by Peter Hyatt
We have studied reliable denials and it is important to remember that an unreliable denial is just that: it is not reliable.
It does not, necessarily, indicate guilt.
Principle of Reliable Denial.
According to the principles of SCAN LSI teaches that a Reliable Denial will have three (3) components:
1. The pronoun "I"
2. Past Tense verb: "did not" or "didn't" Please note that LSI does not make a distinction between the two "did not" and the casual "didn't", though the Reid Technique claims that "didn't" is even more reliable because of it's casual contraction. I do not agree.
3. Event or Allegation Specific
If there are less than three components, the denial is "unreliable"; just as if there are more than three.
Next, the Denial must come during the "Free Editing Process", that is, where the subject is freely speaking for himself, and not entering the language of the Interviewer.
Here are some examples of Reliable versus Unreliable:
"I didn't steal nothing" is unreliable.
"I didn't steal the money" may be unreliable, in context. I have seen thieves who claimed that their company "owed" them money and they took money at an opportunity, claiming it was owed.
"I didn't take the money" is reliable. Remember, this sentence should stand if the rest of the interview supports it. It is extremely rare that a guilty person can say this sentence, in the Free Editing Process. If the subject produces this sentence on his own, and is asked why he should be believed and says "Because I told the truth", the investigation is over. He didn't do it. This is the "No man can lie twice" principle.
Interviewer: "Did you take the department's missing item?"
Subject: "I did not take the department's missing item" is not reliable, simply because he parroted the Interviewer's language. Let him speak for himself and see if he produces this on his own.
Interviewer: "Did you take our store's missing necklace?"
Subject: "I did not take our store's missing jewelry." Unreliable This is not only parroting, but we should note that the "necklace"changed into "jewelry."
In an interview for shrinkage, use the morally neutral "take" rather than "steal."
"Didn't do it" is unreliable for dropping the pronoun, "I"
"We didn't do it" when speaking for oneself, is unreliable.
In an interview, I sometimes will prompt the subject in order to elicit a reliable denial. Given enough opportunity, it may come to the skill of the analyst to conclude "deception indicated" especially in a lengthy interview.
We see, at times, transcripts where the subject has lots of opportunity to issue a denial. The recent post from the journalist in Hawaii showed this. When the polygraph issue is raised, we immediately look for:
"I told the truth" and "I didn't do it."
"How do you speak to the allegation?"
I have asked,
"If you were going to tell a judge something, what would you say?"
I do whatever it takes to get the subject to talk about the allegation. Some might avoid it not realizing what he is accused of, especially in a Human Resources investigation, as these interviews often begin with,
"Do you know why I am here?"
This is to see if the person shows an awareness of guilt, or if the person knows that there has been an accusation made.
But what about "of course" in "yes or no" questions?
This is important to understand.
"Of course I did not do it" is a perfect example of an unreliable denial.
The words "of course" indicate that the subject wants us to accept something without question, which is the point of these additional words. Of course, we want everyone to understand our speech, which is why we communicate. Here, the words "of course" are used in a simple and appropriate manner.
"Of course I did not take the missing money."
Recently, ESPN revisited the Tanya Harding - Nancy Kerrigan assault. Mark McClish wrote about it on his website, here.
Harding was asked if she knew about the attack beforehand.
She answered, "I swear on everything holy, may God strike me down, I did not know until three days after we got back from Nationals."
Interviewer: "Were you involved in the planning of..."
Tonya Harding interrupted him and said, "Of course, not!"
This was a "yes or no" question and she answered with "of course not", instead of "No, I was not involved" or simply "no."
When one says "of course", the subject wants you to believe without questioning. Literally, she is saying "accept what I say" rather than issue a denial. These two additional words are critical.
Here, we conclude that Tonya Harding did know about the attack and was deceptive in her televised interview. "Of course, not" is to not deny, but to impress upon the listener that they should not question the subject.
Can someone issue an unreliable denial and still be innocent?
Yes. We do not always conclude, especially with just a single indicator. One that may issue an unreliable denial may just need a prompt to properly address the allegation.
Work with statistics and be 'statistically minded' when it comes to discerning truth from deception, or deception from truth.
When we say "such and such is 80% likely", please keep in mind that there is another 20% out there waiting for a response.
This is where the skill of the analyst is seen: patience.
There are just some statements that are too short to draw a conclusion.
Other times, it is quite plain to us.
"I did not harm the child" will not pass the test for reliable denial when we know the child was not so much "harmed" but murdered or killed. This minimization of the allegation is a violation of component number three.
Of course, we don't take, without question, what someone says when he says "Of course I didn't do it!"
We note the violation of the principle of the reliable denial.