Forensic Interviewing

Definition


The forensic interview is a research method that employs a direct, goal oriented interview for the purpose of allowing interviewees to tell stories and provide detailed information about a particular incident.[1]

Relevant Characteristics


This method is used by forensic anthropologists and law enforcement to aid in the data and evidence collection of these individuals. In this sense, it is a starting point in the data collection process for forensic anthropologists and law enforcement, and is a method similar to traditional witness and suspect interviews. For example, the interview may be one of the first steps in an investigation. This provides the anthropologists and investigators with a general overview of the subject matter before all facts are known and evidence is collected.[2]

Forensic interviewing contains specific guidelines, which include: a specific goal with questions prepared before hand, flexibility for additional questions that may arise during the interview in order to gather the maximum amount of information, and necessary contact information collected in order to follow-up with the interviewee.[3]

The interview could simply be a written questionnaire, or the interviewer can ask the interviewee the questions. If conducted orally, the interviewer may elaborate on certain topics or obtain additional information that would have been omitted by the interviewee if they were filling out the form manually and independently.[4]

Forensic interviews can be used for a wide range of forensic investigations including cases of missing, endangered, and unidentified persons, homicide investigations, and human rights investigations. In addition, this method can be useful for research in other subfields of anthropology, such as victims and survivors of war crimes, mass disasters, and other traumatic events.[5]

Goals of this Method


Forensic interviews give individuals involved with or related to a victim of a forensic investigation a chance to tell their story. Interviews can provide forensic anthropologists and other law enforcement with a starting direction for the search for physical evidence or for an individual, in the case of a missing persons report. These types of interviews can be particularly useful in forensic investigations of “cold cases,” or cases that have victims who have remained unidentified for a number of years.[6]

These interviews can provide antemortem identifying information about an individual, information about the last time an individual was seen alive, details about the circumstances surrounding an individual’s death, and any information regarding potential witnesses to a death or disappearance. These interviews also often serve as the first step towards building a relationship with the next of kin or important witnesses that will continue to be important throughout the investigation.[7]


"Method Made Easy"


In order to conduct a successful interview on a forensic investigation or missing persons case, the interviewer should:

*Establish a general protocol to support the interview process. Interview forms are available for reference; however, population variation, culture, and legal contexts require that these forms be tailored for each particular situation.[8]
*Be prepared. Gather knowledge of the crime and crime scene before the interview.[9]
*Understand the interviewee and their culture and assess how that could affect the interview process.[10]
*Always take written notes during a formal interview. Record the interview if possible.[11] [12]
*Establish a pattern of note taking that will not inhibit the witness or suspects response to interview questions.[13]
*Control the environment in which the interview will take place. The interviewee should be in a comfortable and inviting setting, there should be no interruptions (i.e. cell phones, people entering and exiting the interview room), and outside noise should be limited.[14] [15]

Advantages


Forensic interviewing is advantageous because it provides the broadest opportunity to gather information and identify evidence from individuals who can provide information about a forensic investigation. By organizing an actual interview, rather than informal questioning, this method allows forensic anthropologists to build rapport with family members or other individuals who may be able to provide information that is crucial to a forensic investigation or missing persons case.[16]

Rapid-fire questioning often causes anxiety for interviewees or makes it easier for a deceptive interviewee to provide untruthful responses. Note-taking during an interview can slow down the process of questioning and forces interviewees to think more critically about their answers. Overall, it provides a more inviting environment for questioning on subject matters that may be very sensitive topics for the interviewees.[17]

Limitations


There are several limitations when using this type of interviewing. There are many psychological effects associated with traumatic events that may affect the interviewee’s ability to provide accurate information. The thought of having to talk about traumatic events or missing family members may cause distress and dissuade the interviewee from participating.[18]

Similarly, episodic memory or other outside influences on memory may affect the interviewee’s ability to provide accurate information. Individuals may have hidden agendas that can greatly affect the interview process. The interviewees may also have unrealistic assumptions about criminal investigations, due to the “CSI Effect” from crime scene investigations television shows. The aggressive nature of forensic interviewing shown on these shows may dissuade some interviewees from cooperating. Finally, the information gathered in this type of interview may be helpful for forensic anthropologists and investigators, but has a good chance of being legally unreliable.[19] [20]

