Blog Articles

Articles

How On the Fly Analysis Cleared A Truthful Suspect

Having certainty in our investigations and interviews gives us confidence.  Confidence that we will bring the case to accurate conclusion, and confidence that we will gain the confession.  It is absurd that the industry standard Interview and Interrogation training is still investigative in nature!  The good news, is that you now have the tools to gain and maintain certainty in your investigations and interviews.  It is a skill that requires practice in exchange for proficiency.

Keep practicing!   Whether you continuously practice on your own, with others at work, or train with the Truth2Lies online group, you will find it invaluable!  You will soon find that your investigative skills are sharper.  You will recognize deception and veracity at the onset of your call, patrol stop, or when you review a new case.  This will give you clarity and focus as you proceed.  You will go into your interviews with confidence, which will give you the upper hand. 

 

In my early years analyzing statements, I often found it difficult to detect deception on the fly, such as during an interview.  There are so many things to concentrate on during an interview, it is easy to miss the signs of deception and veracity.  During one such case, I was surprised when deception in a verbal statement jumped out at me.  I wasn’t quite sure why it was deceptive, but I knew it was and I couldn’t wait to figure it out by reviewing the recording! 

 

I had been called out to handle an ‘Aggravated Assault’ – with a knife.  Note that I said “handle” instead of investigate.  This was a slam dunk, no brainier case.  The on-scene patrol supervisor had the case figured out already and just needed detectives to come handle it in order to free up his patrol officers.  I have to admit, it did seem like a cut and dry case, and in my mind, it was going to be an easy felony clearance for me. 

The setting was a second floor apartment, in a fairly large complex.  The stabbing victim, Corey, was a white male in his mid-20’s, who had been transported to the hospital with non-life threatening injuries.  He was expected to be released later that day. The suspect was a black male named Drake, also mid 20’s, who had fled the scene, but was still somewhere within the apartment complex.  There was a lot of blood at the scene, inside and outside the victim’s apartment.  Much of the blood had been walked through or smeared, which made it difficult to determine the point of origin. 

There was one witness to the assault, Matt, a white male roommate who said he woke up during the fight and saw Drake stab Corey.  He also said that all three of them; Drake, Corey and Matt were in the apartment partying all night.  They had all used several drugs and chased them with alcohol.  No surprise there!

Drake was soon located in a nearby apartment, where he was arrested and then transported to the holding facility.  Drake was anxious to talk to me and provide his version of what happened.  To be honest with you, I expected him to either lie about the stabbing or attempt to influence me into believing he acted in self-defense.  I went into the interview thinking it was a slam dunk case, and my interview was simply a matter of routine before I booked him. 

Well, I was right, Drake said he did stab Corey but it was in self-defense!  He said Corey started an argument with him and accused him of stealing some of his drugs.  The argument escalated into a fist fight with Corey throwing the first punch.  Drake in turn punched Corey several times, causing his nose to bleed.  Corey then produced an expandable night stick, and struck Drake with the stick.  Drake blocked the blows and punched Corey several times.  Drake then gathered his things to leave. He picked up a knife off the counter, but did not use it until he was trying to leave the apartment.  Specifically, when Corey slammed the door on his arm, and hit his arm with the night stick.  It was then that Drake stabbed Corey through the opening in the door.  Drake showed me injuries on his forearm, that he said were from Corey hitting his arm with the night stick.  I noted that his injuries were mild and could easily have been self-inflicted! 

As I listened to Drake speak, I also noted that I wasn’t very good at discourse, on the fly analysis!  I assumed he did stab Corey, and that he was lying about it being self-defense.  However, I was discouraged that I wasn’t picking up on the specific deceptive indicators!  I assumed they were there, and I determined to review the tape and transcript later on to learn what I had missed.  After all, this was a typical story for a case like this.

 

I have part of Drake’s interview transcribed below.  Although it is only a portion of the interview, his language is reflective of the remainder.  We know that truthful people convey information, as it occurred.  Deceptive people on the other hand, attempt to convince or persuade us that their story is true.  As you read the transcript below, do you recognize any persuasion in his language?  Does he provide unnecessary reasons why any of his actions occurred? Are there any other signals of deception?

 

…by the time it started getting loud, he got up in my face nose to nose and I shoved him off of me.  You know, just get away from me.  So, it was in a standstill for about 2 to 3 seconds and he cold cocked me.  Just pretty much cold cocked me on the side of my face. 

Det: With a fist?

Drake: With a fist.  That’s when he acted tough.  I overpowered him and had him on the couch.  At that point I felt like I had to take some kind of action for myself.  I wrestled him down and I did hit him.  I hit him back, um as he was down.  By that, as I be doin that, Matt was waking up, he was waking up.  I thought he would wake up sooner than that through all the noise, but he didn’t.  He was waking up, I let Corey go.  You know, he still had some words and I sat back on the couch to try to gather my things after what had just happened.  Corey comes out with a damn night stick and expanded it.  Um, he expanded that night stick and called me all sorts of names, like you know, nigger this, nigger that.  He expected me to get mad, he was telling me this pretty much expecting me to get mad and do something to him while he was holding that night stick.  So, I got on the phone as if I was calling someone, which I really wasn’t, and laughing at him.  And while he was running his mouth, the angrier he was getting because I was laughing at him. 

