Here we have an example of a Reliable Denial within a poorly conducted interview. The transcripts are edited by Dateline. Twice, however, we hear a reliable denial:
1. The pronoun "I"
2. The past tense verb
3. Allegation specifically answered.
In fact, in the poorly worded question, the subject senses suspicion and does not wait to be accused. This is an example of how innocent people react to even a hint of guilt: "I didn't do it!"
Divorce lawyer convicted in slaying of his stepdaughter’s husband.
A California divorce lawyer has been convicted in Arizona of second-degree murder in the slaying of his stepdaughter's husband three years ago.
Attorney Robert Douglas Fischer was accused of shooting to death Norman "Lee" Radder in his Queen Creek, Ariz., home, then staging the scene as a suicide and calling 911 at about 5 a.m. on Dec. 30, 2010, according to the Navel Gazing page of the OC Weekly and the Orange County Register.
After the Maricopa County coroner ruled the death a homicide, the Orange County practitioner was charged with second-degree murder and extradited to Arizona last year. He was convicted Dec. 19 and, the OC Weekly says, could get 16 years when he is sentenced in June.
Fischer worked as a police officer before retiring and becoming a family law practitioner.
Here is the transcript of the interrorgations.
Police bring in lee's wife, Belinda in for questioning.
Detective Brooks. (DB)
"I'm trying to figure out what happened."
Belinda. "You and me both"
Narator. "Why would lee have killed himself?" asked Detective Brooks"
Better to ask:
"Tell me about your life..." and move slowly to what their married life was like.
Belinda. " We've had financial trouble. We always seem to make it through. you know, it's like -- i just -- i -- i just don't get it. i don't get it. We don't own a gun.
It is very important to follow the pronouns. Here we see the word "we" used. This indicates unity and cooperation, even in the sharing of "financial trouble" and owning a "gun."
Narrator: so to the beginning. the detective wanted details. everything that happened that evening after rob came in from california.
Belinda."We went to dinner about 7:00."
We look for distancing language from the guilty subject as time moves closer to the death.
DB."You came back to the house and you talked for a little bit and the girls went to sleep?"
Note the leading question. This does not gain information, but suggests it. This is not how to conduct an interview that allows the subject to guide and control the flow of information. The only time we wrest away control is if the subject is seeking a deep tangent, but even in those cases, we let the subject run his mouth on and on.
Because, as analyst Kaaryn Gough is fond of saying, "The brain knows what it knows." The subject, while keeping up a monologue, even, will leak out relevant information.
Belinda. " uh-huh"
DB."what time -- about what time did the girls go to sleep?"
In our seminars, we teach Interviewers to ask very short, plain questions. Here, just a single word, "about" allows the subject to not have to answer with precision.
Narrator: Around that time, lee got an e-mail. he went to call his business partner while belinda stayed in the kitchen with rob."
Belinda. " I got up to go to the bathroom and came back and -- there he was. And it's like, you know, it's -- it's really not real."
We do not know what prompted her to explain why she got up due to the Dateline editing.
DB, "About what time did this happen?"
Best is, "What time did this happen?" Never assume that a time is not known. If a time is not known specifically, let the subject say so but do not offer an 'out' from specificity.
Belinda."The girls went to bed about 10:30 . um -- so it was after that. i don't -- i don't know."
Narrator: Detective brooks was baffled. was belinda saying she shouldn't account for what happened from 10:30 p.m . until the 911 call came in at 5:00 a.m . it didn't make sense."
DB"okay, were you, um, intoxicated?"
Were you drinking?
What were you drinking?
How many drinks did you have?
How often do you drink?
How many drinks do you generally have?
How many drinks will your friends say you have?
Please note that minimization and alcohol are close cousins.
Note that "intoxicated" is a conclusion. To be fair, we cannot tell if this question did not come after a series of questions exploring alcohol usage. We ask about alcohol knowing that a natural desire exists to deny, or in the least, to minimize.
Belinda. "probably, oh, yeah, i'm sure"
"Trickle truth" (howbeit quickly) goes from
"probably" to "yeah, I'm sure..." immediately.
DB"we got our first call on this at 5:00 in the morning.
This reveals that there was a second call. The subject may already know this, however.
Belinda."okay. i don't --.
DB: that's pretty significant from 10:30 , from the kids going to bed , 10:00 , 10:30."
