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Statement Analysis Put to the Test

The Crime

The following case is a car jacking which occurred in a small town in Connecticut. This investigation was selected for a case study in Statement Analysis for several reasons, first being the case is closed and it has completed its journey through the court system. Secondly, the statement by the victim reporting the crime contains many points to review, some that are directly related to the actual crime, and others (outside-issues) which come to provide us with insight into the dynamics of the events and relationships of those mentioned within the statement, thus providing us with “the big picture”. Thirdly, this case demonstrates how Statement Analysis can be a benefit right though Prosecution of the case. In this particular case, we were able to show the Prosecution who actually had the gun during the crime, (a crucial point for the Prosecution), when there was conflicting testimony between the victim and the suspects regarding that issue. In this case, as it turned out, the victim lied about which of the three suspects actually had the gun. However, the truth did prevail, and Statement Analysis was an important aspect in reaching the truth. Summary of the Complaint

The State Police responded to the report of a car jacking in small rural town. The victim reported that during the day he was helping a friend of his named Georgio, by giving him a ride to pick up his car, which was impounded. In his travels, he and Georgio picked up two other people, Donna and another male unknown to the victim. While all four of them were driving in his car, the victim reported that the man who he didn’t know, pulled out a gun and pointed it at him demanding money. The victim jumped out of his car and ran for help.

The Investigation

The State Trooper on patrol began the investigation into this car jacking, getting initial information from the victim, attempting to locate the stolen vehicle and suspects, sending tele-types to surrounding police departments, and then had the victim come to Troop “A” barracks to obtain a written statement. As it was, this particular town was being plagued with residential burglaries, coincidentally not too far from where the victim reported this crime to have been committed. The victim was from out of town, as were the two friends of his, along with the other male that he did not know who stole his car, a 1988 Acura Interga. The victims friend, Georgio, had criminal record that included previous robberies and larcenies. In light of all that was developed so far, suspicion and doubt began to surround this complaint, and the initial officers were unsure if what the victim reported actually occurred, or these individuals were in the area for other criminal purposes.

The Statement

Patrol personnel requested assistance from the Detectives in the CI Unit at for the purpose of interviewing the victim to determine if what he reported was factual. Upon a brief introduction, we requested that the victim “write in detail everything that happened regarding his complaint.” About 15 or 20 minutes later, the victim provided a hand written statement, approximately one page long. The following is the statement he provided verbatim:

I Georgio + I Left the Hotel at 11:00 I went to a friend of mine and did her hair. He waited in the car. From there we went to Derby. We got his car out. Brought it to Donna’s. Donna asked for a ride. We went a few blocks over. Georgio and her got out of the car. She came back and asked if I could give her a ride to Seymour Lumber. I said yes. She asked if another friend could go. The back seat was crowded because I had luggage in the back so she sat on Georgio’s lap and the other guy sat in front. I got on Route 8 got off exit 22 and went up 67. She said her fathers truck wasn’t there. She wanted to go to his house so we kept on going up 67. She told me to take a left. We go a little ways and the guy up front pulls out a gun so I jumped out of the car and ran.

The Analysis

For the purpose of this article, I will point out key aspects from the above statement and explain their significance. Keep in mind that this is not a full analysis of the statement, it is merely a summary of some of the significant points and observations found within the statement.

Balance: The balance of the statement is determined by dividing the statement into three distinct sections: Information before the crime, during the crime and after the crime. With this statement, the crime is the car jacking, which occurred the moment the weapon was displayed. The information before the crime would be from the first line until when the weapon is displayed. The only information pertaining to the crime itself is the statement “the guy up front pulls out a gun”. The remainder of the statement, the information after the crime, is only “so I jumped out of the car and ran.” A truthful statement should be fairly balanced between these three sections. This statement is clearly unbalanced in that the majority of the information pertains to the time before the crime. This structure is indicative of deception.

Missing Time: One way to locate missing time can be through the analysis of certain linguistic signals, such as afterwards, later on, shortly thereafter, etc. Phrases such as these are a clear indication that something has been skipped over. Within this statement there is an example of this. The subject wrote, “From there we went to Derby.” This is a clear indication that some information has been left out, however upon further analysis, it becomes clear that the “missing information” is the activity and time spent when he worked on his friend’s hair. This is referred to as an “outside issue” and is information left out which he believes is unimportant.

Areas of Sensitivity: Within this particular statement there are three areas which include signals of sensitivity. The beginning of the statement the victim says, “I Georgio + I left the Hotel at 11:00.” The verb “left” is a signal of sensitivity. If we encounter this within the statement we should ask if the subject was rushing around or was otherwise pressured for time at that particular moment. If this was the case, that may be the reason for the sensitivity or indication of tension within the statement. If they state they were not pressured for time, then we must ask “what is the reason for the sensitivity/tension at this particular moment?” In this case it was determined that the victim and Georgio had an argument at the hotel about the victim going to do his friends hair, which Georgio was opposed to.

