By Dan Doyle
As a prosecutor, I once found myself, both literally and figuratively, “down in the dumps.” The murder case I was handling had some solid physical evidence, except for one rather noticeable omission — the cops couldn’t find the corpse.
Acting on an informant’s tip, we dug up half the county landfill looking for the body, but came up with nothing better than some old tractor tires, squirrel carcasses and about 4 pounds of used condoms.
Of course, it was inevitable that the defense attorney would whine about this — “You can’t prove murder without a body, blah, blah, blah.” But I’d read the cases on corpus delicti and knew that dead bodies, while highly desirable, are not always an essential ingredient of the prosecution’s case. (I’ll admit, though, that I couldn’t resist watching the door during my final argument, in fear that the alleged decedent might come bursting into the courtroom, sporting a deep tan and explaining that she’d been on an extended vacation in the Bahamas and couldn’t understand what all the fuss was about; but, then, that only happens in old Alfred Hitchcock movies.)
In the end, it all worked out fine. The defendant was convicted and, for all I know, might still be in prison.
My purpose in relating these events is not to entertain you or to overwhelm you with my grasp of corpus delicti law. Rather, it is an explanation of how I came upon the idea of writing the comedy Waste MISmanagement, a play that is currently in the cooker and will be presented at Pec Playhouse Theatre for three weekends, Feb. 10-26.
In the play, Attorney J.B. Hornsby struggles to defend his pistol-packing client against a charge of murdering her stockbroker husband and ditching his body, nose down, in the local landfill. Unfortunately, she admits gleefully firing a few bullets into Hubby’s prized Jaguar before pushing it into the river — payback for his harsh words about her extracurricular love life.
When Hornsby tries to pin the killing on a mob loan shark and hit man, the tables turn, and the lawyer becomes the target. Mugsy, Hornsby’s ambitious secretary, goes undercover to nail the mobster, but the question of the client’s guilt or innocence remains a mystery.
Beulah (Judge Rosemary Collins), a wildly eccentric psychic, holds a séance and employs her mystical powers to bring about an astonishing conclusion that only a glue-sniffing psychotic at the height of his most deranged hallucinations could have envisioned.
The show is directed by Jamie Button of courtroom security fame and also an experienced actor who has appeared in countless local productions.
Tickets go on sale Jan. 20. Visit pecplayhousetheatre.org or call (815) 239-1210 for tickets and information. Pec Playhouse Theatre is at 314 Main St., Pecatonica, Ill.
From the Jan. 18-24, 2012, issue