NEVER interrupt a subject speaking. SHE has the information he seeks. It is in her brain and comes through her tongue. While he is going to interrupt her, he is limiting the information. He is showing her that he does not believe her.
Stay neutral to keep the flow of information.
Say as little as possible so the subject will talk.
Use silence for your advantage.
She agreed with him. Was this what he wanted? A justification of his suspicion does not gain information.
DB: to 5:00 in the morning.
DB." is there something more to this?"
Belinda. "no. do i need to have a lawyer or something?"
He has triggered her suspicion by being unable to control his disbelief.
Belinda. "I didn't kill my husband, i didn't want him dead, i would never do anything like that"
Here we have a specific reliable denial:
"I didn't kill my husband", which is strong.
She then adds, "I didn't want him dead." What must now be known is if this was what she thought she was accused of.
"I would never..." does not negate the reliable denial above. It is commonly used along with a RD.
Please note that in these denials we do not have a reliable denial of another's desire to kill him.
She denied killing him. She denied wanting him dead. This still does not mean that she had no guilty knowledge of it, nor even that if she didn't want him dead, there was a reason why no call was made.
If she did not kill him, was she protecting another?
This type of interview is not likely to yield much information. He could have taken the role of sympathetic listener instead of accuser. Poor training produces poor interviewing skills and lots of impatience.
DB. "Wouldn't you agree that there's a big difference between 10:30 at night and 5:00 in the morning?"
Foolishly worded. This is an interview, not a lead, nor cross examination. He is showing her suspicion needlessly. This provokes her, however, to issue a reliable denial.
She is not there to agree with him. She is there for him to gain information. Instead, he is seeking justification for his impatience and lack of belief.
Belinda. " Well absolutely."
DB. " but you would know --"
Belinda. "But i also know that i didn't kill my husband, if thats what this is--going. If this--thats what its about then...
"I know that..." is weak until we see why she said it: "...if that's what this is...going. If this, that's what it's about."
This does not negate her reliable denial.
She does not deny knowing who did kill him, and who wanted him dead.
We do not have context but: if the Interviewer did not raise the suspicion that she wanted him dead, it is very likely that she may have known who did, in fact, want him dead. This is a missed opportunity and even with heavy editing, shows poor interviewing skills.
Rob Ficsher's interrogation.
At this point another detective is interviewing (RB) he calls him "Mike so i will refer to him as (M)
M."can you tell me what happened?"
Rob Ficsher. (RB) "Lee Belinda and I. We were out. We were having some cocktails, were talking like we always do. Everybody went to bed and i heard a popping sound, came out and saw somebody laying on the ground.
"Like we always do" should be treated the same as "normal" in Statement Analysis. This is a strong signal that while at dinner they talked of something very unique indeed.
Note that there may be nothing in his statement above that is technically a lie. He is simply withholding, or concealing information, particularly the "somebody" he saw laying on the ground.
M."You were in the fron bedroom in--in bed?"
RB." I didn't think it was Lee, i didn't know who it was, i didn't think it was Lee"
Note that he reported twice what he did not think about it being Lee, and once more about "who" it was (in the negative).
RB. "Mike, i was really drinking and i don't remember a lot. i'm not even sure it was lee. We drank two bottles of vodka. who knows?
In an open statement, one can only tell us what they remember. Here he tells us, specifically, that he does not remember "a lot." This is an indication of suppressed information.
DB. "It looks like Lee didn't commit suicide, and that's why i'm turning to you to help fill in some of the, some of the voids."
RB. "wish i could"
note the "wish"
DB. Somebody moved him.
RB. "Rob, i don't know"
Broken questions often lead to broken answers as parroting is always close by.
DB."what do you feel happened?"
RB. "i don't believe i shot him. i would never shoot him. I would never shoot him. We have never fought. We hadn't fought"
Note the weakness of his denial. He only "believes" he did not shoot him. This allows for himself, the Interviewer, or anyone else to "believe" otherwise.
From this short edition, I believe that the female did not shoot him. It is a reliable denial. I cannot tell, however, from just this information, if she knew the plans of the shooter.
I think she may have. I need more sample to know.
A family member then asked to see the 911 call transcript.
It was Fischer who made the 9-1-1 call reporting that Radder had shot himself. Unfortunately i can't find the transcript.