Is there a legal term for this?

I was reading a work of fiction (okay, it was a comic book) and they had a serial killer who had murdered a series of six people. Due to the circumstances of their capture, the prosecution just charged them with two of the murders, which could be most easily proven in court and they were given a life sentence.

Now technically, the other four murders were never officially solved - nobody was ever charged or convicted of those crimes. But the police must have closed the investigations and the legal system regarded the crimes as solved.

Is there a legal term for this where a person is known to have committed a crime but isn’t charged for it because they’ve already been charged and convicted of other crimes?

Prosecution CYA.

If the accused was acquitted of the first two murders, then the prosecution could try him for two others, without risk of double jeopardy.

No, I’m looking at a situation where the case is considered finished. The police and the court system figure they solved the crime, caught the criminal, and he’s been sent to prison. They’ve moved on.

If somebody says “How come you closed the investigation on who murdered John Smith when you never caught the guy? Shouldn’t you still be looking for his murderer?” they would say “We found his murderer. It was Bob Jones. He killed a bunch of people, including John Smith, but he was only convicted of killing Harry Brown because we caught him with Harry Brown’s body in the trunk of his car.”

My question is can the state officially say Bob Jones killed John Smith and those other people? He was only convicted of killing Harry Brown. What’s the legal way of saying “We know he did it but we can’t officially say he did it”?

I think “Cleared By Arrest” is a police term that is used to classify cases in which a suspect has been arrested, regardless of whether the suspect is tried or convicted. Once the police arrest a suspect, he is presumed (by the police and prosecution) to be guilty, and they generally consider the crime to have been solved, and have little interest in it other than the gathering of additional evidence likely to convict the accused. A surprisingly large number of crimes are closed when the suspect dies before trial, often under circumstances related to criminal activity. The police and prosecution have little interest in discovering the truth when they can smell a conviction.

The closest thing I can think of to what you’re asking is “administratively closed.” If police and prosecutors know who committed an offense but don’t pursue it because the guy already has two stacked life sentences (or some such), the case can be considered administratively closed. If an arrest was made and charges were filed that are never acted on because of other prosecutions, the case can be considered cleared by arrest but administratively closed. If there’s enough evidence to charge an offender and his location is known but circumstances prevent him from being taken into custody (i.e., he’s on death row in another state and they’re not extraditing him), the case is cleared by exceptional means.

Something similar must happen every time the person believed responsible for a crime dies. the case is never tried in court, considered closed, even though it never goes to trial.

Does it really matter if the case is closed because the perp is alive and in jail for life, or dead?

It does happen. Serial killers don’t always reveal who all their victims were, so there are many murders that are presumed to have been committed by a known person, but never proven. It occurs in much smaller crimes also. I received a phone call a few years ago from a public defender. He was defending a guy who had hauled a lot of scrap metal away from my property. He had been arrested for stealing someone’s aluminum screen door. He had named me as an alibi claiming he was working at my house when the crime occurred. He wasn’t, so I couldn’t offer anything. The defender said it wouldn’t have been much help anyway, they were naming him as the culprit in every case of stolen aluminum in the state*.

*Small state, think county for a normal sized state.

In the UK the police have a phrase which is something along the lines of “We are not looking for anyone else in connection with this inquiry”.

This is usually used when a person who is clearly guilty escapes conviction, perhaps due to a technicality (e.g. papers filed late or a witness being intimidated into withdrawing).

It can also be decided that it’s not in the public interest to pursue a prosecution… if a person has been sentenced to three life sentences and will die in prison anyway there’s no point spending £1000s on a trial.

A good point.

There was an interesting case with a similar problem, I think upstate New York, but I may have that confused with another killer. Someone was convicted of killing at least one person, but would never reveal the location of the body(s). He had told his lawyer who had to keep silent on the matter because of attorney-client privilege. When the guy finally died in prison the lawyer revealed the location of the bodies. I’ll try to look for some details. In that instance the case wasn’t considered unsolved, but there may be other cases where attorneys know the extent of someone’s crime, but don’t reveal it. In the case I mentioned here, the lawyer was excoriated by the public for keeping the secret, but lauded by the legal community for fulfilling his duty to maintain the privilege. That public response might stop some lawyers from revealing details they know after a client dies. I don’t think they have any legal duty to do so.

Specimen charges.

For example:

*Retired rail ticket collector Anthony Sawoniuk, 77, of south-east London, is charged with four specimen counts of murder alleged to have been committed in Belarus, formerly part of Poland, during World War II. *