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Handling a Witnesses: Interviewing and Interrogations Essay

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Updated: May 24th, 2021

Abstract

The success of every case depends on the quality of evidence obtained by investigators within law enforcement. Defenders and attorneys should also use their competencies to identify witnesses and obtain the intended information from them. Unfortunately, these defenders will at some point come across witnesses who are uncooperative. This discussion offers powerful insights that can be used to handle a witness and the collected evidence. The paper goes further to outline the relevant measures that can be considered by an investigator to elicit the cooperation of a witness and collect adequate evidence.

Introduction

Riedel and Welsh (2015) indicate that getting adequate information and evidence is one of the crucial duties of attorneys and trial counsels. Witnesses offer useful ideas or evidence that can be used to formulate a strong case (Barsley, David, & Metcalf, 2013). Identifying, locating, and interviewing witnesses are complex tasks that should be performed in a competent manner. More often than not, witnesses might be uncooperative or unwilling to be part of the fact-finding procedure. This might be the case even when the witness is believed to have useful information for building a strong case. The effectiveness of the interviewing process will dictate the quality of information collected by the counsel. This analysis, therefore, outlines some of the critical issues that should be considered whenever interviewing and handling a witness.

Handling of Witness and Evidence

After identifying a given witness who is capable of offering useful information regarding a given case, it is appropriate to consider a number of issues in order to support the interrogation process. Heydon (2012) encourages every counsel to conduct a thorough investigation about the specified witness before interviewing or interacting with him or her. The use of the internet can make the process much simpler and productive. Another good practice is outlining specific questions that should be discussed with the witness (Groome, 2014). During this stage, it is necessary to investigate and understand if the witness will be cooperative or not.

The investigator should go-ahead to interview the witness. The interviewing process should always be treated as an art (Groome, 2014). This approach is critical because there is no single style that is acceptable. The ultimate goal is to cooperate with the individual and eventually collect the intended evidence. Each witness should be treated differently since human beings do not respond to issues in a similar manner. Throughout the interviewing process, experts argue that peripheral matters should be taken seriously. Some of these issues include the environment for interviewing the witness, the nature of the structured questions, and the approach used to interact with the witness (Riedel & Welsh, 2015). Legal experts who build rapport and trust with the targeted witness will benefit significantly from the ensuing level of cooperation.

During the interview, it is appropriate to inform the witness about the purpose of the process. The investigator should act in a manner that is respectful, friendly, and polite. It is necessary to listen attentively and seek consent from the witness before recording the evidence (Oxburgh, Myklebust, Grant, & Milne, 2015). The approach will encourage the witness to cooperate and present meaningful information that can sustain the intended case. With proper handling and collaboration with the witness, it will be possible to have a successful interview.

The evidence collected during the interview is equally important. This is a clear indication that the evidence should be handled in a professional manner. Throughout the interviewing process, it is necessary for the investigator to take notes. For example, a memo can be composed and crosschecked to ensure the relevant information is captured. From the very beginning, the counsel or attorney should make sure the witness is aware of the process (Heydon, 2012). The witness might be encouraged to review the information to ascertain its accuracy. The individual can be required to sign the document and make it authentic. A signed statement is essential since it can be used to support the litigation process (Riedel & Welsh, 2015). This is the case because the signed statement can ensure the witness does not alter the information or become uncooperative. The signed document can also be presented in court should the individual decide to give conflicting evidence or information (Oxburgh et al., 2015).

Lengthy interviews should be recorded. This should also be the case for interviews that are characterized by technical aspects or terms. The recording process is also recommendable in circumstances whereby the witnesses are unable to give written statements (Barsley et al., 2013). It will be ethical to inform the individual that the conversation will be recorded.

Uncooperative Witness: Promoting Cooperation

The presented case study indicates clearly that a crime scene investigator has identified a witness who appears to be uncooperative. According to the investigator, the witness is fearful of something that is not clearly understood. A counsel trying to collect useful evidence from this kind of a witness should consider a number of strategies in order to elicit the needed cooperation (Heydon, 2012). By so doing, the investigator will be able to collect adequate evidence for the targeted case. The investigator should embrace the use of powerful skills in order to obtain the intended evidence from the witness. Hostile or uncooperative witnesses should be taken seriously because they might offer useful evidence that can be used to develop a strong case.

