Jul 07 2010
While a criminal may have put some thought into creating a coherent story that’s hard to disprove, probing questions can move the conversation into areas where he has to make up a lie as he goes along. The more you push for details, the harder it is to keep up a lie. Here’s an excerpt of a fictional interview between an investigator and a criminal suspect.
INVESTIGATOR: What were you doing yesterday afternoon?
SUSPECT JAKE: I was at Jill’s house.
INVESTIGATOR: Doing what?
SUSPECT JAKE: We were watching the game.
INVESTIGATOR: Which one?
SUSPECT JAKE: The Bears game. [Note: make sure the Bears were actually playing on the day in question.]
INVESTIGATOR: How was the game?
SUSPECT JAKE: Awesome.
INVESTIGATOR: Does any play in particular stick out in your mind?
SUSPECT JAKE: Cutler threw a pretty sweet touchdown. To Hester, I think. [Note: The accuracy of this statement doesn't actually matter much. Our goal here is to lock him into the "I saw a Bears game" story. If it turns out that the Bears actually didn't play that day at a time consistent with his story, we want to know for sure that he's lying. Otherwise, he may be able to claim that it might have been another team he saw].
INVESTIGATOR: What did you guys do for dinner?
SUSPECT JAKE: We ordered Chinese takeout.
INVESTIGATOR: During the game?
SUSPECT JAKE: No, after.
INVESTIGATOR: From where?
SUSPECT JAKE: The Golden Palace. [Note: call the Golden Palace and see if they have a record of an order. Make sure that the order was placed after the Bears game ended. Also, speak with the delivery-boy to see if he can place Jake and/or Jill at the scene].
INVESTIGATOR: Who placed the order?
SUSPECT JAKE: Jill did.
INVESTIGATOR: What did you have?
SUSPECT JAKE: Orange chicken, I think.
INVESTIGATOR: Was it good? [We don't actually care about his opinion of the food, of course--we're trying to lock him into a story again. The more you get him to say about the food, the harder it is for him to back out later and say "well, it might have been Burger King. I don't remember."]
SUSPECT JAKE: It was okay.
INVESTIGATOR: What drink did you order?
SUSPECT JAKE: A Sprite. [Check with the restaurant to make sure that they deliver drinks--some places don't.]
These questions give us a lot of information that can be proven true or false. The Bears either were playing that day or they weren’t. The Golden Palace either received an order after the Bears game or it didn’t. The Golden Palace either delivers drinks or it doesn’t.
You can also interview other witnesses to make sure that their stories match up. When Jill is asked what kind of food they had that night, will she say Chinese takeout? (Note: Minor discrepancies, like naming a different Chinese restaurant, may be just fuzzy memories). But if she says they went out to a burger place, then obviously at least one of them is lying. When she gets asked who placed the order, will her answer line up with Jake’s (that she did?) Does she remember what food Jake had? (Understandably, she might not. But if she remembers that he did have chicken and a Sprite, they’re either telling the truth or have rehearsed the lie unusually well).
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