Psychology of a killer

Originally published at:


I’ve been following JimCan’tSwim for a bit.

If you find police interrogation interesting JCS is a good one. The voice talent is great, too.


We are rightfully armed by reason against such feelings as they are often wrong.

That’s a big caveat–the problem, though, is that these are all examples in hindsight being viewed with the knowledge that this guy was guilty, and these markers carry no predictive value. We may think we have an idea of how innocent people “should” react when something like this happens, but in reality people react wildly differently to tragedy or acute stress. Some people are demonstrative and emotional, some people are cold, and some people just act weird because they’re trying to process something they can’t quite process.

This isn’t intended to be a scold to those of us looking at this guy and getting the creeps, because I’m right there with you, but police use these supposed “tells” to justify extended interrogation in a lot of instances to wear down the resistance of someone who didn’t do anything wrong.


Really good points. Is it “telling” that he never once, especially after the interview started being accusatory, asked for a lawyer? I realize no one would act the same, but is it true that most people would probably be all “Fuck this, I want a lawyer”? Or, maybe not? I know that would be on my mind before I ever got into a room w/ the cops, but I also admit to being very prejudiced a’gin them, even before the very recent, public events.


First and only thing out of your mouth when dealing with cops.


When I’m scared, I have a very placid or flat affect. Which is handy when a tire blows out, or there’s a copperhead on the back porch. But I imagine I’d be “spotted” as a serial killer or something right away, because the police terrify me.


The psychological analysis is full of crap. All of this is after the fact. Phrenology is alive and well. Lie detectors are unreliable too.


Lie detectors are completely junk science but can be effective in extracting a confession. The person doing the polygraph exam never showed any results to Chris Watts other than to tell him that he failed. Even if he “passed” it is unlikely that they would have gone into the room and said. “You passed and are no longer considered a suspect”.


We may think we have an idea of how innocent people “should” react when something like this happens,

Which makes this video instructive on what responses to give if you really are guilty and need to pass interrogation. :thinking:

Then again, I was interrogated once, not as a suspect. I saw the officer again in a social setting a few weeks later (the case was resolved) and told him it was like the worst final exam I’d ever written. He apologized for the distress, explaining that the techniques come fairly automatically… nice guy, really.


Same problem just before 53:11 “a guilty person would already be in a defensive state of mind.”

A serious crime has been committed, get called (or taken) to the police station, put in a small windowless room, and interact with the detective placed to “increase the feeling of isolation.” I would think anyone in that situation is going to be defensive, innocent or not.


BB has helped well educate me on this premise and I, essentially, agree. But, I recently had an interaction w/ the police, involving someone in my family and, had I said “I won’t talk to you without a lawyer”, I think things likely could’ve turned out worse. Then again, I do operate from a basis of what and middle class privilege…


Guilty or not, the correct response is “I would like to speak with a lawyer” repeated as necessary.


Agreed, except… circumstances, and I was a lot younger.

Well that was disturbing to watch.

Lots of good points made here in comments, and there are plenty of examples of investigators/prosecutors going on a hunch and getting it wrong, and then refusing to admit error even after their hunch has been conclusively disproved.

Gotta say, though, this guy did smell guilty from the beginning. By the time he tried pinning his daughters’ murder on his wife, all doubt was gone.

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I think there’s a lot of psychological gibberish and woo, but it certainly worked getting Mr. Murderer to spill his guts. I think it’s fine to use trickery and games, but I do see how it could be used to get innocent people into trouble. I don’t think body language should ever be used as probable cause. Now I got to go take a shower since I feel all dirty watching that.

I’ve always found this advice a little unhelpful and defeatist.

I mean, it’s not, unfortunately, bad advice. There are way too many stories and videos of people having a casual chat with a cop, or helpfully answering questions, or calling the cops because their neighbors are too noisy, or someone drove into their fence or something, and then getting treated like shit and perhaps arrested themselves. Especially if they’re not white and middle class.

But that just shouldn’t be the case. You really ought to be able to chit chat with a cop in line at the donut shop in the morning, or tell them which way the bank robbers went or whatever, and not worry that they’re going to throw you up against the wall and frisk you for drugs because they think your eyes are too bleary.

Not to mention that you sometimes need to call up a cop to get help – like the victim’s friend. You really ought to be able to do that without having your own lawyer present first.

That we can’t, at least not safely, is really super toxic, and we shouldn’t have to stand for it. In short, this is at least incomplete advice. The complete advice should be “defund the fucking police, but in the meantime, ask for a lawyer”.


Exactly. He is guilty. We know he did do it. So, everything he’s doing becomes “what a killer does”, by definition.

Except, there are plenty of innocent people who deal with grief in ways that are not immediately appreciated by law enforcement. And there are plenty of innocent people serving long prison terms due to a cop’s “hunch” combined with the pressure of needing to make an arrest.

I’d be a little more interested in videos of police/FBI opining on a Richard Jewell interview, saying how “obvious” it is that he is the actual bomber.


The problem with unscientific means being used for extracting confessions from the guilty is that these means can work even better on the non-guilty.


I immediately thought of the Soham murders and specifically these two murderers who are quite willing to be interviewed on camera because they get some sort of perverse pleasure out of it. But hindsight is a wonderful thing and how many of us will start saying things like “i knew there was something off about him”.


So why not just use an oracle instead?

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