Method in Context


Forensic interviewing has been applied to a multitude of cases, such as child abuse. In this context, forensic interviews should be catered to understanding how to establish rapport with younger individuals. This requires training on the part of the interviewer, and the ability to come across as a warm and friendly person. Younger children tend to provide less detailed information for open ended questions than older children, which requires the interviewer to tailor their interviews with children according to their age. Again, forensic interviews should be adapted to to various situations. [21]

Specifically, techniques commonly used in forensic interviews of children abuse consist of allegation blind interviews, which allows the interviewer prior knowledge before conducting interviews. This often leads to increased report with the child, and more patience on the part of the interviewer. Cognitive interviewing, which mentally reconstructs an event, is also effective in improving children's recall of certain events. [22]

Finally, a new technique called extended forensic evaluation has emerged, which occurs in five stages: 1) interviewer collects background information; 2) rapport-building; 3) social and behavioral assessments; 4) the use of abuse specific questioning, and; 5) interviewer reviews and clarifies the child’s statements. This technique allows for the possibility that children may not disclose abuse in the first interview, and may require multiple interactions to feel comfortable enough to disclose information. Researchers reviewing this technique found that 77% of children were credible in their disclosures.[23]



Online Resources


*Investigation and Interviewing Techniques for Search and Rescue Responders
http://www.1srg.org/Contributed-Materials/Investigation%20and%20Interviewing%20paper%20v3.0%208-2005.pdf
*International Consortium for Forensics, Anthropology, and Human Rights- Interview Protocol for Missing, Endangered, and Unidentified Persons
http://icfahr.usf.edu/data/ipmeu.pdf
*FBI Child Forensic Interviewing Training
[24] http://www.fbi.gov/news/videos/fbi-child-forensic-interview-training


