A common expression in law enforcement is "this doesn't pass the smell test" or
"this does not pass the straight face test."
What it means is that the story is not really adding up.
In the disappearance of Baby Ayla, Justin DiPietro's story about his mother's home being broken into, tiny house that it was, in the middle of the night, with the kidnapper finding just the right room, avoiding all the other children and adults, and getting in and out without a single piece of trace evidence (tiny DNA) led the spokesman for the investigation to say,
"This doesn't pass the straight face test."
This statement should never be part of a professional analyst's vocabulary or report.
Here is why:
When something is 'too good to be true', it likely is. Yet, every so often, odds are defied and even though the "straight face test" may be 90% accurate,
an analyst who includes this is not exercising statement analysis, but is doing what I call "guess analysis" which could, in just one case, destroy his or her reputation.
"It is not statement analysis."
This is the best response in correcting and guiding analysts: Stay as a 'slave' to the text, and even if you feel certain that 'this is a lie', if the language does not support it, do not assert it.
Every so often, a case arises in which the odds are defied and this is a good reminder for the analyst to keep to the disciplines of the science and avoid making a judgement call.
Recently, Lenny Dykstra, former major league ballplayer, has been doing public relations work to sell his new book. In his book, he makes some outrageous claims about other athletes, his own behavior, and what other celebrities have done.
In response to these claims, some have said that the claims seem too fantastical, and 'don't pass the smell test' for truth.
Yet, the language tells us otherwise. Even events that appear shocking, or 'just could not have happened', have been alleged in strong language, and have been denied in weak language.
Such claims as Mets manager Davey Johnson being drunk all the time were addressed by former players of whom no reliable denial was given. Dykstra said that he and Robert DeNiro went on a cocaine binge of which DeNiro said, "bull$%!" as his denial.
Other "fantastic" claim was that former Mets' player Kevin Mitchell decapitated his girlfriend's cat in front of two players and his girlfriend.
In viewing all the statements, the analysis shows that it might not pass the smell or straight face test, but it does pass the scrutiny of scientific analysis: the former Mets player and former gang member, did, in fact, take a kitchen knife, pick up the cat by the scruff, and slit its throat. That he was a gang member and was raised in ways of which a person will become desensitized to violence, notwithstanding, the language is the best indicator for truth and deception's discernment.
Even though the 'straight face' or 'smell' test appeals to common sense, the analyst's reputation is on the line, and the most experienced; that is, those who have survived early struggles, sometimes for years, with the complexity of human nature and human language, know all too well:
instincts can be wrong but the scientific repeated process is the safest and most accurate way to discern truth from deception.
In the murder of Amanda Blackburn, I wrote that investigators repeatedly asked, "who is this lucky?" when it came to all the coincidental elements of the case. This is interesting but it is not statement analysis and it cannot be used in an analytical report's finding. As an article, in the upcoming Part IV conclusion of the case, I address the coincidentals of the case, but within the language that caused investigators to ask this rhetorical question.
While everything may have pointed to Kevin Fox in the death of his daughter, the investigators ignored the language, and went with statistics and their 'gut instincts' to falsely accuse the innocent father, causing untold damage to him and his family, and millions of dollars to tax payers, along with the damage to the reputation of law enforcement.
This is why I urge professionals to avoid 'check list' mentality of disengaging the intellect and rushing to a conclusion.
Bumper sticker slogans may work for lawyers appealing to the lazy minded jury, but the professional analyst has justice to consider first, then his science and then his reputation.
Some may survive an error here and there, early on, but as they learn, they also learn that fads, short cuts and stupendous claims of "lie detection" can do more damage than they do good, and are best for hollywood and book selling, but not for justice.
It is not enough to know someone is lying, we must be able to report accurately why we know he is lying.
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