If a victim or witness is not or is unwilling to talk, use the direct approach.
The direct approach involves specific questions that are to the point and aimed at
getting facts. This is where your preparation will be useful.
Remember, in either approach, always use questions that avoid "yes" or "no"
responses. Never use leading questions that suggest an expected answer and do not
interrupt an interviewee while he is talking.
For example, instead of asking, "Was your house burglarized?", you might say, "Tell
me about the burglary of your home." In a leading question, you might say, "Tell me
about the man driving the car" when, in fact, the interviewee never said whether
the person driving was male or female.
It is important that you recognize
Recognize Interview Interference. When you are given a statement by a witness or
victim, you will likely hear a story that is different from what others have told
A willing witness or victim may not be trying to lie.
There may be some
"unintentional deception" on his part. Be aware that unintentional deception does
It happens for a number of reasons.
You would recognize a
discrepancy between what a witness says and the known facts. Any discrepancy must
be cleared up.
Differences must be accounted for so that the credibility of the
witness in court is not affected. If there are only a few discrepancies, allow the
witness to finish the story before challenging him with the discrepancy.
witness seems to be continually lying, chances are the deception is intentional.
In this case, you would probably want to challenge him as the discrepancies come up
in the story.
There are two types of unintentional deceptions: observation and reporting.
Deception due to observation includes anything that affects someone's ability to
perceive or recall a truth. This could be due to the distance or angle from which
they witnessed, the weather, light, or other distractions in the environment, and
the lapse of time since the observation was made.
Likewise, a person's life
experience or training may either increase or detract from an observation.
Impairments to sight or hearing must be considered.
A person's psychological and
emotional state (such as fear, anger, prejudice,
or mental instability) also
contribute to deception.
Unintentional deception in reporting may be due to many factors. These include a
witness or victim's inability to express himself, fear of police or police methods,
and incorrect assumptions as to what details are important. Intentional deception
may occur if a person does not want to get involved or wants to avoid
You, as an investigator, must find out why statements conflict with known truths.
People are not always lying when they say something that does not agree with what
you know to be true. Careful questioning will show if unintentional deception is
interfering with your interview results.