References



  1. ^ Massucci C, Kimmerle EH, Tise ML. 2011. Forensic Interviews: Corroborating Evidence and Collecting Data for Anthropological Field Work. Proceedings of the 63rd Annual American Academy of Forensic Sciences, February 21-26. Chicago, Illinois. Colorado Springs, CO. Abstract H64, pp. 365
  2. ^ Massucci C, Kimmerle EH, Tise ML. 2011. Forensic Interviews: Corroborating Evidence and Collecting Data for Anthropological Field Work. Proceedings of the 63rd Annual American Academy of Forensic Sciences, February 21-26. Chicago, Illinois. Colorado Springs, CO. Abstract H64, pp. 365
  3. ^ Massucci C, Kimmerle EH, Tise ML. 2011. Forensic Interviews: Corroborating Evidence and Collecting Data for Anthropological Field Work. Proceedings of the 63rd Annual American Academy of Forensic Sciences, February 21-26. Chicago, Illinois. Colorado Springs, CO. Abstract H64, pp. 365
  4. ^ Massucci C, Kimmerle EH, Tise ML. 2011. Forensic Interviews: Corroborating Evidence and Collecting Data for Anthropological Field Work. Proceedings of the 63rd Annual American Academy of Forensic Sciences, February 21-26. Chicago, Illinois. Colorado Springs, CO. Abstract H64, pp. 365
  5. ^ Massucci C, Kimmerle EH, Tise ML. 2011. Forensic Interviews: Corroborating Evidence and Collecting Data for Anthropological Field Work. Proceedings of the 63rd Annual American Academy of Forensic Sciences, February 21-26. Chicago, Illinois. Colorado Springs, CO. Abstract H64, pp. 365
  6. ^ Young, CS. 2005. Investigation and Interviewing Techniques For Search and Rescue Responders. Contra Coast County Sheriff’s Search and Rescue Team. p. 1-31. http://www.1srg.org/Contributed-Materials/Investigation%20and%20Interviewing%20paper%20v3.0%208-2005.pdf
  7. ^ Massucci C, Kimmerle EH, Tise ML. 2011. Forensic Interviews: Corroborating Evidence and Collecting Data for Anthropological Field Work. Proceedings of the 63rd Annual American Academy of Forensic Sciences, February 21-26. Chicago, Illinois. Colorado Springs, CO. Abstract H64, pp. 365
  8. ^ LeCompte MD, Jean JS. 1999. Designing and Conducting Ethnographic Research. Altamira Press, Lanham.
  9. ^ Massucci C, Kimmerle EH, Tise ML. 2011. Forensic Interviews: Corroborating Evidence and Collecting Data for Anthropological Field Work. Proceedings of the 63rd Annual American Academy of Forensic Sciences, February 21-26. Chicago, Illinois. Colorado Springs, CO. Abstract H64, pp. 365
  10. ^ LeCompte MD, Jean JS. 1999. Designing and Conducting Ethnographic Research. Altamira Press, Lanham
  11. ^ Massucci C, Kimmerle EH, Tise ML. 2011. Forensic Interviews: Corroborating Evidence and Collecting Data for Anthropological Field Work. Proceedings of the 63rd Annual American Academy of Forensic Sciences, February 21-26. Chicago, Illinois. Colorado Springs, CO. Abstract H64, pp. 365
  12. ^ Young, CS. 2005. Investigation and Interviewing Techniques For Search and Rescue Responders. Contra Coast County Sheriff’s Search and Rescue Team. p. 1-31. http://www.1srg.org/Contributed-Materials/Investigation%20and%20Interviewing%20paper%20v3.0%208-2005.pdf
  13. ^ LeCompte MD, Jean JS. 1999. Designing and Conducting Ethnographic Research. Altamira Press, Lanham
  14. ^ LeCompte MD, Jean JS. 1999. Designing and Conducting Ethnographic Research. Altamira Press, Lanham
  15. ^ Young, CS. 2005. Investigation and Interviewing Techniques For Search and Rescue Responders. Contra Coast County Sheriff’s Search and Rescue Team. p. 1-31. http://www.1srg.org/Contributed-Materials/Investigation%20and%20Interviewing%20paper%20v3.0%208-2005.pdf
  16. ^ Massucci C, Kimmerle EH, Tise ML. 2011. Forensic Interviews: Corroborating Evidence and Collecting Data for Anthropological Field Work. Proceedings of the 63rd Annual American Academy of Forensic Sciences, February 21-26. Chicago, Illinois. Colorado Springs, CO. Abstract H64, pp. 365
  17. ^ Massucci C, Kimmerle EH, Tise ML. 2011. Forensic Interviews: Corroborating Evidence and Collecting Data for Anthropological Field Work. Proceedings of the 63rd Annual American Academy of Forensic Sciences, February 21-26. Chicago, Illinois. Colorado Springs, CO. Abstract H64, pp. 365
  18. ^ Massucci C, Kimmerle EH, Tise ML. 2011. Forensic Interviews: Corroborating Evidence and Collecting Data for Anthropological Field Work. Proceedings of the 63rd Annual American Academy of Forensic Sciences, February 21-26. Chicago, Illinois. Colorado Springs, CO. Abstract H64, pp. 365
  19. ^ Massucci C, Kimmerle EH, Tise ML. 2011. Forensic Interviews: Corroborating Evidence and Collecting Data for Anthropological Field Work. Proceedings of the 63rd Annual American Academy of Forensic Sciences, February 21-26. Chicago, Illinois. Colorado Springs, CO. Abstract H64, pp. 365
  20. ^ Young, CS. 2005. Investigation and Interviewing Techniques For Search and Rescue Responders. Contra Coast County Sheriff’s Search and Rescue Team. p. 1-31. http://www.1srg.org/Contributed-Materials/Investigation%20and%20Interviewing%20paper%20v3.0%208-2005.pdf
  21. ^ Orbach Y. 2000. Assessing the Value of Structured Protocols for Forensic Interviews of Alleged Child Abuse Victims. Child Abuse and Neglect 24: 733-252.
  22. ^ Sternberg KJ, Lamb ME, Orbach Y, Esplin PW, Mitchell S. 2001. Use of a structured investigative protocol enhances young children’s responses to free-recall prompts in the course of forensic interviews. Journal of Applied Psychology 85: 997-1005
  23. ^ Sternberg KJ, Lamb ME, Orbach Y, Esplin PW, Mitchell S. 2001. Use of a structured investigative protocol enhances young children’s responses to free-recall prompts in the course of forensic interviews. Journal of Applied Psychology 85: 997-1005
  24. ^