the New Life Inc. will be revealed, I just don't know when. The cold open is misleading, and that was intentional. The device that was created has nothing to do with his eye.

My plan is to show courtroom testimony in the form of flashbacks, that way we can see what's going on rather than just listening to someone explain it.
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Old 11-03-2017, 11:48 PM   #6
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From my reading New Life is a big deal. An artificial eye that enables the recipient to see is a breakthrough, but also controversial, as it would have to be "wired" directly into the brain. My own extrapolation from this is that New LIfe has already successfully marketed other remarkable products that connect to the nervous system. Thousands, maybe millions, already have these implants. That's what would make the "problem" with the eye implant so explosive. Are all those with other New Life implants at risk? Even a hint of scandal will seriously damage New LIfe stock. So lots going on already.


I would expect an attorney from the DOJ to be assigned a case like this. It started with a Federal agency (the FDA) that supposedly oversaw the testing protocols up to the final human testing phase. The conspiracy to defraud aspects would have large political and financial consequences, and with a large conglomerate spread over many states (as a corporation like New Life would be) the investigation would be handled by the FBI under DOJ guidance.


Just my two ducats.
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Old 11-04-2017, 05:46 AM   #7
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From my reading New Life is a big deal. An artificial eye that enables the recipient to see is a breakthrough, but also controversial, as it would have to be "wired" directly into the brain. My own extrapolation from this is that New LIfe has already successfully marketed other remarkable products that connect to the nervous system. Thousands, maybe millions, already have these implants. That's what would make the "problem" with the eye implant so explosive. Are all those with other New Life implants at risk? Even a hint of scandal will seriously damage New LIfe stock. So lots going on already.


I would expect an attorney from the DOJ to be assigned a case like this. It started with a Federal agency (the FDA) that supposedly oversaw the testing protocols up to the final human testing phase. The conspiracy to defraud aspects would have large political and financial consequences, and with a large conglomerate spread over many states (as a corporation like New Life would be) the investigation would be handled by the FBI under DOJ guidance.


Just my two ducats.
Thanks for the advice. Iím ignorant to a lot of this stuff and Iím trying to research what I can as I move along. Here is what Iím trying to get across, without getting into details on what exactly the case is.


A new employee at the company New Life Inc. witnessed some serious misconduct - resulting in the death of essentially a test subject. The death was intentionally caused in order to save the tech within Roberts body. I get into this in the story.


As for the lawyers, I looked up whistle blower firms and found there are some out there who would represent someone that filed a report of misconduct with the FDA against a medical device manufacture. In this case that is New Life Inc. The new employee that I spoke of filed said report to the FDA and then went to these two lawyers.


This is where my limited knowledge of court rears itís ugly head.


I contacted the FDAís Medical Device division and they told me even if a complaint is filed with them and after investigations are complete, the FDA does not send their legal team after the company who garnered a complaint.


I want to have New Life as a whole put on trial for device fraud and manslaughter. I did a little research here and found out a device manufacturer can be charged with manslaughter if they willingly held information from the FDA when seeking pre market approval for said device.


Iím obviously missing steps in the legal aspect of this. I need to have the whistle blower retain a firm, and get New Life in court on manslaughter charges...but not sure how that would realistically.
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Old 11-04-2017, 08:17 AM   #8
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If a whistle blower retains a firm, that would only go toward civil charges not criminal charges. If you want to get New Life in court on manslaughter charges, you need to involve the DoJ, per Alcove Audio's point, or the state equivalent.

Silly as it may sound, I would suggest watching a lot of courtroom procedurals on television - they skim over a lot of stuff that drives lawyers crazy (my late dad and sister were both lawyers) but it's close enough that things don't strike the average viewer as being "off."

Also read novels by someone like John Grisham - he IS an attorney and has been writing highly successful courtroom dramas and screenplays for decades.
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Old 11-04-2017, 08:29 AM   #9
stevencwood
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If a whistle blower retains a firm, that would only go toward civil charges not criminal charges. If you want to get New Life in court on manslaughter charges, you need to involve the DoJ, per Alcove Audio's point, or the state equivalent.

Silly as it may sound, I would suggest watching a lot of courtroom procedurals on television - they skim over a lot of stuff that drives lawyers crazy (my late dad and sister were both lawyers) but it's close enough that things don't strike the average viewer as being "off."

Also read novels by someone like John Grisham - he IS an attorney and has been writing highly successful courtroom dramas and screenplays for decades.
Thanks for the suggestions and I’m going to be watching some court stuff this weekend.


