The Legal Investigator Fall 2010, Vol. 35, Issue 33 : Page 5

The investigator should also be aware of changes in body language that may have little if anything to do with truth-telling. For example, a witness who has her arms crossed in front of her may not be indicat-ing defiance, but is simply feeling physically cold. Some people just feel more comfortable with their arms crossed -it gives them something to do with their hands and can be comforting to some people. You might also find that people may be hesitant to speak freely if you have your arms crossed. Whether we are aware of it or not, we all read body language every day without thinking about it. We associate clenched fists with aggression. Examples of our innate understanding of body language may in-clude examples such as when someone leans toward us during a conversation. We may interpret that as interest or some degree of comfort with the situa-tion. A nervous person may tap their feet rhythmi-cally. Putting hands behind the head may indicate arrogance or superiority. It is important to remem-ber that signs of nervousness should not immedi-ately be interpreted as a possible sign of deception. The subject may simply be nervous or stressed about being interviewed. Hands on hips can indicate that the witness is being defiant. When we are speaking with someone who keeps checking their watch, it is likely that they are bored. Investigators may benefit by observing the feet of their interviewee. Some people have practiced sup-pressing their body language, but chances are, they concentrated on their face, hands and arms and their legs and feet are not as well “rehearsed”. The feet can also reveal information. If the subject’s feet are pointed towards the exit, they may be indication that they wish to leave. Feet close together can sug-gest that the person is timid. Feet far apart, espe-cially when standing, may indicate confidence and self-assurance. Many people jiggle their feet sub-consciously when are nervous or under stress. A witness’ reaction to invasion of their personal space may also yield information about the witness. Definitions of “personal space” vary, but an imagi-nary circle around us of an average of approximately eighteen inches to four feet away from us is gener-Cry Me a River Are those real tears? Few people can make themselves cry. Fake crying or “dry crying” as it is known, can usually be detected. That’s because genuine crying usually can be identified by ob-servable physiological responses, such as a red or runny nose, red or puffy eyes, coughing, and real tears. With a witness who is dry crying, an investigator can look for the following signs of deception: • If the witness cries too quickly or breaks into sobs immediately. Genuine crying usually starts mild and then escalates. • Lack of tears, dabbing at non-existent tears with a dry tissue. • Covers or hides eyes with hands or looks down. Hides eyes behind facial tissue. • Rubs knuckles into eyes to attempt to bring on the appearance of real crying. • Sniffling or nose blowing without the sound of actual mucous. The investigator will also observe whether the witness’body language is consistent with the words being said. Listen to what tense is used. A good example is the infamous video of Susan Smith at her press conference regarding a “black man”who had hijacked her vehicle and her children. While pleading for the safe return of her two sons, Ms. Smith appeared tearless. Then she said, “My children needed me,”in past tense. To make her words consistent to her story she perhaps should have said, “my children need me.” She later confessed that she had drowned her sons. Fall 2010 | the legal investigator 5

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