[Date Prev][Date Next][Thread Prev][Thread Next][Date Index][Thread Index]

LEA Interviews

This is attorney protected information.

We've been having discussion with a legal person about being
interviewed by law enforcement officials and/or signing a 
statement. These comments are offered by permission (and might 
be coupled with DCF's advice of saying only "I Want a Lawyer"):

[Begin comments]

> What do  you mean, that they would use the information to 
> "impeach" a possible witness?  Do you mean that he would not 
> be called to testify against a defendant?

Sorry to be opaque - "impeachment" means, basically, making a 
witness lose credibility with the jury. The only use I've been 
able to imagine for wanting a written statement is to make you 
look bad, in the event that you are called by either side to 
testify, and end up testifying favorably to the defendant. If you
appear to be a "hostile witness", it's even possible that you can 
be impeached by the attorney/party who asked you to testify.

The scenario I see looks something like this - 

1.	You're called as a defense witness to testify to the 
effect that you've been on the list for years, messages like the
defendants's weren't unique or especially unusual, that you 
understood them as satire or political commentary and not as actual 
threats, given the wider context in which they occurred. The 
general impression conveyed by your testimony is that you're a 
rational, reasonable, respectable person who the jury can like and 
trust, that you think the defendant is perhaps weird but basically 
misunderstood and harmless. 

2.	The prosecution cross-examines you about your conclusions 
re the defendant - they're going to ask you how well you really 
knew/know him, how much you knew about his other behavior (they're 
likely to try to sneak in information about the defendant's other 
alleged misbehavior here, if they haven't already), and so forth. 

To the extent that you say you didn't know him, your direct 
testimony becomes less and less relevant - and if you start to
say that you did know him well, they're likely to produce the 
document you wrote/signed, and ask you a series of uncomfortable 
questions about it, designed to create the impression you were 
lying to the jury earlier during your testimony, e.g., if the 
statement says "I didn't know that the defendant had done these 
other creepy things, and they make me question whether or not I
know him very well, and I feel differently about his threats now 
that I know about those creepy things", the prosecutor will make 
a big production out of pointing out the differences between your 
testimony at trial and what you wrote during the LEA interrogation. 

Understandably, you probably wanted to distance yourself from 
the defendant when the LE agents were in your home, especially 
after they'd given you a list of creepy things he supposedly did - 
but they're going to hold you to the same degree of distance from 
him and his thoughts/actions if you end up testifying at trial. 

Writing it down and having you sign it serves several purposes - 
it gives the prosecutor a document s/he can wave around, ask you 
to read from, and otherwise organize a little production around - 
it also lets you be impeached with your own words, instead of 
calling the cops to the stand to dispute your recollection of 
your conversation, which takes on a "he said/she said" tone, and 
might make it look like the big mean cops were picking on poor
little you. If they can make poor little you eat his own words, 
they look good, and you look bad.

So .. that's what I'm afraid the document is for. I've been trying 
to think of something else - but especially where the agents asked 
you to pick out just key bits of your conversation, and assert that 
they're true, and let the rest of the information be lost to memory 
and time .. it makes me think the information they selected was 
important to them. The information they got seems helpful to them 
only in the context that you end up testifying at trial - I can't 
think of any other reason it would be useful to them. It sounds 

like the psychological factors of the questioning were pretty well
optimized to make you want (probably partly subconsciously) to 
distance yourself from the defendant, both to avoid implied guilt 
by association, and to maintain a common ground of reasonableness 
with the cops while discussing other things like politics. 

The current issue of the Utne Reader has a piece by the Unabomber's 
brother and his wife talking about how the FBI manipulated them 
into providing evidence against the Unabomber by appearing
sympathetic and reasonable, forming a common "us (good people) 
versus the actions of they crazy guy, who needs us to work together 
to help him get better" bond which was ultimately used to try to 
kill the crazy guy, to the horror of the brother/wife. 

While I do think that they may have pulled a fast one on you, I don't 
think that reflects badly on you as a person .. it's pretty difficult 
to tell which cops are actually reasonable people, and which are 
pretending to be reasonable people in order to further their own 

[End comments]