Out of nowhere, Corey charged me with the night stick.  That’s when, that’s when my wrist came up.  And, he tried to get me in my head, and I block uh, I pretty much protected my face from the night stick with my left uh, with my left arm. (x) Saw the knife on the counter, the couch is like this, and the counter is to the back of this couch.  That’s when I picked up the knife. 

He hit me a couple more times with the uh, with the stick.  So, uh he told me to get the F out, this and that.  And his blood was already falling as a matter of fact though, you know after, cuz after I beat him up the first time.  Blood was already coming from his face.  So, uh he was nudging me to get out.

Det:  What part of his face?

Drake:  The nose.  Blood was like pretty much streaming down.  He was telling me to just get out, this and that.  And I’m walking you know, and uh he had the night stick at the same time.  At this point, I had, I put the knife in my pocket. The knife was already in my pocket.  And I was trying to look for Matt to go ahead and dilute the situation.

Det:  And you took the knife from the counter?

Drake: I picked the knife up from the counter as he hit me with the night, with the stick, with the expanded stick…      

 

What do you think?  Did you note there was some repetition and a couple explanations?  There were also a couple exclusionary qualifiers which are used to minimize or soften the incident.  I also circled the missing pronoun before ‘saw the knife on the counter’ but I also note that he inserts the proper pronoun when he says, “that’s when I picked up the knife.”  Remember, we go into a statement believing the subject is truthful, until he convinces us otherwise.  Does his language convince you one way or the other?  Knowing that Drake fled the scene, coupled with the possibility that his injuries were self-inflicted, would you believe his story of self-defense? 

 

Now let’s look at Corey’s language.  Corey was released from the hospital within a few hours and gave a statement.  Below is a transcribed portion of his interview, which is the actual main body of ‘what happened.’ 

In this small portion, do you see a preponderance of veracity or deception?

Is he conveying truthful information, or attempting to persuade?    

 

Long story short he got in my face and he pushed me and I pushed him back and he just attacked me.  He started beating my ass, like literally with no regretYou know what I meanJust attacked me, started pounding on my face.  I was bleeding all over.  Uhm, (x) grabbed a knife and tried to start stabbing me. (Corey laughs) I mean I have the cuts to prove it and the staples to prove it in my neck. 

 

What do you think now, who is telling the truth, and who is deceptive? 

That portion of Corey’s statement actually caught me off guard!  When analyzing a statement, there are words and phrases we expect to hear.  We are then confronted with the unexpected language, as I was here!

Corey didn’t willingly expound on the incident much more than what you just read.  That alone was very unusual for a guy that had just been stabbed!  I was pretty sure what he said was deceptive!  I knew there was more in that short statement, but it came out of his mouth so fast, I couldn’t pick up on all of it.  However, what I did hear was enough to get the red flags of deception waiving in my head.  The obvious question now was, why in the world would Corey need to persuade me that he was stabbed?  It was obvious…like he said, he had cuts and staples in his neck and there was blood everywhere.   

 

I let Corey finish talking and then I reviewed the audio tape.  It was then I realized I had asked myself the wrong question.  It wasn’t whether or not Corey was stabbed, it was when and where Corey was stabbed!  Corey was trying to convince me he was stabbed at the onset of the fight, inside the living area of the apartment.  According to Drake’s account, Corey instigated the fight and he didn’t stab him until he was outside the apartment, with his arm caught in the door. 

Now it made sense.  Because Corey wanted to remove his culpability from the story, he skipped over information with the time gap, “long story short.”  Missing time in the language always equates to missing information!  Corey said that Drake “started beating my ass.” I knew Drake had beat Corey up, but knowing the principles of deception, I couldn’t believe it happened the way Corey was telling me.  Why?  Because Corey followed that with a convincing qualifier, “like literally with no regret.”  Corey wasn’t even committed to that statement, because he used the word “like,” which lessened his commitment.  And then there was the missing pronoun before, “grabbed a knife…” Again, it did happen, but not when Corey wanted me to believe it did.  Thus, he instinctively backed off his commitment by dropping the pronoun.  Then he further weakened his commitment with “tried to start…” which actually tells me it did not happen.  At least, not when and not how Corey said it did! 

 Now that I knew the truth, I had to convince the other detectives and supervisors that Corey shouldn’t be booked for the felony.  Since I was new at this, and the only one in my department with training, that was not an easy task.  Most of you now have others within your department that have been trained.  You can confirm each other’s work, which I highly recommend.  If you don’t have anyone available, send your analysis to me for confirmation.

The ability you have to get to the truth in a statement is invaluable.  It is like having a gold mine of information at your fingertips.  However, if you don’t practice, liars will succeed! 

 

Want help becoming a proficient Statement Analyst?  Sign up now for the Truth2Lies Certification Course here. 

Steve Johnson