Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Prison Break and Deception in Language

This story is from the NY Post.  Italics have been added to the quotes, with emphasis, followed by Statement Analysis is bold type.  Pay particular attention to communicative language.  

This is "said, says, told", etc.  We note any change in language and we seek consistency.  

I'm not a cuckold, says husband of Shawskank

The husband of accused prison-break accomplice Joyce Mitchell said the two escaped murderers threatened to kill him if she didn’t cooperate in their escape plan.
In an interview with NBC’s “Today” show that aired Tuesday, Lyle Mitchell said he’s shocked his wife of 14 years played any role in helping David Sweat and Richard Matt bust out of Clinton Correctional Facility on June 6.

A day after their escape, state troopers interviewed the couple – with Lyle assuming they’d be asking routine questions about their interactions with the escaped killers.

The hubby said he was shocked when “an investigator comes out and says, `Mr. Mitchell, your wife is more involved that what she’s letting on.’ ”

Note that "says" is present tense, reducing commitment.  We next seek to learn if this is his pattern of speech regarding what happened, or if there is something else, perhaps, going on in his language.  
With "says", he is quoting the investigator.  He introduces it with "comes out and says", with both being present tense language, reducing reliability, statistically. 

Is there something else at play?



David Sweat (left) and Richard Matt.Photo: New York State Police
“And that’s when he said she … brought two hacksaw blades and a Phillips head and a chisel,” Lyle added.

Here is a change to the more reliable "said", which is past tense, and it is without any introduction such as "comes out..."

Next in the article, he quotes his wife:  

And on the ride home, Joyce allegedly spilled the beans on Matt and Sweat’s plans.

She said `I got something else to tell you,’” Lyle said.“She said, `Their plan was they wanted to kill you’ and I said `What?’”
“They wanted her to come pick them up … she told me that Matt wanted her to pick them up,” he added.

He begins with "said" and goes into the quote, which should be using his wife's language.  He used "said" again, but then changed to "told", which is stronger, more informative and authoritative language.  What caused this change?
Note the entrance of one of the criminals, "Matt", is by the last  name.  With "Matt" comes authoritative language.  

She said, ‘Well I never leaves anywhere without Lyle, never. And he said, ‘Well I’ll give you some pills to knock him out and you come pick us up.’

This is alleged to be the language of Richard Matt.

Cops believe they’re hot on Matt and and Sweat’s trail, having spotted them Monday night at Upper Titus Mountain, according to local reports.
Lyle said he asked Joyce, point blank, if she had sex with either of the inmates.

This sounds like it was asked plainly.  Note his answer:  

’Absolutely not,'” he said, quoting his wife. “She swore on her son’s life…’I never ever had sex with them.’”

1.  "Absolutely" is added for emphasis, making the question "sensitive."  It does not, by itself, indicate that she had sex with the criminal (s).

2.  "Swore"; to swear is to increase the statistically likelihood of deception.

3.  "Never" is not to be substituted for "did not", especially since the time period for sex was likely limited to her work hours, and in the recent days leading up to the assistance given to the prisoners for escape. 

No one indicator is, by itself, to be conclusive. 

Here, we take the three linguistic indicators and conclude:

His wife had sex with the prisoner (s). 

Remember, this is not what he believes, but what he is quoting his wife as saying.  


But Lyle admitted that their marriage had hit a rough spot, leaving Joyce vulnerable to the allegedly charming murderer Matt.

“She told me that … Matt was giving her attention and stuff and she believed I did not love her anymore,” he said.

This conversation was likely an argument as "said" is not used, but authoritative "told" is.  


Lyle doesn’t believe Joyce brought the men weapons – but said she was in on their talks to break out.

“She said she never (gave) the tools. She did not,” Lyle said. “As far as everything else, she said when it came down to hurting me that’s when she said `I realized I messed up and I loved you. I had to … I couldn’t do that.’ ”

Note that he first quotes her, but then he editorializes with "She did not."  This is likely something he believes.  In his quotation of her, we again see the stress-reducing word "never" is used, which is unreliable.  


The heart-broken husband has visited Joyce in jail, where “she said it’s rough because she’s never been in jail before.”

Interesting words explaining why jail is "rough" as she worked in a jail, for a living.  Those who work inside a jail, in any capacity, have a better idea of what it is like than the public.  

