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Monday, December 01, 2014

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I don't want to argue one way or the other, either, but based on my experience interviewing witnesses, this:

"I'm also reminded that some in the media have noted Officer Wilson's confidence and consistency in his telling of what happened during the confrontation with Brown. "

... has the opposite of confidence building. A witness speaking with complete certainty and consistency makes me very wary, and think I am dealing with someone who has planned out their story carefully. OTOH, if you were the shooter in a shooting, you'd do that, probably, guilty or innocent. But I still use that kind of "confidence and consistency" as the mark of someone who has planned what to remember rather than as someone who is remembering.

NMISSC

I share your wariness of airtight consistency. It doesn't reflect the reality of memory under questioning. True, an innocent person might wish to plug holes or shore up weaknesses in their recollections, just as the guilty might craft an airtight story, but memory isn't usually so tidy. See:

http://drx.typepad.com/psychotherapyblog/2009/05/judging-honesty-by-words-not-fidgets.html

I was watching a lecture advising suspects against ever answering questions for the police. One reason among many given is that innocent people confronted with serious accusations might embellish a little to shake suspicion. If they get caught in the deception, it casts doubt on all the truthful things they've said. Of course, there were many other good reasons for not answering questions, but that one comes to mind because of your comment.

Dr. X:

"I was watching a lecture advising suspects against ever answering questions for the police."

Police don't quite reach this skill level, generally, but the FBI and other federal investigators are trained to do an interview to produce inconsistencies that will make any witness appear to prevaricate. Their memos (which are used in court as if they are witness statements) also tend to shade the facts pretty strongly in the same direction. And they will not allow another FBI-trained note-taker (or last I checked tape recording device) present in the interview. So I approach any such interview with wariness to say the least.

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