Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Statement Analysis: Nicholas Sexton, Bangor Murder Trial

When someone is speaking of an event in the past, and the memory is in play, it is expected that the subject will use past tense language.  Present tense language is deemed "unreliable" in Statement Analysis. 

When someone uses the pronoun "I" and past tense verbs, it increases the likelihood that the subject is telling the truth.  It does not mean he is always truthful, only that percentage wise, it is positive.  An entire analysis is needed for a conclusion.  We often work following the percentages to conclude truth or deception.  

When someone speaks in the present tense, it may be due to:

habit, even cultural story telling; and the habit will be seen in consistency.  Some Irish story tellers use present tense language, and do so consistently.  

deception:  it may indicate that the subject is lying

PTSD:  It may be that the event is "live" and "present" for the subject.  We see this in extreme cases of domestic violence and sexual abuse, as well as in combat vets.  They will speak in the present tense because the violence, for example, is as present today (often in nightmares and hyper vigilance) as it was when it happened.  The key is to listen for consistency in language.  

Regardless of the reason, it is, percentage wise, not reliable in cases and the wise analyst, like the wise cross-examining attorney, will pounce on any inconsistency is verb use. 

Below is an article from Bangornews.com about a local murder trial.  The subject, Nicholas Sexton, is quoted within the article.  I have placed his statements in italics and have added underlining, bold type and even color, for the sake of emphasis. 

The Statement Analysis that follows is in bold type to differentiate between the article and analysis. 

The information in the analysis can be used in the cross examination of the subject, targeting the subject's own words.  

BANGOR, Maine — Nicholas Sexton testified Monday that his co-defendant shot and killed three people on Aug. 12, 2012, then forced him to set the car and the three bodies that were in it on fire a few hours later.
Sexton, 33, of Warwick, Rhode Island, and Randall Daluz, 36, of Brockton, Massachusetts, known by the nickname “Ricky” or “Money,” have been charged with three counts of murder and one count of arson in connection with the deaths. Investigators have described the slayings as a drug deal gone bad. Sexton and Daluz have pleaded not guilty.
The charred bodies of Nicolle A. Lugdon, 24, of Eddington, Daniel T. Borders, 26, of Hermon and Lucas A. Tuscano, 28, of Bradford were found in a burning rental car on Aug. 13, 2012, at 22 Target Industrial Circle in Bangor.
Sexton took the stand in his defense Monday as the trial spilled into its fourth and most likely final week. He told a packed courtroom that Daluz killed Borders by accident when he

hit him in the head with the barrel of the .380 pistol.” Sexton said Daluz killed Tuscano and Lugdon “deliberately.

Bangornews.com is not a good source for complete quotes, as it is a highly editorialized publication.  We do not know if "deliberately" was in response to a question. 

This quote:  "hit him in the head with the barrel of the .380 pistol" shows the past tense "hit him" which indicates that the subject can speak of the event in the past tense.  Past tense increases reliability, while present tense reduces it.  It is difficult to draw any conclusion with such broken up quotes. 

His testimony of how he and Daluz came to Maine matched that of previous witnesses in most aspects. Sexton rented a car in Rhode Island and picked Daluz up in Massachusetts on Aug. 11, 2012. The two came to Maine to sell drugs and spent much of the evening of Aug. 12, 2012, at Carolina’s Sports & Spirits in Bangor.
Sexton, however, denied that two guns — a derringer and a .380 pistol, which both have been tied by a firearms expert to the slayings — were on the bed of a Brewer motel room as Katelyn Lugdon, 19, formerly of Bangor, testified. She is the sister of Nicolle Lugdon and was living with Borders.
The Rhode Island man also said that he and Daluz left Carolina’s at about 11 p.m. on Aug. 12, 2012, and went to 15 Bolling Drive in Bangor to pick up the victims. The plan, Sexton said, was to sell Borders some cocaine and to smoke marijuana. Sexton said he was driving with Borders in the passenger seat. Daluz was behind Borders and Tuscano was behind the driver’s seat, with Lugdon in between them, Sexton testified.
Nikki was talking about coming back to the hotel with me later,” Sexton said. “Dan was up front rolling a joint, when, all of a sudden this commotion breaks out. Dan says something to Daluz and Daluz gets pissed and smacks Dan in the head. Dan spilled the dope all over the car.”

