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I'm writing a novel and have a complicated criminal case to bring to a close in a court scene. I have a bunch of questions about how the case (or cases) would work based on the specific events of the story and I also want to check some things are reasonably believable. The story takes place in a made-up country in the future where technology is similar to ours, so there is some flexibility. Forgive me if this is not an appropriate place to ask or if my questions are plain stupid. My jury duty was cut short, so I missed out on a lot.

First, the relevant points of the plot:

  • Bad Guy (BG) assaults Secondary Character (SC) with a knife with intent to kill and Main Character (MC) saves SC. Neither of them know who BG is. No other witnesses.

  • SC is a homeless, illegal immigrant who is hiding from the police. SC moves in with MC for a while and they don't report the incident to the police.

  • Two weeks later, MC and SC find the knife BG used to assault SC. It has BG's name engraved into it.

  • MC identifies who BG is and assaults BG out of rage. BG gets enraged and assaults MC with a knife. MC is now fighting out of self-defence.

  • During the fight, BG confesses to trying to kill SC and admits to killing other people in the past, which was previously unknown. BG stabs MC with the knife, nearly killing them. SC is the sole witness to the stabbing, but not to the fight.

  • BG then tries to kill SC with the knife but is arrested by more witnesses that arrive on the scene. MC survives and both they and BG get hospital treatment and are questioned by police.

  • MC admits to assaulting BG, but claims that BG was unreasonable to stab them with intent to kill.

  • SC backs MC up and claims that they were assaulted by BG two weeks ago.

  • BG claims that they were practicing self-defence as it was MC that assaulted them first.

  • During the investigation, the police find evidence (ID, personal belongings) that BG may have kidnapped, abused, and then murdered several other people a few years ago.

Ideally, for the climatic court case ending: BG goes to jail for the assaults on SC and MC, and killing several other people. MC gets pardoned for his assault on BG.

Now for the things I am unsure about:

  1. Realistically, assuming the court isn't too busy, how soon can the court case begin after the police investigation ends? Less than 2 or 3 months?

  2. Ignoring the fact that SC is an illegal immigrant, would they be allowed to continue residing in MC's home, or is there any reason the court wouldn't want them to be together?

  3. Who gets charged for the most recent incident? Can BG charge MC for the initial assault, or would they be ignored and MC or the police get to charge BG for attempting to kill MC?

  4. Would MC and SC be able to charge BG for the assault on SC two weeks ago in the same case, or would that be a separate case?

  5. Can MC use the unconfirmed evidence about the other murders against BG in court? If not, do they first have to do a separate court case to find out if BG is guilty of those murders?

  6. If BG can be proven guilty of all his crimes, can the sentencing be immediately after the jury declares guilty, or would there need to be some time for the judge to decide after the verdict?

I think that's it. I'll edit in more information or questions in if needed. Very sorry for the wall of text or if this is way too much and stupid.

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Your setup is problematic at least:

MC identifies who BG is and assaults BG out of rage. BG gets enraged and assaults MC with a knife. MC is now fighting out of self-defence.

MC commits assault. As a result, BG goes and defends themselves. Thus MC does not defend themselves unless they have regained self-defense by properly ending their assault first. This can be, depending on jurisdiction, be a requirement to retreat from the situation.

During the fight, BG confesses to trying to kill SC and admits to killing other people in the past, which was previously unknown.

This is Hearsay and needs a hearsay exception in court. Luckily it is under an exception generally.

BG stabs MC with the knife, nearly killing them. SC is the sole witness to the stabbing, but not to the fight.

This is generally allowable in self defense if MC assaulted BC with a deadly weapon first. Witness situation does only matter so far that SC can not testify what was the reason for the stabbing, making SC a witness that one shouldn't call.

BG then tries to kill SC with the knife but is arrested by more witnesses that arrive on the scene. MC survives and both they and BG get hospital treatment and are questioned by police.

Here BG finally might leave self-defense behind: MC might not be a threat any more if bleeding out on the ground, further damage isn't needed.

MC admits to assaulting BG, but claims that BG was unreasonable to stab them with intent to kill.

Just plain no. That determination is upon the court, and courts have held that shooting someone to death who is assaulting with a club is proper self defense, even if the clubbing person never made contact but was only charging at them. The problem for MC is that they initiated the fight, making it much harder for them to claim self-defense and BG will have a huge latitude of what they can do before losing their own self-defense privilege.

SC backs MC up and claims that they were assaulted by BG two weeks ago.

This might come back to bite them: Lying to the police can be a crime. The assault by BG 2 weeks prior is a different case and unrelated to BG having self-defense against the Assult of MC

BG claims that they were practicing self-defence as it was MC that assaulted them first.

This is correct.

During the investigation, the police find evidence (ID, personal belongings) that BG may have kidnapped, abused, and then murdered several other people a few years ago.

Those are different cases. That does not prevent the state from charging MC with Assault with a deadly weapon, giving BC a free pass for nearly killing MC in that instant and convicting BG for multiple homicides and the attempted homicide of SC but not the attempted homicide of MC.

Your questions

Realistically, assuming the court isn't too busy, how soon can the court case begin after the police investigation ends?

Depends on clarity and scope. Proceedings might likely start tomorrow, with BG and MC getting cuffed for their respective crimes, and then some bail hearings in a few days to weeks. The Assault of MC might be handled in the courtroom next year, the murders of BG years down the line.

Ignoring the fact that SC is an illegal immigrant, ...

Stop there. SC is an illegal immigrant. The proper procedures are to be followed to get asylum, they are to be relocated through the proper channels to for example an immigration center where the asylum is handled. That is, unless they have a status akin to "geduldet" (tolerated) despite of their status.

