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The Lie Guy

Why Do Subjects Confess?

by Stan B. Walters, CSP
“The Lie Guy®”

During any investigative interview, the objective is to always get the truth whether by voluntary cooperation, admission or confession. Unfortunately what occasionally will happen during any interview however is the fact finder will lose sight of the reason why a subject chooses to provide a confession. To merely say that all people just want to confess is a far to simplistic and naïve a conclusion. Neither does the subject confess because the interviewer “wants” them to nor does the subject confess for the reasons the interview believes they should. The very same reasons that subjects choose to lie may in reality be the very same reasons the subjects decide to cooperate, inculpate and even confess.

Whatever the personality type the subject may possess along with their specific thinking or reasoning process, a subject will only acknowledge reality when they feel it is to their benefit to do so. The subject may be most motivated by what they perceive is significant punishment should they not confess. In their minds the evidence may have been presented in such a compelling fashion and form that to not acknowledge reality creates greater emotional or cognitive stress than to continue to lie. In addition, the fact that other family members, friends, and associates will also draw the same conclusions about the truth and their continuing denial in the face of reality can be overwhelmingly negative.

If a person will deceive in order to gain some form of reward can also be the exact same reason the person chooses to give in to the mounting evidence of reality. At the heart of this confession as well as the previous form, the subject does it for the preservation of his or her ego. The reward in the case may something they feel they will get in return. Perhaps they feel they gain power by telling the truth. Maybe their goal is to obtain notoriety and respect in some form because they acknowledged their actions as is the case in some acts of terrorism. By confessing the subject feels they have actually taken control of the events swirling around and maybe eventually what will happen to them in the form of any punishment.

Listening to the subject’s defense of their actions or the form by which they create their denials may be the key to determining what would be the best approach to move the subject to confession. The best of the interviewers learn how to put they thoughts, feelings, and prejudices aside and listen to and adopt those of their subjects. This same approach will serve as a tool to help the interviewer determine the reasoning for which a subject will choose to confess.

The “Negative” Interview

by Stan B. Walters, CSP
“The Lie Guy®”

Many of us as interviewers have encountered the occasional subject who will not respond to any of our efforts to conduct some semblance of an interview. We may not able to get them to provide some form of alibi statement much less an opinion about what they “think” might have happened or how they may be connected. The next time you encounter this type of highly resistant, difficult subject try conducting one or more of three “negative” interview approaches – the “never”, “definitely” or the “they’re wrong” statements.

The “never” interview consists of asking questions about general case information and having the subject absolutely deny the information. For example, he “never” dated the victim, was “never” in her car, “never ever” been in possession of her checkbook or other personal item, “never” saw the computer printout, etc. In this interview it will not be necessary for the interviewer to initially possess all the information or details about which he or she is asking and we definitely do not want to give away any crucial evidence at the risk of contaminating our subject. Once we have an “absolute” denial we can conduct some investigative follow-up regarding the subject responses to determine that he or she was deceptive.

The “definitely” interview is used when the subject provides some form of statement but shows no sign of acknowledging contradictory evidence. In this case we work with the subject asking specific questions of him or her that provides them the opportunity to provide “definite” proof of their statement. The more they provide what they consider specific details of their “proof” the more investigative leads we are able to generate to either support or disprove our subject’s statement.

The “they’re wrong” interview presents the subject with general information that has been provided by friends, witnesses, or even fellow subjects. Once again we are careful not to contaminate the subject’s behavior and knowledge by feeding them specific case information. We want to be sure that the subject’s knowledge of facts originates from their intimate contact with and participation in the event and not from our dialogue. In the “they’re wrong” statement, the subject is permitted to address the statements that appear to contradict those that they themselves have made and articulate why those people are wrong – either the other people lied, don’t like them, weren’t there, etc. This approach will create an apparent all “those people” versus “me” and all their statements, although they are consistent and correspond with the majority of the evidence is wrong.

The objective of the “negative” interview is to lock or subject into their statements so tightly that those very statements effectively condemn them as being deceptive. This approach still permits us to conduct the more effective narrative-based interview that has been shown to be less likely to elicit false statements. We are not attempting to “bluff” the subject nor impress them with the information we have in hand. All I need to do as the investigator is to “impeach” the absolute statements of the subject and the subject has provided me the tools I need to accomplish that goal. How many times have we heard or been told that an attorney during deposition, direct or even cross-examination should never ask a question for which he or she doesn’t already know the answer. We are asking the subject questions that for the most part we already know most of the answers. We are giving the subject the opportunity to be truthful or deceptive. We want to see which choice they make. If it is the wrong choice, we will be sure his or her words will come back to haunt them.