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“Are You Saying You Were Stabbed … ?”

“Are You Saying You Were Stabbed … ?”

Multimodality, Embodied Action, and Dramatized Formulations in “Fixing” the Facts in Police Interviews with Suspects

(p.268) Chapter Thirteen “Are You Saying You Were Stabbed … ?”
The Discourse of Police Interviews
Alison Johnson
University of Chicago Press

Interviewers in criminal investigations engage suspects in forensic questioning to transform from unsettled to settled ‘the facts’ in relation to alleged crimes. In questions such as “Are you saying xxx?” or “You say xxx” officers challenge suspects’ versions of events, treating them with doubt and disbelief to transform their accounts and ‘fix’ the facts for the record. Combining insights from previous research on reported speech, formulations, and gesture, the chapter looks not just at what is done in these questions but how actions of settling on agreed evidential facts are accomplished through the coordination of the reported talk with bodily interaction. Two video-taped police interviews are examined, to understand how institutional practices of evidence production are multimodally accomplished, through synchronizing embodied action and speech. Focusing on a micro-analysis of the linguistic environment of the verb SAY, the chapter shows how facts and their denial are multimodally co-constructed. While current monomodal interview records produced for linguistic analyses or summarized for court cases, ignore or overlook the multimodal, the analysis shows that implications for the justice system are that evidence is compromised. Dramatized multimodal formulations produce more powerful evidence for both prosecution and defense than logocentric ones.

Keywords:   audio-visual, dramatized formulation, embodied talk, evidence, gesture, multimodality, police interview

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