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Duke LaCrosse

Interrogation: What Do Biden and Bad Interrogators Have In Common?

Really! What does V.P. Joe Biden and a bad interrogator have in common?  Think about the question and Biden’s performance in the recent Vice Presidential debate. Now think about how a poorly trained, bad interrogator carries out an interrogation. The parallels are obvious.

My question is not meant to be a political statement on V.P. Biden or the current presidential campaign.  If however, you look at the analysis of Biden’s behavior and demeanor during the debate by some communication experts and social scientists there are several very strong parallels.

First, Biden was criticized for the fact he would not even listen to any responses by Ryan before he began his rebuttal. The poor interrogator approaches the interview with the preconception that they already have all the facts they need and have already reached a conclusion about the subject’s innocence or guilt regarding the issue at hand. In the past, I have referred to this as the “preconception assassin syndrome.”  See Duke LaCrosse rape case and the Trayvon Martin case in Florida.

Second, Biden was criticized for trying to force his conclusions on Ryan. The interrogator intends to enforce their conclusions on the subject they are interviewing.  They will not accept any other explanations.  The interrogator will accept no rebuttals and makes sure that the subject understands that it is futile to do so. God forbid that he or she should spend a little more time listening to their subject because they might learn something or hear some facts that disagree with their preconceived conclusions!

Third, Biden was criticized for being rude, dismissive, and condescending toward Ryan. The interrogator behaving the same way has little or no respect for the subject and will gain little or no rapport or cooperation or compromise with the subject.  The interrogator intends to prove that they are superior to the subject. The subject is an underling and beneath the station of their interrogator and therefore should know their place or certainly they will be put in their place by the interrogator. “Just who do you think you are?” “How dare you question me or challenge me?”  In the end this is an affirmation in the mind of the  interrogator that they are the superior individual in the conversation. Of course this works real well when you are trying to develop “rapport” with a subject and apply ethical influence or persuasion tactics that encourage cooperation and compliance.

Finally, for many viewers, Biden left the audience with a poor impression of who he is and what he stands.  In short, his message was lost because of what many observers called extreme, over the top, erattic behavior.  This type of interrogator will wind up being blindsided when the true facts of the case are revealed, or when a case is lost, a conviction is overturned, or when an innocent person is the victim of injustice, or the victim of the crime is not protected.  Of course the interrogator’s response is invariably the system failed, the judge or jury just doesn’t understand, there was nothing wrong with “my” work, etc.  One of my favorite statements is “I don’t interrogate innocent people.” Another is “that’s the way I or we have always done it.”

Can you say “coerced confession?”  Repeat after me “contaminated witness statements.”

It’s time we weeded out these type of interviewers and keep them out of our interview rooms and away from our witnesses.  It is also time we took a critical look at how we are training our interrogators because the accusatory tactics and mythological deception cues we teach during interview and interrogation training are the real genesis of these types of interrogators.

Regarding V.P. Biden… draw your own conclusions and vote accordingly!

Of course, this is just MY opinion!

Stan B. Walters,
“The Lie Guy®”
The Interview Room
Stan B. Walters Speaks


Lying: What do we do with “victms” who lie?

Strauss-Kahn has been released because the rape charges filed against him in New York may be at least partially untrue. His accuser may in fact have committed perjury. What should we do about victims who lie?

Granted Staruss-Kahn is obviously no saint and in the past exhibited some pretty boorish behavior and may have taken some big risks for someone in the public eye, but should he be prosecuted on false charges? By the same token, no matter your background, personal life style, economic status or high risk behavior, you do not deserve to be a crime victim.

With all that said, what should we do with "victims" who lie? Ask the Duke Lacrosse players about their lives after being falsely accused of rape. What about an entire community and multiple families affected by a false kidnapping report by the "Runaway Bride" from Georgia. These are but three high profile cases of lying done by victims. What about the hundreds and hundreds of other similar false reports or false statements made by victims and witnesses?

My suggestions

1. We've got to do much, much better narrative interviews of all victims. Perhaps questionable cases can be discovered a lot sooner and progress no further unless truly warranted.

2. Let's not forget, we also must do a much better job of interviewing witnesses.

Regarding these first two issues, criminal justice agencies rarely give their full attention to training investigators how to adequately interview victims. More importantly, victim assistance groups also fail when comes to victim interviews. Some victims support groups operate under the dangerous and myopic philosophy that victims would never lie. (Right. Nobody lies to their dentist about flossing or to their doctor about their "regular" exercise routine and obeying their diet!)

3. Start prosecuting and charging cases of false reports by alleged victims. In these financially strapped economic times, why should the public put up with such a waste of federal, state and local resources. How do we explain to genuine victims why there are limited or no resources to handle their case?

Victim's deserve our full attention and so do criminal subjects. What happens though when the full force of the criminal justice system is turned loose on the falsely accused? Of even greater concern, what happens when the media, chasing the next sensational criminal case thoroughly destroys the falsely accused's reputation. To this day you can still hear comments about the falsely accused Duke LaCrosse players, "well, they had to be doing something wrong."

Time to start filing highly publicized charges against "victims" who make false reports. Let them serve time, or at least fine them treble damages for the cost of chasing down their case. The falsely accused should also be allowed to recover damages.

I don't care how "distraught" the person was when they falsely reported. I shouldn't take into account the past or personal history of a genuine victim. Those things should have no bearing when we consider filing charges on those would set into motion criminal investigations that can devastate the falsely accused suspect.

Just my two cents worth.

Stan B. Walters, CSP "The Lie Guy®"