Friday, December 24, 2010

Scientific Statement Analysis: Example Of Someone Telling A Truth Albeit A Very Bizarre One

Posted by Peter Hyatt

[Above: an early video report before Elizabeth Johnson made the statement about killing her baby son]

These posts which are cross-posted here from Statement Analysis at the invitation of TJMK are examples of the application of statement analysis.

This is a powerful investigative technique with a very long history of success. It surfaces some very telling patterns in the statements of those convicted and undergoing appeal here, and also in the statements of those opportunists seeking to gain from the death of Meredith Kercher. 

For starters, let us examine a statement that was later proved by other evidence to be true.

When this story first broke, we at Statement Analysis viewed Elizabeth Johnson’s words and oncluded that Baby Gabriel was dead; even though shortly after law enforcement announced that they have credible evidence that he was still alive.

Yet, Elizabeth Johnson’s statement was to the contrary; though the sample we had to work from was small..

At that time, we only had a portion of what Elizabeth had to say but recognized that her words were not chosen from a vaccum, but for a reason. The latest release has more of the original statement made by the mother to Baby Gabriel’s father.

PHOENIX—For nearly a year, there has been no sign of baby Gabriel. Elizabeth Johnson, the boy’s mother, maintains that she doesn’t know where he is.

But in a phone conversation obtained by CBS 5 News, Johnson said what had only been seen in a text message: That she killed her son.

The source of the recording requested to remain anonymous.

Johnson was on the run in December 2009 in Texas. And in spiteful detail, she explains to the boy’s father, Logan McQueary, what she did to her boy.

“Where are you and where is Gabriel?” asks McQueary.

“Gabriel is in a Dumpster,” Johnson responds.

We first notice the straight language spoken by Johnson; no qualifiers, no threats, no additional words. In fact, the economy of language suggests veracity.

“No, he’s not,” said McQueary.

“You want to talk to girls, that’s the price you pay,” said Johnson.

Note the word “girls” in Johnson’s language as she speaks of her peers and rivals: they are “girls” not “women” and certainly not a “mother”.

At the time of the call, McQueary and Johnson had recently broken up. They shared joint custody of their son, Gabriel.

“I killed him this morning,” claimed Johnson.

First Person singular; past tense. We should believe what Elizabeth Johnson told us, including the time of death. Note the absence of deceptive indicators for those readers who now understand Statement Analysis.

“No, you didn’t,” said McQueary.

McQueary cannot accept this statement. This is typical denial from innocent family members. This is why verb tenses are so important when dealing with a missing child: an innocent parent will not use past tense; but a parent who knows the child is dead (while reported missing) will slip into past tense language:

Susan Smith: “my children needed me”

Casey Anthony: “Caylee loved the park”

Misty Croslin: “I loved her like my own”

McQueary is not involved, in any way, in the disappearance of his son. Like all innocent parents, he cannot accept the death. For some innocent parents, it can be years, if ever, that they can bring themselves to use past tense language.

Note that McQueary’s language is straight forward without qualifiers or sensitivity. He is hit with truth, and he cannot accept it.

Johnson responded with, “I couldn’t do it anymore, I couldn’t do it alone. You made it impossible for me to have my own life. You made it impossible for me to have Gabriel. You were going to take the only thing I had left. You wanted to take from me. You wanted to make me miserable. So find some new girl to make your new baby.”

Here, we see continued ownership with first person singular which is not overdone with sensitivity. This is what a truthful statement looks like. When sensitive repetition does enter, note what it is associated with: not what she did but why she did it. The “why” of what she did is sensitive.

Note also that she blames the baby’s father; typical of guilty killers unable and unwilling to take responsibility. This is motive that is common: if I can’t have him, no one can.

What is sensitive, regarding the killing of the baby is “impossible” and “I couldn’t do it”; note that these are things that could even prove deceptive: she didn’t have to kill the baby; she “could” go on; this is the sensitivity found within the statement: the casting of blame after acknowledging the murder: she killed the baby (truthful/lack of sensitivity) but won’t accept responsibility (deceptive/sensitivity noted).

These words are truthfully spoken. There is no deceptive indicators within the statement regarding the actions she took. We do not come upon sensitivity until it comes to Elizabeth blaming the baby’s father. This means that the actions described are true (first person singular, past tense, no qualifiers, no additional words.

