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LieSpotting; Phraseology of a Lie.

swearing bible

Why did Bill Clinton say, “I did not have sex with that woman.” rather than “I didn’t have sex with that woman.”?  (See Number 3 below for the specific answer.)

Because lying is hard work.  It requires activating different areas of the brain not normally in play during truthful storytelling, controlling one’s physical responses that lying normally elicits and being particularly attentive to the questions being asked.  Fortunately, one of the most reliable methods of lie detection comes from the liar herself. Her words.  Unless you are dealing with an out-and-out clinically pathological liar (and even they will trip up from time to time), it’s fairly simple to hang a liar by her own verbal statements.

We work with various law enforcement agencies that ask us to analyze suspects’ verbal interviews, and over considerable time, have developed a checklist on LieSpotting – the art science of taking apart a lair’s verbal response through verbiage analysis.

Below are 10 common ways that liars use words to obscure the truth:

    1. Liars will repeat a question verbatim. Hey Mike, did you send the email to Karen? Did I send the email to Karen? If this is Mike’s response, you have your answer—he didn’t send it yet. Repeating a question in full is a common stalling tactic used by people looking for an extra moment to prepare their lie. In natural conversation, people will sometimes repeat part of a question, but restating the entire question is highly awkward and unnecessary—they clearly heard you the first time.
    2. Liars will take a guarded tone. If Mike had replied to the question by lowering his voice and asking,  What do you mean?, a lie may well be in the processing of formation. A suspicious or guarded approach isn’t generally called for with a basic question, and the guarded tone taken may indicate that he’s concealing something—usually the truthful answer to your question.
    3. Liars won’t use contractions in their denials.  Providing the classic example of what interrogators call “non-contracted denial” is Bill Clinton when he said “I did not have sexual relations with that woman.” The extra emphasis in the denial is unnecessary if someone is telling the truth. I didn’t have sex with her is how the honest person is likely to phrase his claim of innocence. Clinton said a lot more than he realized with his words.
    4. Liars tell stories in strict chronology. To keep their stories straight, liars tend to stick to exact chronological accounts when relating an event. They have enough to think about in creating the lie.  But this isn’t how we ordinarily talk when being truthful. When recounting stories, honest people will tell them they way they remember the events – in emotional order rather than strict chronological order. Often we’ll start off with the most impactful emotional moment, and move around in time order to add details that are not in the primary recall.
    5. Liars love euphemisms. It’s human nature not to implicate ourselves in wrongdoing. This holds especially true for liars, who will shy away from strict definitions of their actions, often opting for less harsh language, for example; instead of saying “I didn’t steal the purse” they may say “I didn’t take the purse.” If asked a direct question and your wording is modified/softened in the response, you are being lied to.
    6. Liars overemphasize their truthfulness.  There’s no need to add modifiers such as  “To tell you the truth…” “Honestly…” “I swear to you…” if you really are telling the truth.  When people bolster their response with these type phrases, there’s a strong chance that they are hiding something or not telling the full truth.  There’s no reason for the extraneous words.
    7. Liars avoid or confuse pronouns. We use a good amount of pronouns in normal conversation. They are a sign of comfortable speech, and they may disappear when one is lying. A liar may say “You don’t bill hours that you didn’t work” instead of making the clear first- person statement: “I don’t bill hours I didn’t work.”
    8. Liars use long introductions but skip over main events.  Deceptive individuals will add more detail – particularly around the prologue of a story – but glide over the main event when lying. This lopsided storytelling style is specific to those intent on deception.
    9. Liars give very specific denials. Liars tend to be very particular in what they say and don’t say. Truth-tellers have no problem issuing categorical denials—I never cheated anyone in my whole life—whereas the liar will choose his words ever so carefully – I never cheated on my husband  during the period of our marriage. (Well, there’s the period of dating, engagement and separation and previous relationships that is not covered by that denial.)
    10. Liars hedge their statements. We hear them in court testimony, political speeches and interviews all the time: qualifying statements that give the person on the hot seat an “out” if their lie is uncovered.  “As far as I know…” “If you really think about it…” “What I recall is…” Hedged statements should make the interviewer wonder when the other shoe will drop.

The best liespotting detector is, of course, yourself – the experienced interviewer.  Very few people – statistically insignificant – can lie perfectly; giving a recall of the events in emotional (v. chronological) order, interjecting themselves directly into the lie and remember the non-existent details over an extended period of time.  If they could, they’d be professional spies.   Trust your instincts and listen very carefully to what is being said.

