You’re doing an interview. Maybe it’s a suspect, maybe it’s the friend of a suspect. Maybe you’re just conducting an interview and you’ve come across someone who says something and makes an accusation about your client. How do you handle this?
If someone’s making an accusation and you’re working directly for a company, you have to follow the company’s policy. Human Resources frequently has guidelines laid down for accusations. And, of course, you have to stay within the law. Now, I’m not an attorney. I’m not giving legal advice. I’m just going to share with you the behind the scenes of how I’ve handled these things in the past.
When you’re dealing with someone who’s done something wrong, they will take dramatic and desperate actions including accusing people of things that they didn’t do (sometimes terrible things) just to get out of what is sometimes a fairly small problem. And so, here’s how I’ve handled this in the past.
Maybe you’re working on a case and a person makes an accusation against your client. Once the person makes the accusation, I always feign surprise and say, “That’s not what they told me. That’s the first time I’m hearing this. I guess it makes sense that they wouldn’t tell me about that. That’s pretty significant. Here, write that down. We want to make sure this is documented and make sure that you’re protected.” And I slide the pen and paper across the desk to them or I hand him the pen and paper and have him write down the accusation.
Now, I’m presuming here that the person’s making a false accusation.
I’m not talking about tricking innocent people or real victims. A victim is a victim and that needs to be respected. I’m talking about people making false accusations against innocent people.
What does having them write it down do? It locks them into that false accusation. Now, they can’t change their story.
So if they write, “So-and-so came up to me in the parking lot and touched me inappropriately or pushed me,” or whatever it might be. They’re locked in. They can’t change that statement. If you pull up parking lot video off a camera or find witnesses who say, “We were out in the parking lot. Nothing like that happened.” Then you have evidence that the statement is false or evidence that goes against the statement.
If the accusation is written, they’re locked into it. If they only made the accusation out loud, they’re going to say later, “Well, you misheard me.” And then it’s your word against their word.
With a merely verbal statement they can change their story. Once it’s written down and they’re locked into it and this can your client a great deal – your client being the person who truly is the victim here being accused of something they didn’t do.
This means you can catch the bad guy/gal and save an innocent victim! Not a bad day for any P.I.