As MC might spend some time in custody of the state, they might return to find SC gone and put in an immigration center they can't leave.

Who gets charged for the most recent incident? Can BG charge MC for the initial assault, or would they be ignored and MC or the police get to charge BG for attempting to kill MC?

BG can sue for being damaged and the state might charge MC because assault is a criminal matter. They might charge only MC even, because he started it, and never bring charges against BG unless he clearly overstepped self-defense. Which can be quite hard to prove.

Would MC and SC be able to charge BG for the assault on SC two weeks ago in the same case, or would that be a separate case?

No, MC can't charge anything of that incident - MC's a third party to that and not a witness. SC can't charge because SC is not the prosecution but only a witness, at best he can join the prosecution's side as a joint plaintiff, joining in the case of the prosecution, and only if the system allows that - which isn't a given everywhere.

The prosecution will bring one or more cases that total to X cases of murder and one case of attempted murder (SC). MC might be called as a witness in one or several if they want to use the hearsay exception, but they might not. SC can only join the one against them if any.

Can MC use the unconfirmed evidence about the other murders against BG in court? If not, do they first have to do a separate court case to find out if BG is guilty of those murders?

Not by themselves. Evidence that doesn't belong to a case is inadmissible: you can not claim self-defense because you know someone killed someone at another time. Also, MC is at best a witness in the murder case, and that means, that MC can't bring in evidence on themselves at all. They might not be called at all!

On the contrary, the case of assault against MC will and may not bring any evidence on the alleged murders, indeed it might be handled much earlier and all evidence on the murder case end up being suppressed - with mentioning such being forbidden.

If BG can be proven guilty of all his crimes, can the sentencing be immediately after the jury declares guilty, or would there need to be some time for the judge to decide after the verdict?

Only one kind of sentence in a criminal trial is (has to!) always announced immediately: Not Guilty and no sentence. Between the assessment of guilty and reading the final verdict of a multiple murder case at least a couple of weeks (the shortest I know is 3 weeks) to months go by in which the judge calculates and weighs the proper scaling and writes the verdict. BG would spend that time in jail. Only if there was a prescribed verdict that can not be strayed from in any case due to the law, then the verdict can (but needn't be) announced at once. Such a case would be if there was a mandatory sentence of lifelong imprisonment on murder, but the final text would come out still after a little time, explaining the adjudication.

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  • Thanks very much for the input. It's obvious that I'll have to rework some of the events of my story, but you've some things clearer. Mar 16 at 19:47
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  1. Realistically, assuming the court isn't too busy, how soon can the court case begin after the police investigation ends? Less than 2 or 3 months?

Approximately 2-3 years is typical between charge and finalisation of the case in most Western democracies. The defendant may be remanded in custody or released on bail during this time.

For example, statistics for have a median time for trials of 742 days, if there is no trial (i.e. a guilty plea) this drops to just 456 days. These figures are Covid affected, pre-Covid, they were slightly shorter.

  1. Ignoring the fact that SC is an illegal immigrant, would they be allowed to continue residing in MC's home, or is there any reason the court wouldn't want them to be together?

The court can’t tell people where to live. The defence may well introduce the shared living arrangement into evidence in an attempt to show the witnesses’ stories were concocted.

Of course, “Ignoring the fact that SC is an illegal immigrant” begs the question. In most countries, the illegal immigrant would be promptly removed to immigration detention.

  1. Who gets charged for the most recent incident? Can BG charge MC for the initial assault, or would they be ignored and MC or the police get to charge BG for attempting to kill MC?

Private prosecutions, even where they are possible, are extremely rare. The police would lay charges and the public prosecutor would prosecute the case.

  1. Would MC and SC be able to charge BG for the assault on SC two weeks ago in the same case, or would that be a separate case?

It’s likely that all the charges against BG would be heard in the same trial.

  1. Can MC use the unconfirmed evidence about the other murders against BG in court? If not, do they first have to do a separate court case to find out if BG is guilty of those murders?

Evidence of previous crimes (convicted or otherwise) is inadmissible in court. Each trial proceeds on its own merits. The fact that a person has been convicted of murdering 17 people is not evidence that they murdered an 18th and cannot be mentioned before the jury.

The prosecutor may or may not bring charges for the earlier alleged murders depending on their assessment of the prospects of success. It is possible that if they do, there may be several trials or just one - that would usually be subject to negotiation between the prosecution and the defence and will ultimately be decided by the judge.

  1. If BG can be proven guilty of all his crimes, can the sentencing be immediately after the jury declares guilty, or would there need to be some time for the judge to decide after the verdict?

Except for minor offences (murder isn’t one of those), sentencing usually happens 4-12 weeks after the verdict as both parties make submissions and the judge needs time to consider these and write the sentence.

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    Re No 5: Evidence of previous crimes (convicted or otherwise) is inadmissible in court is not the case in E&W where we can introduce bad character evidence (and here) if certain conditions are met.
    – Rick
    Mar 15 at 22:46
  • Re #1 The court case would begin formally (have a case number assigned, attorneys assigned, etc.) typically in 24-48 hours, even though it would take a long time to get to trial. Re: #6 There are sometimes crimes (first degree murder in jurisdictions with life without parole, but no death penalty) that have only one possible penalty issued on the spot, but otherwise, I'd agree.
    – ohwilleke
    Mar 15 at 22:47
  • Re #2 In Colorado, as a matter of course, criminal defendants are subjected to an automatic restraining order against interacting with victims of crimes and sometimes this is expanded to include some or all witnesses. Civil law countries tend to be touchy about pre-testimony interaction of parties with witnesses too.
    – ohwilleke
    Mar 15 at 22:50
  • Thanks very much for the input, guys. That clears some things up a lot. Mar 16 at 19:45

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