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Detective: Interrogating Is The Hardest Job To Master

11:27 PM, Jun 19, 2012   |    comments
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Greensboro, NC -- A police interrogation was one of the focal points in the trial of Jerry Sandusky on Tuesday, which raises questions about interviews and interrogations during the investigative process.

In the courtroom, defense attorneys spent a lot of time talking to the state troopers, who questioned one of the alleged victims.

"The idea here was that the defense wanted to try to make an allegation that they were coaching witnesses and they were also talking to more of them than they had said they were. They're trying to discredit the state police here, calling into question details they were given by the state police. They wanted to call into question for the jury that these state police have not been honest," said John Clay, who's covering the trial for WTAJ, a CBS affiliate in Pennsylvania.

After Tuesday's testimony, News 2 asked a seasoned detective to explain their interrogation process.

Sgt. George Moore, who is Sergeant of the Major Crimes Unit in the Guilford County Sheriff's Office, has been at it for 15 years. He said, for detectives, asking questions is the most difficult part of their job to master.

"You're really nervous a lot of times when you go into talk to somebody, if it makes or breaks your case, if it's a big case, you do go in nervous," said Moore.

Moore said it's important to note that an interrogation is not necessarily an interview.

An interview is when investigators ask questions of a witness, a victim, or a suspect who's not yet in custody.

North Carolina law does not require an interview to be recorded. That's up to the officer.

As for an interrogation, investigators only interrogate suspects after they're in custody.

When a suspect is accused of a serious felony, like murder or a sexual offense, the interrogation must be recorded.

In either case, investigators must ask open-ended questions, and be mindful of their wording, so they're not just soliciting the response they want to hear.

Moore said if they don't go by the book, anything can be thrown out of court.

"It's a big burden being on your shoulders, that if you don't do the right thing in investigating this case, then you have to go back and tell that family member or that friend, that the suspect or the offender walked because you made a mistake," said Moore.

Investigators want to ask the questions as soon as they can, so no details become fuzzy. But in a matter of minutes and hours after a crime, they have so much to think about.

"At each stage of the investigation, you sit back and you think, 'what is the best way to do this? And what is the lawful way to do this? How can we best do this and not have it thrown out? What's the defense going to be? What kinds of questions are they going to raise?'" said Moore.

WFMY News 2

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