It is agreeable that there are numerous reasons that explain why a specific witness might be uncooperative. The investigator’s goal is to ensure the individual is in a position to talk. The first trick towards getting positive results has a pleasing personality. The investigator should also be empathetic and focus on the fears of the witness. Sincere compliments should be used to ensure the witness is at ease (Oxburgh et al., 2015). The feelings expressed by the witness should be identified and addressed in a professional manner. Any form of security, aid, or assistance should be available to the witness whenever necessary.

The uncooperative witness should be guided in order to respond to the outlined questions or topics. A witness who wants to have an attorney before responding should be provided with one. This move will encourage the witness and make it easier for him or her to offer the intended information. The investigator should be on the frontline to frame his or her questions properly. A friendly question is needed whenever interviewing uncooperative witnesses (Barsley et al., 2013). The move will make it easier for the witness to respond accordingly and offer adequate information.

Langbein (2012) argues that the financial losses incurred by witnesses throughout the interviewing process can be reimbursed. This evidence-based practice is supported by different scholars because it can reduce tension and encourage the witness to be part of the interviewing process. Some individuals might be unhappy with the interviewing process because it might affect their jobs or schedules. This scenario can encourage some witnesses to be unresponsive or uncooperative. The compensation approach can therefore be used to collect useful information from the targeted witness.

It is appropriate for the investigator to inform the witness in advance that the gathered information will be recorded. Without doing so, the witness will become uncooperative and fail to give adequate information. If the individual is against the process, the investigator should use his or her competencies in order to convince him or her. This obligation explains why the process of interviewing a witness is an art that requires adequate dexterities. The investigator’s failure to focus on such attributes will make it hard for him or her to gather useful evidence from the nonresponsive witness (Groome, 2014). The emotional and psychological needs of the witness should be considered throughout the interviewing process. This practice will encourage the individual to talk and make the process successful.

Conclusion

The interviewing process should be treated as an art in order to collect quality evidence. Competent investigators should ensure the interview is completed in a professional manner. During the process, counsel leaders should ensure the environment is appropriate and use structured questions. Investigators should go a step further to build rapport and trust with the targeted witness in order to collect quality information (Langbein, 2012). Uncooperative witnesses should be provided with adequate security and financial support. Every interrogation process characterized by such measures will be successful and capable of supporting the targeted case.

References

Barsley, R., David, T., & Metcalf, R. (2013). Manual for forensic odontology (5th ed.). Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press.

Groome, D. (2014). No witness, no case: An assessment of the conduct and quality of ICC investigations. Penn State Journal of Law & International Affairs, 3(1), 1-29. Web.

Heydon, G. (2012). Helping the police with their enquiries: Enhancing the investigative interview with linguistic research. The Police Journal, 85(2), 101-122. Web.

Langbein, J. (2012). The disappearance of civil trial in the United States. The Yale Law Journal, 122(1), 522-572. Web.

Oxburgh, G., Myklebust, T., Grant, T., & Milne, R. (2015). Communication in investigative and legal contexts: Integrated approaches from forensic psychology, linguistic and law enforcement. New York, NY: Wiley.

Riedel, M., & Welsh, W. (2015). Criminal violence: Patterns, causes, and prevention. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.

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IvyPanda. (2021, May 24). Handling a Witnesses: Interviewing and Interrogations. Retrieved from https://ivypanda.com/essays/handling-a-witnesses-interviewing-and-interrogations/

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"Handling a Witnesses: Interviewing and Interrogations." IvyPanda, 24 May 2021, ivypanda.com/essays/handling-a-witnesses-interviewing-and-interrogations/.

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IvyPanda. "Handling a Witnesses: Interviewing and Interrogations." May 24, 2021. https://ivypanda.com/essays/handling-a-witnesses-interviewing-and-interrogations/.

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IvyPanda. 2021. "Handling a Witnesses: Interviewing and Interrogations." May 24, 2021. https://ivypanda.com/essays/handling-a-witnesses-interviewing-and-interrogations/.

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IvyPanda. (2021) 'Handling a Witnesses: Interviewing and Interrogations'. 24 May.

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