Obstacles to a good interview

Discussion of the obstacles to a good interview:

  1. Obstacles to a good interviewSituational:
    1. Try to avoid situations in which either party will feel rushed during the interview process. Lawyers as Counselors , at 44.
    2. Avoid group interviews. At best, they are a poor means to obtain evidence (one witness will always assert themselves), and it will create the appearance that you are attempting to improperly sync testimony. Matthew Rosengart, Preparing Witnesses for Trial: A Post Moussaoui Primer for Federal Litigators , Fed. L., Nov/Dec 2007, at 36.
    3. Carefully consider whether or not to interview a person alone, or with others from their family, friends, or unit present.
      1. Advantages: Sometimes witnesses will be more forthcoming with a spouse, NCO, or commander present.
      2. Disadvantages: Most people are far less likely to speak candidly if they are distracted by concerns about the effects their statement will produce on other listeners. This effect is particularly true with more sensitive crimes.
  2. Personal:
    1. Most conversations are simply monologues delivered in the presence of a witness – Margaret Miller. Put another way, you have to close your mouth in order to listen.
    2. Performance Distracters. Lawyers as Counselors , at 44.
      1. You are focused on preparing for the next question when you should be listening to the answer of the question you just asked.
      2. You believe you already know the salient issues, so you steer the conversation too soon and too much, thereby missing important facts.
      3. You disclose too much information, thereby alerting the witness to your thoughts on the case. This is a particular danger for hostile witnesses.
  3. Structural:
    1. The tell me everything approach to interviewing provides very poor structure, and very little memory stimulation to the interview process. It is a poor way to develop a coherent narrative of events. If you use this format, you must also expect disjointed and confusing answers to questions, that skip back and forth chronologically. Lawyers as Counselors , at 117.
    2. The element by element questioning approach exposes counsel to a serious danger of ‘premature diagnosis’ of the case and may prevent you from learning about significant events that are not encompassed by your initial theory.Id.

Performance Distracters

You believe you already know the salient issues