The Investigative Process and The Attorney Series - Part 3
Locating and interviewing witnesses is the most critical step in most investigations. It takes a skilled, even handed investigator to locate and interview witnesses, many of whom do not want to be found or interviewed.
Locating witnesses can be as easy as looking at a police report or other official document to having to conduct an in-depth skip trace. At Armistead Investigators, we subscribe to numerous proprietary databases that aggregate millions of records that assist us in locating witnesses. Tools for locating witnesses include:
o A simple Google search
o Social media search
o Police records search
o Police reports
o White pages
o Court records
o Utility records
o Friends/family/former neighbors/parties to the action frame
o Proprietary data bases
Some or all of these resources may be used in locating a witness. This is only a cursory list. The resources for finding somebody are limited only by the imagination.
Once a witness has been located, the most critical phase, the interview, follows.
The first thing we do with a witness is to give them our business card and advise them the particular individual is an investigator working for attorney ‘John Law” who represents “ Jerry Lawless” or whatever the situation may be. There must never be any confusion as to a clear identification as to which side of the case a person is on.
In a successful interview, we solicit information that is helpful to the case at hand. The successful interviewer must be adept at interacting with people on their terms and turf. We may illicit quite a bit of extraneous talk about the weather, their health, the state of the criminal justice system or whatever topic we deem necessary that will help us drill down to the important questions. Remember, this exercise is not a trial and the questions are not cross-examination. The information gleaned from the interview may later be used in cross-examination at trial, but not at this juncture.
The interviewer must often be oblique in the questioning so as not to give away the defense or theory of the case. The interviewer must work closely with the attorney in framing the line of questioning as there may not be a second chance or another viable window of opportunity.
Our team then prepares a summary of the interview for the attorney, using quotes when deemed important. We do not, except in rare cases, tape record an interview as it is our firm belief that the presence of a tape recorder impedes the free flow of information between ourselves and that of the witness.
As the attorney, be prepared to receive negative or bad information. Interviews conducted by Armistead Investigators are not filtered and the ‘Bad’ information may be instrumental in helping you frame your case.
Finally, prior to turning the interview over to the attorney, I personally make one last review to ensure that it is accurate and that I am willing to stand behind it in a court of law.