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Hypocrisy_Central's avatar

Ethics check: what should they do if exposing a murder will expose them?

Asked by Hypocrisy_Central (26821points) December 26th, 2015

While painting a ceiling the TV was on for background noise and there was one of those quasi documentaries of some past murders perpetrated by a serial killer. The murder had the authorities baffled; they know the type of women he liked to kill but no pattern as to when and where. The authorities had only a partial description of a car they believed was the killer. A woman ended up murdered and a witness who seen the news release of the possible car of the killer called the cops to say he seen it and a person in the area of the murdered woman, he was reluctant to truly get involved because he was at the deserted location with a married woman he was cheating on his wife with. Seeing he had a description, even a partial one, of the possible murderer, what should he do, come forth and give the authorities all he knows even if it would expose his infidelity, or should he remain silent or give info that is not truly helpful to keep his infidelity hidden? If he refused to be of help, should she give up all the information even if her infidelity was exposed to her husband?

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17 Answers

Seek's avatar

If he wanted to, he could give an anonymous tip.

However, let’s be honest, most of us wouldn’t go out of our way to call in, “Hey, I saw an average looking brunette hanging around a dark-coloured late model Coupe. Think that’s the murderer, or literally anyone else?”

Zaku's avatar

Assuming they knew his information was useful, of course they should come forward.

And, the police could and would do what they could to not publicize irrelevant information about the who-gives-a-rats-ass infidelity.

Also, I’m perversely curious what you, self-proclaimed “man of God”, think you are doing asking this question. Are you looking to size up the ethics of everyone else, or is it actually a questionable dilemma to you?

Seek's avatar

Ooh. lookie what I found in a four second Google search:

Hypocrisy_Central's avatar

@Zaku And, the police could and would do what they could to not publicize irrelevant information about the who-gives-a-rats-ass infidelity.
He wanted to be helpful, the murders had everyone on edge and tensions would ease if they had someone. If he was right and the guy he say was the murdered, and was arrested and taken to trial, he may have to testify, and he would be under oath. Even before the trial he may have to be interviewed by the authorities, and if the murderer committed murders in other states, the FBI might be involved, all of which might be hard to hide from his wife even if the public never knew who he was, so a ”wetip” line will cover his hiney just so long (if he was correct in seeing the killer). He wanted to help his community but not at the risk of his marriage.

Seek's avatar

anonymous tipsters do not have to testify.

Hypocrisy_Central's avatar

^ anonymous tipsters do not have to testify.
You don’t think a defense attorney will have a field day with that? Unless there is a mountain of damning evidence they are going to go to court and say this man or woman saw them, this person with no face, no name, and accusing the perp and having the testimony stick when they said what they said while not under oath and no way to vet them out? Did you Google a link on how the authorities can do all of that and not violate the perp’s 6th Amendment rights, since you are such a whip at Google?

Seek's avatar

“the department received an anonymous tip. Upon investigation, officers encountered the suspect….”

msh's avatar

I always think in terms of the victims. What if were someone I loved? What if it were me?
Someone loved this person who was murdered.
Screw the screwing couple. Too bad.
If infidelity is the thing holding someone back, their marriage is already damaged by this point. They already passed the point of personal/marital integrity. Cowardly describes both for not helping while knowing it’s the right thing to do.
Been cheated on. So, I would not be too happy. Yet that scenario leaves some choices. But if I found out that the jerk didn’t help or do what was right to help this woman, I would want absolutely Nothing Ever to do with the weak POS again.

LostInParadise's avatar

Since it is unlikely that the person would have to appear in court, the police have no reason to keep him from being anonymous.

There was an episode on the old Dick Van Dyke show (anybody else remember that show?) that played with this theme. Van Dyke’s character Rob witnessed what he thought were two bank robbers (a man and a woman) running away from the bank. He wanted to report to the police, but was afraid for his safety. He finally did report, only to find out that what he had seen were two witnesses to the actual crime who were running away because the woman was not the man’s wife.

Later the man ended up shooting Rob (just kidding).

cazzie's avatar

When you speak to the police, you have NO obligation to tell them everything about your life story. Tell them what they need to know. Nothing about yourself. He didn’t witness the murder so the evidence is rather lame. And he only had a partial description of the car. That isn’t going to convict anyone.

If it had been me, well, it wouldn’t be me, because I’m not married and not going to be.

