Offender Testimony: Detection of Deception and Guilty Knowledge
William G. Iacono University of Minnesota
Mr. Bakke is a millionaire who owns several companies that he runs out of his penthouse office on the fiftieth floor of a skyscraper in a bustling metropolitan area. A creature of habit, he would typically work until 10:00 p.m. every evening, interrupted only by a break from 8:00 to 8:45 during which he would leave his office to go for a swim in his private pool. One night, when he returned to his office, he found his attaché case, and the $20,000 that it contained, missing. He asked the six staff members who were working late that evening if any of them knew of the whereabouts of his brief case. No one did; none saw anyone leave or enter his office while he was gone. Because his office could be accessed only by an elevator that served his floor exclusively, he checked with building security to determine if anyone had used the elevator while he was gone. Other than him, no one else had used the elevator. After a thorough investigation, the police concluded that the theft had to be an inside job perpetrated by one of the six male workers who stayed late that night. However, they could find no evidence to incriminate any of them. The case was left open and unresolved.
Like this case of grand theft, many crimes go unsolved due to a lack of hard evidence even though the police have a very good idea who the likely culprit is. Unless pangs of conscience overwhelm one of the six suspects, compelling a confession, or one of them gets careless, creating an evidentiary trail, the crime will never be solved. Or will it? Each of the suspects certainly knows whether he committed the crime. Suppose we had a means of probing the minds of these men. Might not we be able to tap into their guilt and knowledge about the crime