The present tense language may be PTSD like shock, with impact ongoing (as if present), but still, statistically, we deem it a lesser commitment to the truth, and the investigator, himself, would be the one to clear up any discrepancy in the account.  

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder like symptoms show that a shock to the brain, with its elevation of stress hormones, can leave a lasting imprint, so that even if one is not diagnosed with PTSD, they may still have symptoms that mirror it.  As with most hormonal rushes, (like in near car accidents), the hormones recede quickly, but when they do not, the elevation correlates with the transmission of the brain, leaving a lasting imprint that shows itself in impact. 

In 1945, my father was in the Sea of Japan where he was on deck, as a signalman, while Japan kamikaze flights were occurring.  

40 years later, every so often, he still woke up screaming from nightmares, "The Japs!  The Japs!", frightened terribly by the 'scar' left upon his brain from the elevated trauma of being exposed to potential surprise suicide attacks.  

Those who 'freeze' during such heightened elevations of the "fight or flight" hormonal increase generally have more severe impact during their lives, than those who were actively engaged. 

I believe that even infants, exposed to parental domestic violence, may incur such brain trauma and are unable to 'reason the hormone level down' through processing, which may later show itself, particularly during the adolescent years of increased hormonal activity, in most negative ways.  

We find present tense language in the statements of adults who were victims of childhood sexual abuse, as an indication of ongoing suffering.  

This may be why so many with ongoing PTSD symptoms have suicidal ideation. 

We have much to learn about the brain, and how its signals are viewed in language. 


11 comments:

Jen Ow said...

I'm shocked they still haven't been caught! I watched a show about the prison break last weekend, and I was amazed by the precision cuts they were able to make, and the size of the cuts. My husband, (who is an engineer) and I both marveled at how they would accomplish the cutting without the use of welding equipment, or incredibly loud grinding from a metal on metal cutting tool. (Which would surely be noticed inside the jail.)

There's much more to this story, and I think that this woman knows a lot more than she is telling her husband.

(The show I watched actually said that she/they had planned to kill her husband, and the three of them were planning to run off together. Nothing that her husband relays about her side of the story refutes that idea, and his comments about her realizing she loves him and couldn't do it, seems to confirm it.)

Frank said...

Well..it seems all is fair in love, war, and escaping maximum security prisons! I have to say that investigators are not too bright. How long did it take them to figure out that the "deal" Matt and Sweat made with the prison worker to get her to give them tools was not their actual plan? From analyzing cases on this site, it took me minutes to figure out, these 2 had a different ride and were never planning to go with her, and furthermore, were no longer in the area after a few days of searching had gone on with no sign of their guitar case. Why? Any guitar case found in the area? Do you think they are on foot running with a cumbersome guitar case? Obviously they found a ride somewhere. And obviously what they told the prison worker that if she helped them they would kill her husband was A LIE! Oh yes, I am sure they were going to bust out of maximum security to get a ride from her to go kill her husband so they could be brought immediately back to jail!

Anonymous said...

Maybe I'm the one lone holdout, but I'm not so sure her husband Lyle is telling the whole truth and nothing but the truth.

I wonder.

Jen Ow said...

Hi Anon,

I doubt that he knows the truth to tell!

He initially seemed to be genuinely blindsided by the whole situation. He made strong statements condemning his wife, saying he was 'freaked out' by the idea that she had developed a connection with the two inmates, and that he would not be testifying, or arguing in her defense.

But, now that he has visited her a few times, and she has offered him some excuses, he seems to be softening. He think it's human nature to want to believe that his wife is not capable of these acts, unless she was under extreme duress. (And what better reason for her to give him, than claiming she did it to save his life!)

I don't think that was actually the case, as even before the escape she was investigated, and temporarily suspended for improper contact with the one of the inmates, (Matt, I believe) and rumors that they had sexual contact in one of the restricted areas. I think at this point he is in denial, and holding onto any shred of hope that this is a big misunderstanding. I pity him, and their children, as collateral victims of her, and these two convicts. If she was genuinely being threatened, all she had to do was report it. They were in a cell block for prisoners rewarded extra privileges for 'good behavior'. If she had reported their plans, or threats, they would have been relocated to a more secure cell block, and the danger would have been neutralized. Instead, she waited until they had already escaped to back out of her side of the deal to pick them up, and went into hiding checking herself into the hospital. If she truly feared them, and wanted to save herself and her husband, then why wouldn't she have taken her husband into hiding with her? I think she chickened out at the last minute, probably because she realized that these guys were not actually going to run away with her, and would probably just take her car, and either leave her with the legal implications, or possibly even kill her after they had escaped, and didn't need her help to accomplish their goals anymore.

