Evidence - A Deciding Factor

by Paul Francois & Enrique Garcia

One of the ways we can greatly increase our success in obtaining truthful admissions from suspects is by having sufficient evidence against the person who committed the crime. The logic is fairly straight forward - the more evidence you have against someone, the more likely you are to obtain incriminating admissions about the crime. If we have fingerprints, DNA, video of the suspect committing the crime, eye witnesses who have identified the suspect, recorded pretext telephone calls, and recovered stolen property, it's going to be much easier to obtain a confession. The less evidence we have, the process becomes exponentially more difficult.

The problem is, no one is going to walk into our office and hand us a box of incriminating evidence against the suspect. For most law enforcement agencies, the Crime Scene Unit is only going to respond to homicides and very high profile crimes. With that said, how in the world are we to gather the evidence needed to increase our likelihood of success in the suspect interview? The answer is relatively simple - we're going to have to seek it out and dig for it.

Knowing that no one is going to hand us the evidence we need means realizing the onus is on us to obtain it. We've got to get off our butts and knock on doors to look for eye witnesses who could be helpful to our case. We have to contact business owners who may have video surveillance of the crime in progress. We have to search for latent fingerprints, DNA evidence, cell phone records, GPS intelligence, bank statements, obtain search warrants, and be utterly driven in obtaining physical evidence.  The more we have, the smoother things will go in the interview room subsequently.

In our investigations, we frequently use pretext telephone calls between the victim and suspect to obtain incriminating statements we can later use against the suspect. Interestingly enough, we've never had to actually play the recording of a pretext call to a suspect to prove to him we actually had it. Merely alluding to it and one or two details from the conversation is sufficient to convince the suspect we actually have it. This tells us that there's something in our demeanor that convinces the suspect we actually have this evidence without having to physically show it to him. What would happen in cases where we have no physical evidence if we conducted ourselves in the same confident manner that we do in cases in which we do have the evidence? This is something to be mindful of in your upcoming suspect interviews.

As a parting shot, more evidence is better than none, but having no evidence does not preclude you from succeeding in your suspect interviews. Enter the interview process with confidence in your ability to convey to the suspect that there is no other option but to tell the truth and you might be pleasantly surprised by the result.