We have a longer quote here, which is useful.  Let's break it down:

"Nikki was talking about coming back to the hotel with me later" is not to say, "Nikki talked about..." which indicates that the talking that was done was significant and may have included things he does not want to repeat.  The shortest way is often the best, as it indicates truthfulness.   

"was talking" is past tense, however, although it gives a signal that there was more.  

"Dan was up front rolling a joint when all of a sudden this commotion breaks out."

We now listen for:  story telling language in the subject. 

He  moves into the present tense, which reduces reliability.  

Please note the Temporal Lacunae:    "all of the sudden

In Statement Analysis, this means that in his speech, he is skipping over time.  

This skip or passage of time is important enough to enter his language.  It may be related to what Nikki was talking about, as this was not given finality.  

Conclusion:  It is critically important missing information. 

The word "this" indicates closeness, while the word "that" is distancing language.  "This commotion breaks out" is not reliable. 

Note that:  "breaks out" and not "broke out", which indicates unreliable testimony, as it is in the present tense.  Since we have seen that the subject does not use present tense language as a habit, that is, consistently, the present tense language must be deemed, in the least, unreliable.  

Sexton said he did not hear what Borders said but described it “as something smart.”

We do not have a quote here, but if he told us, in an open statement, what he did not hear, it should be flagged, as people can only tell us what they know, what they remember, and what they heard. 

Everybody tells them to chill out, and I turn around and I see Daluz has a gun in his hand,” he continued. “He hits  with it a few times. Nikki’s telling him to chill out and the gun goes off and everybody starts screaming and yelling.

"tells them" is present tense and not past tense.  
Note that "everybody" is plural.  Did he, himself, tell "them" to chill out? This should be viewed skeptically.  

"I turn around and I see" is also unreliable.  "I turned and saw" would be reliable.  We also note that he gives us his body posture in "turn around", which is a signal of increased tension for the subject at this point.  Yet, it is present tense.  

"I see Daluz has a gun"

"He hits with it a few times.  This is also present tense. 

"Nikki's telling him" is present tense 

Next we see passivity. 

Passivity is used to conceal identity or responsibility.  

"The gun goes off" is passive language.  

When the passivity is taken alongside of the present tense language, which is then compared to his own past tense language, there is a strong indication that deception is present.  

"Everybody starts screaming" is not to say, "everyone screamed."

If it sounds like story telling to you, there is a reason for this. 

Sexton said he was telling Daluz to put the gun down when his co-defendant shot Tuscano. That shot “blew out” the back passenger window. Lugdon became hysterical, he said.

The blowing out of the window is past tense.  This is another indication that he knows how to use past tense verbs.  It is very likely that the window was, indeed, blown out:  that this is truthful. 
Daluz ordered Sexton to keep driving but he was worried they were going to run out of gas, Sexton testified. Sexton said he turned around in Orono, then went to Dedham on Daluz’s instructions. There, Sexton put gas in the car, then put the gas can in the vehicle.

Failure to quote.  This is critical because the subject was telling Daluz to put the gun down but now there is a change of command.  We do not know what communicative language was used.  
Sexton said that he drove to Hermon and down a dirt road where Daluz instructed Lugdon to swallow a number of pills. Daluz took money from Tuscano and Borders and gathered up shell casings, Sexton testified.
“He came to the driver’s side of the car and I got out,” Sexton said. “I got out and he asked if I was going to tell on him and I said, ‘No.’ He pointed the gun at me and raised his hand to the other window and, boom, he shoots Nicole.”

"He came to the driver side of the car and I got out" is reliable.  Somewhere in the account, this likely happened.  He has no problem with past tense answers.  

Note how he uses past tense to describe the entire event until 

"he shoots Nichole."

He was either unwilling or unable to say, "he shot Nichole"

This is also unreliable. He is consistently unreliable. 
Sexton said that Daluz threatened to kill his children if he went to police so he agreed to burn the car with the bodies in it. Sexton said that he selected the Target Industrial Circle location because it was close to the Ramada Inn, but had to return there to get a lighter from Daluz, after he had dropped him off there, so he could start the fire.

If each important point used a quote instead of "Sexton said", we would know more information about the testimony.  This is why journalists should be trained in the SCAN technique from LSI.

