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Investigation finds interrogation technique inaccurate

When people are taken into custody in Ohio, one of the interrogation tools used could be part of a system called Scientific Content Analysis, or SCAN. The method trains law enforcement to examine written statements for signs of lying based on such criteria as word choice. However, a government task force that began examining interrogation methods in 2010 determined that there was no scientific basis for SCAN and the results it returned were no better than chance. Critics have echoed these concerns.

Despite this, many law enforcement agencies use the tool. At the time of the government study, the U.S. Department of Defense, the CIA and the FBI were among them. In an investigation by ProPublica, both the FBI and the CIA declined to provide information on whether the method was currently used.

One example of how the method purportedly worked is illustrated by the case of a man who was convicted of a murder in the 1990s. He was given a questionnaire with a number of open-ended questions, including one asking him to describe the day the murder occurred. The detective who had been trained in SCAN and who reviewed the answers said there were several indicators of lying. These included the lack of "I" in a sentence, the use of "a girlfriend" instead of "my" girlfriend and even the handwriting size.

People who are facing charges for murder or less serious charges may be subject to interrogation techniques that violate their rights or that raise other issues. An attorney might review this as well as other parts of the investigation, such as whether forensic testing was done accurately and if the person's rights were observed during a search and seizure. In some cases, the best option may be a plea bargain while a trial may be the right choice in others.

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