Thursday, September 29, 2016

The Problem With Photo/Physical Line Ups and Composite Sketches

Three fourths of prisoners who have been proven innocent by DNA were wrongly convicted by eyewitness lineups.   Dr. Gary Wells, Professor of Psychology at Iowa State University has studied police lineups and the way memory affects eyewitness identification.  Dr. Wells has served as an expert to aid juries in understanding the various psychological and memory aspects of eyewitness identification.  His studies have proven that the standard ways of photo lineups, physical lineups, and composite sketching of an eyewitness’s identification are ineffective. 
In photo and physical lineups the eyewitness tends to compare one suspect to another instead of comparing each individual suspect to their memory.   Law enforcement agencies have begun to change the procedure of lineups where the eyewitness sees one suspect at a time. 

Examining composite sketches or computer-produced sketches rarely produce a likeness to the actual criminal.   A composite sketch involves an eyewitness to recall the perpetrator’s facial features.  Dr. Wells says this is a difficult task for someone because we don't perceive faces piecemeal and we don't store them in memory as individual features, such as nose, the eyes, or the mouth.

Facial composites of criminal suspects built by a single eyewitness account often produce poor likeliness of the actual perpetrator.  Where there is more than one eyewitness (as long as there are not too many), a better likeness to a suspect is created by morphing together the composites.

Dr. Wells has established certain procedures for law enforcement agencies to better preserve fair and trustworthy eyewitness identification.  Law Enforcement agencies are beginning to change their eyewitness identification procedures, but we have a long way to go.

Sue Gent
Private Investigator
Prodigy Investigative Group, Inc.
(772)634-6040 * (954)866-3338

Friday, September 23, 2016

Preparing A Witness For Trial


Great care and time is taken in preparing for a trial.  Sometimes overlooked is the preparation of a witness in taking the stand.  Most individuals have never been to court let alone been on a witness stand.  They may be prepared to answer your questions, stating the facts as they know them but they are not ready for the brutality that can sometimes come from the other side.  

A seemingly good witness may crumble or get confused and be discredited when being questioned from opposing council.  The greatest of preparation and legal know how can go up in smoke with the simple oversight of not preparing their witness. 

Besides having experience in court testifying and depositions, the Trial Prep Investigator has likely spent more time with the witness than the Attorney.  Sometimes awkward things to address with the witness, because the Attorney needs the witness to see them as the good guy are their appearance at court and the manner in which they address the court.  The Trial Prep Investigator can instruct the witness on their appearance, addressing the court when answering questions, explain the courtroom mannerisms of opposing council, and the presiding judge.  They can ask them potential questions they may receive from opposing council therefore preparing them for the negative side of cross examination.  The witness will be more confident and the Attorney is fully prepared for trial.

Sue Gent
Private Investigator
Prodigy Investigative Group, Inc.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Interview Techniques

Prodigy Investigative Group, Inc.
Prodigy Investigative Group, Inc.
Knowing what a potential witness is going to say prior to a deposition can be damage control in a case or allow the lawyer to apply their Client’s fund in a more central direction if the witness has nothing to offer the case.  Interview techniques vary widely.  An interview is a conversation with a purpose.  Conversation in a fact finding interview is 90% listening. 

The first steps to a successful interview include; preparation, case facts, people facts, timing, and location for interview.  Proper preparation is often ignored.  Knowing something about the interviewee will help in steering the introduction, establish rapport, reduce anxiety, flattery, and mirroring.  At Prodigy Investigative Group, Inc. we profile the interviewee and assign the Investigator most suited.  The economic status of the interviewee will determine what an Investigator will wear to the interview.  The interviewee’s personality, hobbies, background, family dynamics, and other factors aide in our selection of the interviewer.   If the individual is known to talk a lot, we plan our time accordingly and flatter the interviewee by taking plenty of notes.  

An Investigator should study the discovery and speak to the client as part of the preparation process.  At the onset of an interview, the Investigator must be visual in quickly observing and mentally noting the interviewee’s surroundings, appearance, and mood.  The Investigator must also be adept in studying body language and making mental notes.  Listening is crucial.  An individual may feel they know little or nothing about the subject they are being questioned on or may not want to get involved.  A good Investigator will listen closely to the interviewee and note the slightest information.  In a case where one does not want to get involved, an Investigator may want to initially set down their tablet and converse taking precise mental notes.  The interviewee may provide information on other witnesses unknown to the case. 

Cognitive Interview techniques increase the quantity of information you can get from the interviewee.  The Investigator should have the interviewee create a visual picture for them of the environment (including physical appearances, sounds, etc.).  This provides for further and more specific recall of details. 

Interviewees must feel confident they will have the time to speak, think, recall, and correct.  The Investigator should refrain from interrupting the interviewee.  This can hinder a train of thought and recall.  Revisiting a subject can be addressed at a more appropriate time in the interview.  An Investigator should recite back information to the interviewee requesting they correct anything they misunderstood, clarify information, then ask if there was anything they may have forgot to ask or if they have anything further to add.   Particular care should be taken when recalling information the interviewee may have provided reluctantly.  The Investigator should always leave an open door at the conclusion of an interview for questions at a later time. 

An Investigator must take special care not to jeopardize a witness’ credibility in court by leading the witness to make a statement that may not be accurate or by reading between the lines and reporting what they believe the witness was getting at. 

Investigators should know and understand the Attorney Client’s technique.  Observing a case the lawyer is presenting in court is one great way to learn this.  Invite your Investigator to observe you in action. 

Sue Gent
Prodigy Investigative Group