Statement Analysis, Part Two
Sumpter, J. L., Law & Order
Officer: "Tell me everything you did the night your wife was murdered?" Suspect: "I went to our home, fed our dog and went to bed." How much is missing from the suspect's answer? A lot. But more important, what is missing and why?
A truthful statement has information that is... the truth. This statement is long, full, and gives the officer a complete depiction of what occurred during the night of the crime. It has an equal beginning, middle and end, and at times, the most important part of the answer has the most information.
To adequately assess the suspect's information, we must get both a written and verbal statement. This may be contrary to what has been taught in the past. When the interview hits a wall and information is not flowing, an officer needs to begin locking in the suspect's information. This is best done by first getting a written statement then countering it with a verbal interview. Sometimes, this is not always feasible.
Officers who obtain a written statement are better able to gauge the length if an answer and the use of words to the suspect's normal communication. After obtaining a written statement, first look to see the length of the description for each topic. For instance, does the suspect spend more time talking about trivial information compared to the actual event?
To get more technical, the officer can take the statement and divide it into paragraphs. Each paragraph depicts one area of thought. Take each thought and count the number of words for each sentence. Total the number of words in the thought and divide it by the number of sentences. This gives you the average number of words in each sentence. After obtaining the average, the officer begins probing for sentences that are significantly above or below the average.
The officer should ask why a certain part of the suspect's thought took more or less time to describe. Why did the suspect feel he needed to give great detail in one area compared to another? As the officer begins questioning the suspect's statement, he should ask a number of questions. 1) Does the suspect lack conviction in the follow-up interview compared to the written statement? 2) Is the suspect's follow-up statement more or less generalized? 3) Do the "tenses" change. That is, does the suspect change from past to present from the written to verbal statement? 4) Does the average length of description differ? …