BNI Operatives: Situationally aware.

As always, stay safe.

 

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From The Mouths Of Babes; Interviewing Child Witnesses.

child interview

(This article is from an investigator’s perspective. Trial attorneys bear a different obligation to prepare the child for testifying in court.)

From time to time we’ve had to interview children.  For this article, we are referring to minors under 16 years of age as witnesses in civil or criminal matters.  The most important thing to do when questioning children is to establish trust.  Most children are painfully shy when talking to strangers – moreso in situations that are fraught with tension such as giving testimony.  Put the child at ease by showing an interest in her by asking open-ended questions about her everyday life.  Due to their agile brains, children can multitask quite well so to divert her attention somewhat from the intensity of what she may have witnessed, distract her during the questioning by providing a fun and engaging activity.

We go into each interview with a child thinking this will be the only shot we will get to question her.    You really don’t want to interview a child multiple times.  If a child is re-interviewed often and then has to live testify, the final product in court may come out sounding rehearsed.

Given the unsettling event that the child has witnessed, each recall may induce stress trauma so we prefer to have a parent or guardian present during interviews.

As to the actual questioning itself, make the questions are open-ended and simple to avoid being leading.   If you call a child as a witness and she misstates or fails to state a significant fact, the best tactic is to avoid confronting her with prior statements or intricate evidence. Asking the same question in a slightly different way may be all you need do to obtain the accurate response. Generally, you should confront a child with a prior inconsistent statement only if she is recanting her entire account of an event.  When confronting a child with inconsistencies, do so in a delicate and respectful way.

Also consider the role of “syndrome evidence.” There is a large body of medical literature addressing  the various syndromes that can affect child witness recall (e.g., child sexual abuse accommodation syndrome, post-traumatic stress disorder, repressed memory syndrome, etc.).

Finally, be aware of your own preconceptions. Many people expect sexually abused children to cry and exhibit negative emotion when testifying about alleged abuse, and many adults tend to disbelieve child witnesses who do not emote in this way.  But research indicates that children commonly do not cry or express negative emotions when describing sexual abuse and there are a number logical of reasons for their unanimated testimony in general. For instance, children are often interviewed multiple times regarding the incident or they may simply not have perceived the event as negative. What’s more, the emotion expressed by testifying children could be a reaction to being interviewed by you – a perfect stranger –  and have little to do with the alleged incident itself.

Remember to give yourself plenty of time for the interview as children can take a while to get out their story but they will tell it and tell it truthfully.

BNI Operatives: Situationally aware.

As always, be safe.

Evaluating MVA Witnesses For Deposition/Trial

witness

This week’s guest contributor is Louis C. Amen, Det., NYPD (Ret.) .  (Detective Amen spent the majority of his NYPD career with the highly regarded Accident Investigation Squad [AIS],  Highway 3.   AIS is called onto an MVA site when there are participants in the vehicular event that are seriously injured and likely to die or fatalities are involved.)  

Evaluating Motor Vehicle Accident Witnesses (for depositions/trial) :

When interviewing a witness to an MVA for the purpose of assessing the strength and depth of her recall, an investigator is also evaluating her ability to “present well” under oath, whether at an EBT (Examination Before Trial) or the actual trial itself.  We’re taking stock of the witness’ ability to articulate well, be concise but thorough and firm in her testimony and whether she can remain focused under potentially grueling questioning.

Whether it’s in the relative immediate aftermath of an incident or five years later, it is important to know the following:

1. Witness’ perspective.

  • Was s/he in any of the vehicles involved in the MVA?
  • If not, determine exact location. (I.e., in other uninvolved vehicle in the vicinity,  position in that vehicle – a driver of an SUV may have  better line of sight to the incident than a rear seat passenger of a Honda Accord, or on the sidewalk or  crossing a roadway…)

2. Witness relationship to any involved parties (drivers, passengers, pedestrian,cyclist).

3. Has the witness tried to steer any of the involved parties to lawyers, doctors, investigators?

4. (Ask delicately.) Was the witness under the influence (including prescription drugs)?

The most effective method of obtaining a valid and comprehensive assessment of the witness is to, throughout the interview, put yourself in her position.  From a physical and psychological point of view.  Re-ask the important questions in this mode.  If the picture that the witness  is portraying isn’t coming together for the investigator, it won’t connect for the jurors.

louis amen suit

Louis C. Amen, Det., NYPD (Ret.)

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