T he Reliable Denial is psychologically strong. This is the entire point of it: it is not the uttering of magic words.
This, too often, is an error made by analysts which ends up discouraging the new analyst, and fueling criticism of the system.
Although it is appealing to think that someone who says they did not do it allows for “instant knowledge”, the complexity of human nature, as seen or evidenced in language (and behavior) tells us something to the contrary.
I have used the example of Governor Chris Christie but there is another popular one with the release of a book by Amanda Knox in which she wrote “I did not kill my friend, Meredith.” When it takes someone the better part of a decade to make such a claim, this should be considered part of an overall late-to-the-party denial. Analysis of the statements made by Amanda Knox conclude that she did not necessarily inflict the fatal blow into the victim, but the language is clear:
She was present for the assault, was deceptive, and shows guilty knowledge of the crime.
One of her statements, in particular, is of great value to study the language of sexual assaults.
With Governor Christie, I asked him about it when I heard him give a speech in Maine. He was a marvelous speaker, fascinating and in command of the audience. He did not change my conclusion, however.
“I did not kill my daughter, Jonbenet.”
Recall this from the lips of John Ramsey.
Yet, consider what he said well before this, and that a statement analyst has specifically flagged his words, publicly in the media, for not only deception, but association with childhood sexual abuse. After all the analysis, he not only gave the denial but used the proper social introduction.
This, too, is late.
The Reliable Denial does not have a need to defend itself. This is not only true (and applicable) for reliable denials, but assertions as well.
In filling out a job resume, most people make errors when it comes to dating of jobs, leaving them hesitant to not qualify their words. This is “appropriate weakness.” Yet, when asked about a specific, such as a job qualification, and the assertions made about one’s own qualifications, they can boldly say, “it is true.”
In this is meant that it does not feel compelled to protect itself. This “wall of protection” and “truth confirmation” are the topics of this article.
I. The Psychology of the Reliable Denial
The strength, psychologically, of the truth, is the best defense. The defense is so strong, that it may not even ‘take the field.’
“Because I told the truth, that’s why!” becomes a powerful attitude that the investigator/interviewer immediately senses. This boldness is sensed within the words, just as plainly as the boldness of a liar, who is putting up his false muscles and flexing unnecessarily.
The weakness of the liar is found in several ways:
1. ‘Rhetorical’ Questions
3. Bearing the Burden of Proof
The deceptive one asks questions that are posed as “rhetorical”, that is, questions of which no answer is anticipated but even this may possess an element of deception:
The deceptive one is really asking questions.
“Why would I steal the jewelry when my husband gives me plenty?”
Thus, the deceptive one has:
a. shown weakness in her denial of theft
b. posed a mystery for us to solve.
There is an answer as to why someone with so much jewelry would still steal.
The experienced interviewer always notes how interested the subject is in the answer. It is, in a form, a fishing expedition to learn if the investigator has discovered the motive of the crime. This has sometimes come across terribly foolish:
“Why would I molest a child? I am a married man!” Or even worse:
“Why would I molest her? I am a normal male!”
Both are revelatory.
II. The Confirmation of Truth
“I told the truth” or “I am telling the truth,”
A. This must be “aimed” at the statement, itself.
B. It must not be altered.
It is said that “no man can lie twice”, as coined by Avinaom Sapir (LSI) in which he quotes a reference from the Babylonian Talmud. The explanation is as such:
The subject affirms, for example, that he did not do it. This is expressed in a manner that is psychologically strong; he cares not (or very little) for proof. Although this is often the subject of Hollywood, in life it is not so. The ‘devil may care’ dismissive attitude is strong: the burden of proof is upon another, and not the accused. Why? Because he didn’t do it. This reveals a confidence that says “it is impossible to prove that which did not happen” and may psychologically “walk away” or distance himself from it. This layer of protection is powerful and should not be underestimated. Experienced interviewers sense it; inexperienced interviewers misinterpret it, and often take it as a personal insult.
The words “I” and “truth” must be heard while the subject is addressing his denial. This is key.
I have heard deceptive subjects ‘finally’ give a denial that appear reliable, though the delay itself makes it unreliable, only to answer the question as to why I should believe him say,
“I am telling…I told you, this is it…” breaking off from telling the truth.
Recently, one deceptive one said,
“I am telling, because, I am telling you the honest truth.”
He just admitted that there is the “truth” and there is the “honest truth” about the crime of which he has been accused.
Consider the ‘wall of protection’ that the reliable denial provides, linguistically, which needs no assistance.
On rare occasion, a suspect who is intellectually challenged may not realize he needs to deny the allegation. This is rare but it has happened.
For the most part, the criminal mind considers itself clever and if you hear:
“Why would I steal the jewelry?”
“I would never steal the jewelry.”
“I have all the jewelry I need!”
eventually, the guilty will say,
“I didn’t steal the jewelry” but has just exemplified the principle boundary of the reliable denial:
Adding to it, with the preface statements, means it is no longer reliable.
Uttering a few ‘magic words’ will cause the new analyst, or the investigator who has only been trained in introductory statement analysis, to commit a grievous error.
Should he clear the suspect, only to have the suspect confess to another investigator, he will be discouraged, and the science discredited.