Note again: The economy of words is frighteningly stark.

In the call, McQueary tried to learn exactly where Johnson was so he could lead investigators to her.

She told him she destroyed all of her identification and even called herself a ghost.

McQueary wanted to know his son was OK, but he didn’t want to agitate Johnson anymore than she already was.

“Don’t you care about me? All you care about is Gabriel. And he’s gone now. You know what I’m capable of and you pushed me anyway. You destroyed my life,” said Johnson.

In the statement is found “I’m capable of” after “he’s gone”. There are no indicators of deception to analyze. She also said “all you care about is Gabriel, using his name while he is associated with McQueary. Note “care” is present tense; which, to the father, it is a present tense emotion. There is no imbalance within her words that we note in deceptive statements.

“You know what I am capable of” is her attempt to assert that what she said is true. Note that she does not have to use exaggeration nor hyperbole nor even qualifiers to make her point: She has a quiet confidence that is found in truthful statements. As groteque as it is under the circumstances, truthful statements do, in deed, contain a “quiet confidence” about them. Even as she is attempting to persuade him that she killed Baby Gabriel, she eludes confidence.

There are no indicators of deception.

I wish there were. I wish she was lying and I could highlight the deceptive indicators.

“I haven’t destroyed anything,” said McQueary.

“Yes, you have, Logan. You made me kill my baby boy,” said Johnson.

first person singular, pronoun ownership of the action of the verb. Note that even as she blames him (sensitivity noted above) here there is only slight increase in sensitivity as she calls him her “baby boy”. It is slight.

After she was arrested in Florida, Johnson told investigators she did not kill Gabriel, but rather arranged for him to be adopted by an anonymous family.

McQueary told CBS 5 News that he hopes his son is alive, but the call showed how determined she was to hurt the father of her baby.

“You made me do this,” Johnson tells McQueary.

“this” shows Johnson’s closeness to the murder. It is a single and small word that places Johnson, linguisticly, close to the murder itself. She could have said, “you made me do that” which would have showed some distance, and perhaps, had given readers hope that Gabriel is alive. She did not. .

“You did not hurt Gabriel,” said McQueary.

the father is denying, and uses his son’s name. Note also the minimizing “hurt” rather than killed. Does this mean that McQueary is being deceptive?

In a sense, yes.

If “denial” is untrue, it is, technically, deceptive. By minimizing “kill” to “hurt”, it is likely that Logan McQueary is supressing the growing fear that his son is dead.

It is not “guilty deception” but rather the natural minimization and denial of the innocents, who are unable to accept the death of a child. For the innocent, there is an inability to understand or comprehend how a human could do such a thing. We saw this same reaction, early on, by Jesse Grund, when he realized that Caylee wasn’t missing, but was dead. Since he could not murder a child, he struggled to accept that anyone else, including Casey, could. “That’s not the Casey I knew” he said.

It is a natural, self preserving denial that comes from the projection of an innocent heart and mind.

“Yes, I did. I suffocated him. I suffocated him and he turned blue. I put him in a diaper bag and put him in a trash can,” said Johnson.

This is also true. Notice:

1. first person singular, “I” is used appropriately; one per sentence. Additional use of “I” within a sentence can show anxiety. Here, it is a sign of confidence.

2. past tense verb appropriately used. Present tense language can creep in to those who are fabricating the case.

3. sensory language (she said he “turned blue”). Sensory language can be an indicator of veracity, especially when interviewing children. The recall can be sight, smell, touch, taste, or audible, and it accompanies the memory. This one indication is a strong and powerful point that Baby Gabriel died of suffocation and was likely wrapped in a diaper bag, and thrown into trash.

Note also:

4. no fake placement of emotions in the “perfect” place as deceptive people do, and only one repetition (“suffocated”) indicating sensitivity. When someone is fabricating, they will often include emotions in the “perfect” place: “and as I was putting him in the trash, I thought…”. This is something deceptive people do in order to persuade (see analysis of Tiffany Hartley’s liberal use of emotions/thoughts placed in the part of the statement where emotions would have been voided due to adrenaline)

There is little to analyze because she is telling the truth. The indicators are that she killed the baby in the manner described.  Elizabeth Johnson isn’t expected back in court until Jan. 24 2011. Johnson is accused of kidnapping and custodial interference.



