Oscar Pistorius: What His Words Reveal – Part II

In Part I, we looked at the statement given by Oscar Pistorius at his bail hearing.  We examined his language describing the beginning of events on February 14, 2013.  The way a subject describes events assists the interviewer in formulating questions to establish truthful, deceptive and sensitive parts of the statement.  We cannot judge a person’s words by our own sense of logic, we must adapt to that of the subject. Let’s continue with another portion of his story.

During the early morning hours of 14 February 2013, I woke up, went onto the balcony to bring the fan in and closed the sliding doors, the blinds and the curtains. I heard a noise in the bathroom and realised that someone was in the bathroom. I felt a sense of terror rushing over me. There are no burglar bars across the bathroom window and I knew that contractors who worked at my house had left the ladders outside. Although I did not have my prosthetic legs on I have mobility on my stumps. I believed that someone had entered my house. I was too scared to switch a light on.

Let’s first examine the emotions Pistorius claims to have by looking at how we react in situations. Which is the most realistic scenario?

Scenario I

A car has gone through a red light and is coming straight at you.  You swerve, you concentrate on averting an accident. 10 blocks later you start to shake realizing how close you had come to being hit.

Scenario II  

A car has gone through a red light and is coming straight at you. You stop and say to yourself. “I’m so scared”, then you swerve to avert a collision.

The events in scenario I are more realistic.  Adrenaline and survival instincts kick in and people concentrate on that rather than thinking about what their emotions are at the time. Pistorius said “I felt a sense of terror washing over me.” Emotions in a truthful statement do not occur at the peak of the story, they occur after the incident.  The incident itself is so overwhelming that the subject immediately goes into survival mode.  When a deceptive subject inserts emotions at the peak of the incident  it is an indicator that they are deceptive and are bolstering their story.

Then he states “I was too scared to turn the light on”. This also occurs at the peak of the incident and unreliable. What is even more interesting to observe is that darkness usually adds to the stress of the incident & most people would turn the light on.

Pistorius also interrupts the flow of the story to announce his prosthetics were off. People will interrupt the flow of their statement prop up their story with unnecessary information. Whether his prosthetics were on or off at this time is immaterial to the events occurring in his statement at this very time.

On my way to the bathroom I screamed words to the effect for him/them to get out of my house and for Reeva to phone the police. It was pitch dark in the bedroom and I thought Reeva was in bed.

The words ” on my way” indicate more of a casual movement rather than the sense of urgency where he had stated he “felt a sense of terror” earlier. He also goes on to talk about the dark again. He also says “words to the effect” which means that he is not citing what he actually said he is rephrasing.

He then continues that it was dark & he thought Reeva was in bed. What he is doing is using the darkness and linking to the earlier words “I was too scared to turn on the light” to justify why he didn’t know where Reeva was.

Also, if he was on the balcony closing things up and heard something in the bathroom why didn’t he check first if Reeva was in there?  Automatically he went into “feeling as sense of terror”.

It filled me with horror and fear of an intruder or intruders being inside the toilet. I thought he or they must have entered through the unprotected window. As I did not have my prosthetic legs on and felt extremely vulnerable, I knew I had to protect Reeva and myself. I believed that when the intruder/s came out of the toilet we would be in grave danger. I felt trapped as my bedroom door was locked and I have limited mobility on my stumps.

Again we have emotions occurring at the peak of the story and now he is filled with “terror and fear” Also why would Pistorius feel trapped if his bedroom door was locked? For most people the locked door would be a sense of comfort creating a bigger barrier between himself and the alleged intruders.

Now he is also stating that he has “limited mobility on his stumps” where earlier he had told us he had mobility on his stumps.  Which is it?  Either you do or you don’t.

In Part III we will explore the language surround the firing of the gun.

For more information and training please go to http://www.interveritas.com

The SCAN technique (Scientific Content Analysis) is a methodology used to examine truthful and deceptive points in language.  The technique uses a consistent formula in the analysis of linguistic patterns in individuals.  Therefore, regardless of the subject’s education, profession or cultural background, the same consistent measures are used to measure the subjects’ words.  SCAN is used in the analysis of statements written by the subject, interview transcripts, and oral interviews

Oscar Pistorius: What his words reveal – Part I

On Friday September 12, Oscar Pistorius was charged with negligent homicide in the death of his girlfriend Reena Steenkamp. Judge Thokozile Masipa said prosecutors did not show beyond a reasonable doubt that Pistorius was guilty of premeditated murder but she stated that culpable homicide was a reasonable conclusion to the events of Feb. 14, 2013.

I received a transcript of the statement given by Pistorius at his bail hearing on 19 February 2013. We will explore the language in his statement using the SCAN methodology to further explore how words define truthful, deceptive and sensitive responses.

When we ask the subject for a statement, the only thing we ask is what happened? Any deviation or embellishment from what happened is what is assessed by the interviewer. It is generally stated that when recalling events people respond using the most efficient language possible. Any embellishments give us indicators of what types of questions to ask in order to establish what really happened.

“On the 13th of February 2013 Reeva would have gone out with her friends and I with my friends. Reeva then called me and asked that we rather spend the evening at home.”

The use of “would have” vs. “Reeva went out with her friends” calls into question if this is what actually happened that night. “Would have” is often used when the event didn’t happen as the subject reports it. The interviewer should ask at this point “what did Reeva actually do that night?”

Here is one scenario. Reeva was supposed to go out with her friends but didn’t which would explain the “would have” Pistorius went out with his friends and “then” Reeva called him and asked him to come back home for a quiet dinner. The interviewer must ask the question to gain clarification of what the subject stated.

“I agreed and we were content to havhe a quiet dinner together at home.”

When someone states that they agreed – it means that they initially disagreed or weighed the two options. In this case words like “agreed” and “decided” indicate to us that the  subject contemplated two options. Agreed also means that the subject could have initially disagreed.  The interviewer should ask “I understand that and Reeva discussed whether or not to have dinner at home that night, please tell me more about that discussion.

“By about 22h00 on 13 February 2013 we were in our bedroom. She was doing her yoga exercises and I was in bed watching television. My prosthetic legs were off. We were deeply in love and I could not be happier. I know she felt the same way. She had given me a present for Valentine’s Day but asked me only to open it the next day.”

This segment is loaded with linguistic triggers. He goes from telling us they are going to have a quiet dinner at home and now tells us it is about 22h00. This indicates that there is information missing from his statement between the time of dinner and being in the bedroom.

He then tells us his prosthetic legs are off. Why? It interrupts the flow of the question “what happened?” We see traits like this happening when someone is setting up to bolster the story later on and that the prosthetic legs are going to have something to do with it.

Then he goes on to state that “we were deeply in love”. Again, we consider that to be an interruption to the question “what happened”. It is out of context to add that detail at this point in the statement. We are not asking the subject to prove how he felt about her – only what happened that night.

The SCAN technique (Scientific Content Analysis) is a methodology used to examine truthful and deceptive points in language.  The technique uses a consistent formula in the analysis of linguistic patterns in individuals.  Therefore, regardless of the subject’s education, profession or cultural background, the same consistent measures are used to measure the subjects’ words.  SCAN is used in the analysis of statements written by the subject, interview transcripts, and oral interviews