Daluz attorney should concentrate his cross examination upon the areas of missing information first, and then use the subject's own words to pick apart his story. 
Next, he should focus upon the areas in which the subject used past tense verbs, in open ended questions, to allow the subject to become confident in his answers, and then move on to the areas in which the subject used present tense language.  The cross examination should zone in upon his own words; not interpret, but force the subject to lie, which allows for a jury to hear that which will feel 'uncomfortable', even to the untrained ear.  

Once on the stand, the subject will not be able to recall, exactly, that which did not come from experiential memory.  
Assistant Attorney General Lisa Marchese, who has a reputation for being tough on defendants during cross-examinations, will begin questioning Daluz as soon as jurors return from a lunch break around 1 p.m.
Daluz’s attorney Jeffrey Silverstein of Bangor will question Sexton after Marchese.


Trishapatk said...

I wonder if a confusing, chaotic situation is remembered differently than a clear one that can be told in past tense easily. If it is more like impressions and sudden occurrences from a situation I wonder if they'd be remembered and spoken of the same way. It does sound like the car was suddenly full of drama with arguments, a gun, dope being spilled, voices being raised and then a gun going off. I think I'd probably fall back into present tense language because the objective understanding of what really happened wouldn't be there. I think I'd find myself reliving it and it would be reported with as much confusion and sudden action as when I was first subjected to all of the events.

GeekRad said...

Trishapatk I wondered the same thing. I wondered if it was possible he was reliving the incedent when he told it. He switches to present tense when he tells of the commotion and what happened after that. I am trying to remember how I may have decribed incidents in the past that were emotional/confusing/tramatic/out of my control. I think I would have used past tense but I am not so sure. I undestand the concept, inventing a story, not living it. We see that alot in these posts but as I recall in most of those cases the speaker is not recounting an incedent with this level of commotion and confusion. Perhaps Peter can expalin it in the context of other indicators as well.

Anonymous said...

Can someone explain to me how when a subject uses the term "All of a sudden" it means they are 'skipping over time'?
Does using this phrase always mean the subject is skipping over time, or is it an indication they may be skipping over time.

Could it not be a way to indicate one was surprised?

Samantha said...


The recent killing of elderly couple Russell and Shirley Dermond of Georgia has been in the headlines since Russell was discovered decapitated in their garage earlier this month. Based on the details of the killings (and the local sheriff) it would seem that the Dermonds were murdered by someone they knew.

I have been a fairly avid reader of your blog for nearly two years but haven't commented until now. I don't know if I'm on the right track, but something about the words of the couple's son Keith doesn't sit right with me. See the bottom of this comment for link to full article. Here are the quotes in question:
On the phone Saturday afternoon, the Dermonds’ son, Keith, had trouble finding words to describe his family’s pain upon learning of his mother’s death.

“We take some comfort in the fact that she’s at peace. ... So many different emotions -- relief and sadness -- it’s hard to describe,” he said. “I never would have dreamed our family would be going through something like this.”

Keith Dermond, 55, said investigators have referred to his parents’ killings as “a targeted crime.”

“We’ve had two weeks almost to think about all this and just cannot come up with anything that sounds logical,” he said.

“Especially with nothing of any value taken. There wasn’t a robbery of any kind. I just think it was a random thing, or if it was targeted they hit the wrong house, or something crazy like that.”

He couldn’t imagine why anyone would want to harm his folks, who ran an Atlanta-area chain of Hardee’s restaurants until they retired 20 years ago.

He said, “I just don’t understand it at all.”

* * *

Statement Analysis Blog said...


When someone is story telling, they use phrases such as these.

When they are simply giving facts, it is much plainer language.

This is where instinct comes from and people get a 'feel' that truth is not being told.

"All of the sudden" is often used in story telling but even in truthful statements, there is often something that happened that is left out.

"I was sitting on the couch with Bob. He hit me and screamed at me."

This is very straight forward.

"I was sitting on the couch with Bob" shows distance, as the word "with" is between people, and the pronoun "I" was far from "Bob."

"Bob and I were sitting on the couch..." would be closer.

"I was sitting on the couch with Bob and all of the sudden, he hit me" uses additional language, which means instead of saying "I was sitting on the couch with Bob and he hit me" the author used extra words to portray surprise.

In the interview, we explore what preceded the hitting. It may be something minor, but it is something.

We look for it.