Thursday, July 16, 2015
Statement Analysis: 911 Call of Missing 2 Year Old
Statement Analysis of a 911 call is no different than analysis of any other statement in that:
1. We presume innocence on the part of the caller. This is not a legal or ethical assumption, but a linguistic assumption.
2. We next use this assumption to 'enter into' or understand the language of the caller via the setting.
A little boy is missing. He is just under the age of 3.
The parents likely feel guilty about not knowing the location of their child, and they must be very nervous both for the child and for the obvious implication. In context, we note who was present, and the topographical layout of the scene; so that if it is a campsite at a lake, "water", "woods" and so on, are part of the expectation. If we find indicators of sensitivity, we look to see if these indicators of sensitivity are explained either by the subject, or by the context of the call.
3. We set up an expectation of words. What do we expect the caller (parent) to say? We may even make a written list of what we expect to hear before listening to the call, and exactly how we expect it to sound.
As we listen to what the parent says, the 'expected' words pass by us without cause for concern.
4. Should we hear what is not expected; that is, words, phrases, or information that is not something that either we, or most people, would say in this circumstance, we are 'awakened' or 'alarmed' or 'confronted' by these words and will carefully note the words and ask, "What would cause a parent of a missing child to say this?", in speculation, based upon the context.
Some points to consider about the call.
1. "What's the address of your emergency?"
The call begins with the 911 operator asking the location. The immediate address is not given but begins with a pause.
A pause is a sensitivity indictor. We now ask, "Why would the parent of a missing child need to pause in answering the question about location?"
We look to see if the answer is in the language.
In a home address, this is the expected: a direct answer will be given without pause. "1515 Mockingbird Lane" should be given without any need to think (pause). At a camp ground, or remote site, a pause to give the location is expected. A pause, such as, "hmmm" or "Uh..." or even "What is the address here?" is expected if the caller is at a remote site. It is, therefore, a sensitivity indicator that is explained in context.
"an hour?" is asked by the operator, making it sensitive. This is also explained in context: the 911 operator did not hear the answer. This is confirmed by the audio, or by the repeated number of times (in the text) that the 911 operator needed to ask questions.
2. "My two year old son, we can't find him."
a. "my" The pronoun "my" takes ownership and is the language of biological parents. It is likely that the caller is the biological mother and not a step parent.
3. "We can't find him" shares guilt/responsibility. This can either be the guilty feeling for him being lost, or more detailed guilt.
2. "What is he wearing?"
"He was wearing cowboy boots..."
She referenced the child in the past tense. We must consider this in context.
This tells us:
a. The mother knows or believes he is dead; or
b. The mother is thinking of what he was wearing an hour ago, specifically (since this followed after having to repeat "an hour" to the operator)
c. The mother may think the child takes off his boots, clothing, regularly
d. unknown: to be determined.
We note that the references in the past tense that point to guilty knowledge are generally about character, or life, and not about specific clothing, or having specific items with the child, such as "he had her blankie with her..." or "she had her cell phone" and so on. These refer to the specific time period last seen.
Next note that she went to him as a "person" she said, "he's got shaggy blond hair", in the present tense as part of the free editing process (she was not asked) and is within the same context.
Physical description of what one is wearing, or has with him, can be past tense, appropriately, since that is what the person saw or thought, the child had on. It is when the subject (parent) speaks of the child's character, rules for life, etc, that the past tense reference becomes a red flag.
In an attribute that is ongoing, "he's..." but only in the clothing, "he was..."; which is not a conclusive point within itself. Had she said,"he had shaggy blond hair", it would have been different.
There is nothing in the 911 call to suggest guilty knowledge on the part of the mother.