I’m going to stick with a civil case, that way the inner workings of New Life will come out and will ultimately lead to criminal charges against one particular person.


EDIT: in a civil suit, testimony will still be given and a jury is still involved? Such a basic question I know.


EDIT AGAIN: Found this article that breaks down the civic process and answers everything. Also if suspicions of criminal activities were to arise during the civil trial, the lawyers can file criminal charges.


http://www.leadinglawyers.com/helpde...iminalcase.htm

Last edited by stevencwood; 11-04-2017 at 08:52 AM.
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Old 11-08-2017, 02:33 AM   #10
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You may want to watch the following movies:

1 Inherit the Wind
2. A Few Good Men
3. Twelve Angry Men
4. The Music Box.

Star Trek also had a few good episodes involving courtroom dramas.

Also watch the 1980's series, "LA Law", and, though I haven't watched "Boston Legal", it's probably helpful.

You should also speak to a few trial lawyers, to get their ideas, and attend a few trials.

I'm a trial lawyer, for what that's worth.
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Old 11-08-2017, 07:22 AM   #11
stevencwood
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You may want to watch the following movies:

1 Inherit the Wind
2. A Few Good Men
3. Twelve Angry Men
4. The Music Box.

Star Trek also had a few good episodes involving courtroom dramas.

Also watch the 1980's series, "LA Law", and, though I haven't watched "Boston Legal", it's probably helpful.

You should also speak to a few trial lawyers, to get their ideas, and attend a few trials.

I'm a trial lawyer, for what that's worth.
Well, I’ve read A Few Good Men’s screenplay multiple times. I need to check out the others.

Luckily I know how to be long winded in terms of speaking, so writing for a lawyer just feels right. Since you’re a lawyer, can I pick your brain a little bit? I’ve done a lot of research, but I’m trying to piece together the steps between charges filed against a party and the first day of the trial, after the arraignment.

I’m also thinking of writing for the defense. That way I can get the message of “they might be guilty, but look what they’ve created” across.
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Old 11-08-2017, 11:01 AM   #12
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The litigation process involves a lot of drudgery, which is not conducive to presenting a courtroom drama. That said, you should speak to a local lawyer, because the procedures in every jurisdiction is different.
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Old 11-08-2017, 11:03 AM   #13
stevencwood
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The litigation process involves a lot of drudgery, which is not conducive to presenting a courtroom drama. That said, you should speak to a local lawyer, because the procedures in every jurisdiction is different.
Fair enough.


I'm only going to introduce the charges, and then fast forward to a couple of interviews between the defense and client and go directly to the trial. I don't want to bore anyone with the uninteresting stuff. Remember, the testimonies are going to be told via flashbacks.

Last edited by stevencwood; 11-08-2017 at 11:13 AM.
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Old 11-08-2017, 06:22 PM   #14
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It reads like the opening of an episode for a standard procedural to me... Not sure if that's the kinda vibe you're going for.

To answer your initial question, I think it depends on your intended audience and how knowledgable they may be about the particular topic. Cop shows and courtroom dramas have their own tropes and their own 'reality' that may not necessarily reflect real life.

How important is the technicality to your story? How does it reflect on your story?

I think any technical details should at least make sense to someone with knowledge of the topic in question, even if it might technically be a stretch of the truth.
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Old 11-08-2017, 06:31 PM   #15
stevencwood
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It reads like the opening of an episode for a standard procedural to me... Not sure if that's the kinda vibe you're going for.

To answer your initial question, I think it depends on your intended audience and how knowledgable they may be about the particular topic. Cop shows and courtroom dramas have their own tropes and their own 'reality' that may not necessarily reflect real life.

How important is the technicality to your story? How does it reflect on your story?

I think any technical details should at least make sense to someone with knowledge of the topic in question, even if it might technically be a stretch of the truth.
The opening that I posted was just the lawyers finding out they have a case, but I might scratch that and tackle this from the defense side of things.

This will get as involved as A Few Good Men did in their courtroom scenes. Then I have the sci-fi element, which is pretty detailed. The concept itself needs a certain level of understanding regarding biology but nothing too crazy. I'll have a need to bring an expert to the stand who will spout a bunch of medical jargon but the lawyer will simplify it to the jury and thus the audience, so that's fine. Remember Ex Machina and how Nathan started to explain how Ava's brain worked to Caleb? I have that sort of stuff going on which requires research on my part.
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