Thank you, Mr. Hyatt, for sharing your knowledge about thought processes. Amanda’s appeal speech seems rife with deception. I wish you could analyze it in detail.

You confirm that “Out of the fullness of the heart, the mouth speaketh.”

Posted by Hopeful on 12/24/10 at 08:04 PM | #

Has this sort of important analysis ever been applied to Amanda’s earliest statement from prison?

In which (a) she is plainly scared (b) blames Sollecito more than once but as politely as possible, a seeming friend (c) even mentions in passing the sight that fatal evening of blood on his hand at a late supper—fish blood, probably (d) ventures into pop psychology (“flashbacks”) & other devices (confused & dreamy memories, unable to decide which is real.)

No doubt more problematic: I think examination of Amanda’s facial expressions is rewarding. Hers is not the frank & open face of innocence.  One doesn’t see the innocent person’s grave concern at standing trial under such accusation.  And from what inner source does she draw the simple pleasure expressed in her smiles (not to mention flirtation) throughout the earlier trial?  If less in evidence now in her more chastened demeanor, she hasn’t altogether given up on smiles.

My premise, however, is that Amanda is not beyond redemption which can come only from a full & searching Confession—a kind of personal “In Cold Blood” written over many months & written with scrupulous care.

She won’t consider anything so desperately critical until all her appeals fail. And even then it would require (I believe) something of a “breakdown.”  (Old man’s view, based largely on personal experience along quite different lines.)

Posted by Ernest Werner on 12/27/10 at 07:27 PM | #

Hi Ernest

I think that Peter has done an analysis of Amanda’s written statement on his blog - I read this a little while ago…

Amanda refers a lot to showering - in fact she places great emphasis on water related activities - interesting point, if I remember correctly, references to showers and water etc relate to sex - so it sends a flag up for a crime of a sexual nature.

Posted by Giselle on 12/28/10 at 03:40 AM | #

Giselle, thank you.  I have tried searching the Peter Hyatt blog but haven’t yet found the right post.
Give us your own review, if you care to. Or if you know how to post the actual site (get me there with a click.) I’m not skillful on the internet.

Posted by Ernest Werner on 12/29/10 at 02:05 PM | #

Hi Giselle and Ernest. Yeah we are all pretty eager for more. The post above is the first of some that Peter Hyatt will post for us in a series.

Peter has already examined some of Knox’s statements and will be looking at all the others His next post today will be on one of these. .

Our psychologists are unsure whether Knox will break or hang firm. There seems something of a pattern of breaking happening to murderers but not usually as close to the trial and appeal as this.

She does show extreme calmness, insouciance, and uncaring, mixed with flashes of panic as at the sight of the knives in her cottage. Which is acting?

Her lawyers have been saying she is down and crumbling, her family have been saying she is firm and confident. Which is true?

Again and again Meredith’s family have said they would like to know how it happened and why. To them Meredith’s persona is the unlikleiest in the world to cause jealousy and rage and Meredith was always the most popular person around.

Posted by Peter Quennell on 12/29/10 at 02:58 PM | #

I also wonder about the long shower. Unlike Giselle though, I have always thought the shower meant trying to wash herself clean of the crime. I would think that after such a bloody murder as this, the perpetrators would need to clean themselves of the blood. That would also explain why Raf cleaned her ears - blood would have gone everywhere, and there would be a need to do a thorough cleaning job. That would also explain the long shower.

The shower would serve this purpose as well as a more psychic need to wash oneself clean of the terrible crime they have just committed, much like Lady Macbeth with her continual washing of hands and exclamations of “Out, damn spot”.

Emphasis on the shower would also serve the purpose of being able to talk about something that actually happened, in detail - adding a touch of authenticity with a truthful account. I think the reality was they showered to purify themselves of the crime, but she passed it off as a lover’s shower.

Posted by Vedantist on 12/30/10 at 01:40 AM | #

Not to say that the shower didn’t also have a sexual element - after all Amanda and Raf were very much sexually involved and so this kind of activity would be natural. I just don’t think that was the only aspect and I think that there was a strong need to wash the crime away, both literally as well as psychologically. Showers can also offer comfort after some kind of stress.

Posted by Vedantist on 12/30/10 at 01:47 AM | #
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