Frank said...

I think they duped her though. They were trying to trick her by fulfilling her unmet emotional need to feel "special". I believe she requested them to kill hubby and they said "sure just bring us tools so we can escape and then pick us up outside after we escape and we'll go kill your husband pronto." But they actually had a different plan and different getaway driver I bet. One of those convicts has a genius IQ. You ever seen his paintings? They are worth a lot of money, they are actually exceptionally talented portaits. He could have bribed anyone in the prison for help with the cutting of the pipes with one of his paintings because seriously if you look at them, someone could have sold one for big money considering they are portraits of celebrities somebody would have been willing to shell out some cash for one.

Jen Ow said...

Hi Frank,

I agree. I think she was a 'pawn' being manipulated by them, but I also think she was freely engaging in the relationship, planning their escape/to kill her husband, and bringing them tools.

I don't believe that she did it under threat, such as "you bring us the tools to get out, or we'll kill you/your husband/kids, etc. If that had been the case, she could have nixed their escape plans easily.

I think she was a lonely woman, who was buying into a fantasy of running away. It amazes me that anyone who works in a prison would risk going there themselves! I used to collect labs at several prisons, and I hated going in there for work.

Frank said...

Hi Jen,

Absolutely, I am sure she asked them to kill her husband. They wanted freedom, they had no interest in her husband. I agree, they did not force her to do anything. My sister worked in a prison for years and honestly, sometimes women who work in prisons have a few screws loose. You have to ask yourself, who would want to voluntarily spend most of their day 5 days a week in a prison? A lot of times women who work in the men's prisons are attracted to "bad boys". My sister for example worked in a minimum security prison for many years (these guys were in there for 2 yrs maximum sentence), but apparently none of those guys were bad enough for her, because she actually ended up marrying a guy (they are now divorced) who had just gotten out of jail from a maximum security prison. It's almost like they admire these guys. I think they see in them the ability to rebel that they never acted on in life which may have been healthy if done on a much less extreme level obviously than what is acted on by convicts.

Anonymous said...

I don't believe anything this woman has said; if she was (and IS) con enough to help these scumbags with their escape she is con enough to lie her way into or out of anything. If anyone would know what a liar and a con she is it would be her hubby, Lyle.

Like I said previously, I'm not so sure her hubby isn't lying too. He says they spent 95% of their time together, everyday, every waking moment? Then how could he not know, or at least have a hint, of her close connections with these prisoners? Particularly since she had already been investigated once for having a sexual relationship with one of the escapees; and he didn't suspect anything after this thinly veiled bubble burst? NOW he's suddenly in this huge state of shock?

It doesn't add up to me that he was entirely deceived by her.

Sure, he appears to be dumb as a rock and may be but that doesn't mean he isn't also a crafty liar. Is he laying the groundwork for her hearing and sentencing to go easy on her later on?

Not sure he's not also somehow involved, or at least in helping her in some other way in the investigation. Just a feeling more than anything else. Maybe Peter could dig a little deeper into Lyle's statements?

Sara said...

To Frank--You, sir, I believe, nailed it!!! Spot on!! This woman needs to receive a lengthy prison sentence. She is responsible for 2 dangerous men being on the streets again. She was hired to help keep them away from society and betrayed us all by what she did. She is a lying, disgusting POS.
Why do we even have women guarding men, and men guarding women, in the first place?
Why aren't officers fired for the first offense of sexual contact with inmates? Probably because it's so common, if fired the first time, there would not be enough guards left to run the facility.

Nic said...

’I never ever had sex with them.’”

I would say, "I didn't have sex with either of them." Her weak denial sounds like a group thing.

Lis said...

I think the husband needs to learn statement analysis, he seems to be and to have been a chump as far as his wife's stories go. The two criminals, on the other hand, appear to be quite adept at picking the easily duped.