Zaku's avatar

People who have affairs are “risking” (and damaging) their marriage relationship by having the affair. Now, it’s very likely that they may be motivated to not want to get involved, and perhaps justify not doing so by thinking of such an excuse. However you asked about “ethics” and “should”, and those excuses, in my own ethical code, carry little or no ethical weight.

If someone’s having an affair, they probably are already not taking full responsibility, and so they might similarly try to avoid responsibility by using your reasoning as an excuse not to get involved, but that’s pretty much selfish, unethical, and wrong, in my book.

And I continue to wonder whether you are asking this because you wonder for yourself whether this seems ethical or not, or whether you are interested in what other people will say. Because, it seems pretty clear to me…

Hypocrisy_Central's avatar

@cazzie When you speak to the police, you have NO obligation to tell them everything about your life story.
That is no guarantee your secret will not get out, much less in a small tight knit community. The cops want to speak to John Q about what he seen, they either will have to go to his work (which means coworkers will see him being questioned by the cops), or he will have to go downtown to the station (which means someone can see him going in or leaving.). If the cops go to his work and he doesn’t control the spin, they may think he is a possible suspect, everyone is already looking at their neighbors sideways. If they believe he is assisting, then they could talk to Betty, Betty talks with Jean, Jean tells her hairdresser who also does John Q’s wife, and she asks her what John Q is doing with the police and John Q’s wife is blindsided but now she will be interviewing John Q about this that she was not informed was going on. And if John Q has to explain why he was out there at that time of night and she wasn’t there with him or knew of the trip…..things can get interesting.

cazzie's avatar

All that gossip would happen with anyone helping the police in your fantasy scenario. The police don’t care if it has nothing to do with the case. His Co workers don’t have to know. It is in the police’s best interest to be discrete or no one will ever come forward to help in any inquiries.

People will talk and gossip wet her it us true or not. Say John Q was meeting with a male friend going through a tough time. This friend is on the pedophile list and John Q starts spending loads of time with him. Does he come forward and tell the police who he’s been with ? Does he risk being charged with collusion in the abuse a minor?

Hypocrisy_Central's avatar

@cazzie All that gossip would happen with anyone helping the police in your fantasy scenario.
Let me say it again slowly, seeing you were not listening much because you only want excuses to manufacture opposition, the gist of the question came from an actual string of murders in a small community somewhere. I wish I had caught the show from the start and I could tell you were, but I was working and the interest for me to even cock an ear was that they said there was a reluctant possible witness because his viewing what he saw came by way of him having a clandestine rendezvous against his wife with another married woman. It is not a fantasy scenario I made up, but it is your fantasy I did so you can simply tell everyone to pay it no mind all the while you are waist deep in it.

His Co workers don’t have to know.
< Sigh > It is not like the cops will tell everyone at the shop. Let’s go back over the facts:
• There was a serial killer killing women.
• The community was small, or certainly not a large community.
• Because of the murders everyone was on edge.
• Many people were suspicious of their neighbors and coworkers.
So now that we are back up to speed, if the cops came to the work site or job of any witness, those watching do not know if that person was considered a suspect or he/she was a witness; they have no way of knowing. Regardless, they would be talking among themselves, and the talk could go in either way. Then those they spoke with will talk to friends and family and so one, and so on, and the spouse of the person spoken to by the cops could catch wind of it. They might wonder why they heard it on the grapevine and not from their spouse. Surely even you can fathom that?

This friend is on the pedophile list and John Q starts spending loads of time with him. Does he come forward and tell the police who he’s been with ? Does he risk being charged with collusion in the abuse a minor?
The ONLY way that would be even close is if John Q knows his friend has a problem with pedophilia and while at John Q’s neighbor’s house robbing it blind, he looks out the upstairs window to see John Q and some minor naked in the hot tub with him buggering some poor lad like there is no tomorrow or boinking like bunnies with some lass. Then he has the choice, expose his friend and risk exposing himself (especially if the hot tub could only be seen from that upstairs window in the neighbor’s house), or save his own neck and say nothing because he doesn’t want to have to explain how he was looking from that window and the owner of the home did not know he was in their house.

Seek's avatar

This is the dumbest hypothetical I’ve heard in a long time.

Definition of anonymous

cazzie's avatar

I’m trying to work out how I got waist deep in something. This makes less and less sense. ‘But Alice, how can it make less sense, when it made no sense to begin with?’

Hypocrisy_Central's avatar

^ Then bail out now, there are plenty of easy soft ball dream questions that need answers here in Fluther. < tick tick >

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