In January, Joyce Dudley, a deputy district attorney in Santa Barbara, published a crime novel called “Intoxicating Agent.” Its heroine, Jordon Danner, has the same initials and the same job as Ms. Dudley, and the novel concerns a rape case with echoes of a real one. In both, the victim said she had been sexually assaulted after being given an intoxicating drug.
Acting on a motion from the real defendant in a real rape-by-intoxication case, an appeals court in Ventura, Calif., ruled on Thursday that Ms. Dudley’s novel had crossed an ethical line.
“She has a disabling conflict of interest,” Justice Kenneth R. Yegan of the California Court of Appeal wrote of Ms. Dudley for a unanimous three-judge panel. Ms. Dudley must be disqualified, Justice Yegan continued, because the defendant, Massey Haraguchi, “is being prosecuted for raping an intoxicated person while the prosecutor is promoting her novel involving the identical charge.”
The answer I always give to the above question, incidentally is "not directly." My personal rule of thumb is, if the same situation or the same type of character has come up more than twice, it can't be tied to a particular person or case. DeWayne Puryear, for example, the hapless would-be armed robber in The Devil's Right Hand, isn't drawn from any one person...he's practically an archetype in the criminal courts. So I'm not sure why "sexual assault with an intoxicating drug" isn't so common a crime that Dudley couldn't use it. Unless of course, she used something like "Missey Yamaguchi" for the name of the Defendant. Maybe the kicker was having the protagonist share not only the author's job, but her initials, which is a damn silly thing for an author to do anyway.