While on patrol with the Centervale Police Department (CPD) you are dispatched to a robbery in progress at the Centervale grocery store. You arrive to find the suspects have fled the scene. There are several witnesses inside the store including customers and two store employees. Obviously shaken, they are huddled together discussing the robbery. You know that taking witnesses’ statements is a critical piece of any investigation because witnesses often hold valuable information about the incident and critical evidence. Further, witnesses also have first-hand knowledge that can be helpful in narrowing the scope towards apprehending a suspect and the eventual successful prosecution of a case. After calling in a Be on the lookout (BOLO) for the suspects and their vehicle, you proceed by separating the three witnesses inside the store in order to appropriately conduct interviews: Cashier—Connie Cousins; Maintenance manager—Larry Sweeney; and Customer—Sally Frederickson.
Connie Cousins, who is noticeably upset, shares that she has seen these culprits in the store before. She states, “They have been here before, one of them knows Larry, they seemed to know right where we keep our cash and who may be able to retrieve it, me. The older guy had a huge gun; he put it right in my face. He’s the one that drove the vehicle that they came in.”
Sally Frederickson, a customer, states, “I’ve never seen these guys before. They had a gun and seemed to want to shoot someone. I think I can identify them if I see them again, hey, I heard one of them call that guy (pointing to Larry) by his name. Larry right?”
During your investigation you develop a lead that another witness, Larry; the maintenance person of the store, is related to one of the suspects. Larry Sweeney is 80 years old and he appears mentally challenged. You learn from a fellow employee that Larry’s mental capacity is below the fifth grade level. You know that it is crucial that Larry’s mental capacity, his age, as well as his potential relationship to one of the suspects are factors that must be considered throughout the duration of the interview process.
During your investigation you notice some communication challenges as well as some inconsistencies between witness statements. Based on your findings, you begin to theorize that Larry Sweeney might have been involved in the crime. Because you have no probable cause you continue with the investigation by gathering important information to help determine who was involved and whose level of involvement meets the legal elements in order to be appropriately charged.
Two hours after the incident, a fellow police officer spots a vehicle sitting at a stoplight that matches the description of the suspect’s vehicle. The officer observes two individuals sitting in the front driver’s seat and front passenger’s seat of the vehicle. Based on the information in the BOLO both individuals fit the descriptions that were given by witnesses at the store. The officer stops the suspect’s vehicle and detains the suspects without incident. The suspects are then transported to the CPD for further investigation. The suspects were later identified as, 14-years-old, Jerry Smith, and Scot Sweeney, 18 year-old-driver of the vehicle.
There are many issues that must be considered when conducting a successful investigation. In many cases, witness statements and suspect interrogations are critical towards successful prosecution. Because a case cannot make it into the courtroom unless legally sound, the importance of the legal issues in the above scenario cannot be understated.
In a 9- to 10-page Microsoft Word document, develop a plan for the interview and/or the interrogation of the witnesses and suspects in this case scenario. Use APA in-text citations to cite external sources The details of your plan should include, but are not limited to the following questions:
- Identify and discuss three strategies that could be effective in handling the multiple witnesses to the crime? Analyze controversial research and/or theory relating to interview and interrogation. Use this information to justify your three strategy selections and how you might avoid eliciting false-confessions.
- Describe the optimum room design for conducting this investigation. In preparation for these interviews and interrogations create a table of General Questions and Specific Questions to ask the witnesses and/or suspects. Analyze each question and provide your rationale for why you would ask the witnesses or suspects each question.
- The situation with witness/suspect, Larry Sweeney, needs to be handled carefully for many reasons. Evaluate this situation: will you be conducting an interview or an interrogation? Explain the reason for your decision to conduct either an interview or an interrogation. What strategies will you employ to effectively interview or interrogate Larry and uncover his involvement in this criminal case? How will your personal attributes interrelate with the strategies you selected?
- Evaluate the legal implications that need to be considered when interrogating juveniles, the elderly, and individuals with questionable mental capacity. What laws, case law, and Constitutional Amendments are involved? Evaluate the differences between Larry Sweeney and Jerry Smith.
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