Other linguistic signals of sensitivity are when the writer is asked to tell us what happened, however he also includes “why something happened.” There are two “clusters” such as this within this statement. One is when he states, “The back seat was crowded because I had luggage in the back so she sat on Georgio’s lap and the other guy sat in front.” The reasons for this sensitivity in this area appear to be no more than annoyance on part of the victim’s regarding the situation at this time. Also, look at the conversations at this point. The victim stated, "She came back and asked if I could give her a ride to Seymour Lumber. I said yes. She asked if another friend could go. The back seat was crowded because I had luggage in the back so she sat on Georgio’s lap and the other guy sat in front." As you can see, he does not respond to her in his statement when she asked if a friend could go, but included the signals of sensitivity described herein. (…she asked…I said,…she asked…[no reply]). It is interesting to note that these signals entered the victims statement around the time the "friend" was introduced in the statement.

The second “cluster” is surrounding the main issue of the statement, or the crime itself. The victim states, “…so we kept on going up 67. She told me to take a left. We go a little ways and the guy up front pulls out a gun so I jumped out of the car and ran.” This is very significant, in that two signals of sensitivity surround the main issue. Furthermore, the main issue is written in present tense, which leads us to the next issue.

Verb Tense Change: When recalling past events, we expect the subject to use the first person, singular past tense; any variation from this is significant. This statement was written using this format, except when the victim talks about the actual crime. At this time he states “We go a little ways and the guy up front pulls out a gun”. This change from past tense to present tense comes to reduce the commitment of what is being said at this time, and possibly deceptive. The fact that this is the main issue of the statement, and it is surrounded by linguistic sensitivity, it becomes very significant in the analysis.

The Follow-Up

As you can see just from the few points mentioned above, there were significant problems within the victim’s statement that led us to believe that we may not be dealing with a “completely truthful” victim. However, after conducting a follow-up interview and a detailed inquiry into the statement, we were convinced that the car jacking did occur, but we were not convinced that we knew “everything” about the incident yet.

As the evening progressed, my partner and I continued to follow-up on this investigation, eventually leading to the arrest of all three suspects by early morning. In addition to the arrests, we recovered the stolen vehicle, located the weapon used in the crime, and two out of three the suspects provided written confessions. This sounds like a Slam-Dunk! (In addition, we each accumulated about 15 hours of overtime!). However, the three suspects arrested were Donna, Georgio and the third one we identified and arrested was Gerald. The victim reported that Gerald (the guy up front) had the gun and that Georgio and Donna were in the back seat. Donna also reported that Gerald had the gun, consistent with the victims statement. However Gerald provided a confession and said that Georgio had the gun, and that he (Georgio) leaned foreword from the back seat. The finger pointing is all right for the arrest, because from the police perspective, they all get charged. However, when the case was coming to trial, the Prosecutor had concerns about the issue of “Who had the gun?” which for the sentencing phase was a key element.

Knowing that the crime did occur, we had to examine the victims statement too see why the statement had so many signals of deception, in hopes of unlocking the complete truth. The key to this, as I explained to the prosecutor, was in linguistic signals of sensitivity, and verb tenses changes, which surrounded the “main issue” or the crime within the statement. The victim stated, “We go a little ways and the guy up front pulls out a gun”. In this statement, the victim changed his language to past tense, which comes to reduce his commitment to what he is saying. We know that the crime was committed, and that a gun was used, so where is the deception? The only logical choice is that he is being deceptive as to “who had the gun”. He stated “the guy up front” had the gun, however it really was Georgio who had the gun. Furthermore, in support of this conclusion, the statement about the gun is surrounded by linguistic signals of sensitivity, in that the victim states why something happened.

Comparing the analysis of the statement to the “outside investigation”, we could draw conclusions based upon all other aspects of the investigation combined to see the big picture. The fact that the victim and Georgio were lovers may be a factor in the he didn’t want to put the gun in his hand. Also, according to Donna and other independent witnesses interviewed, she and Georgio were very close friends, and Georgio was heard to have called her “his Lieutenant”, and that she would back him up. The investigation also tied Georgio to area robberies in which he was reported to have used a gun similar to the one used in this car-jacking. So as you see, the analysis appears to be consistent with the other aspects of the investigation, which when viewed as a whole, provides us with “the big picture”. The final outcome upon all three pleading guilty was that Georgio admitted having the gun, and Donna admitted lying to the police about who had the gun, and Gerald stood by his confession holding firm to the fact he was involved, but that he did not possess the gun.

Conclusion

Finally, I would like to state that this article is not intended to be a course in Statement Analysis, since there are many aspects of this discipline that I am unable to cover. However, I believe that this article can put into perspective how the detailed analysis of a statement, even from a victim statement such as this, can greatly assist the Detective in the field who has the responsibility of discerning the truth from the lies. I must emphasize that Statement Analysis is an excellent supplement to any investigation, not a substitute for an investigation. As professionals within our chosen field of law enforcement, we must be diligent in the pursuit of truth during our investigations, and conduct them, along with ourselves, in a professional, competent manner.

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