no pressure

A series of interviews – an exercise in truth:

If you want to play along, read the following statements given to a police officer and then answer the questions at the end.

“I saw the whole thing!  I was across the street talking with my coworker, Jim, and the car jumped the curb and hit the lady.  It was horrible!”

“I saw the whole thing!  I was out walking Measles, that’s my dog, and we turned the corner from Alpine onto Fifth, and this guy punched the lady, she fell backward into the street and was hit by a car.  It was horrible.”

“I saw the whole thing!  My husband, Tony, and I had just finished our meal at the little café at the end of the street.  The lady and man had walked passed our table arguing as we were paying the bill.  They were both shouting at each other.  When we left the café, their yelling drew my attention and I watched as she slapped him and he raised a hand to ward off the attack.  Then she tripped on a fire hydrant and fell backwards into the street where she was struck by the car.  It was horrible!”

“I saw the whole thing!  I was on my bike, Agnus, at the time, and we were on our way to make a package delivery uptown.  The congestion on the street forced me onto the sidewalk for a moment, yes I know the laws, and I had to stop because the lady and man were blocking my path.  They were arguing, which isn’t that uncommon, but then the lady slapped him and that really caught my attention.  Then she pulled out a knife from her purse and looked like she was going to attack him.  He grabbed her wrists to try and wrestle the weapon away from her and she tripped on the fire hydrant and fell into the street.  The car had no time to stop before it hit her.  It was horrible.”

“Oh my gosh!  Oh my gosh!  I was on my way to see my friend, Charles, who lives up Fifth, on the other side of Alpine, and …  And I just can’t believe this happened.  I was in the far right lane, almost up against the curb because the cars around me had just nearly collided.  Some jack-hole in an Audi was traffic weaving and nearly hit a minivan.  I… I don’t see that either of them stopped.  I don’t see them here still.  And then all of a sudden the lady was falling into the street.  I hit the brakes and swerved to try and avoid her, but there was nothing I could do.  There was no room to maneuver.  There wasn’t time to stop.   It was horrible!”

“I’ll tell you everything!  My wife, Gwen, and I were fighting over her brother, who has been staying at our apartment for the last couple months, ever sense he made parole.  I wanted him out because he is a bad person.  She wanted to let him stay because she thought she could help him turn his life around.  Things got pretty heated as we approached Alpine and she slapped me when I suggested that she was blind to the truth of how bad he truly is.  Then she pulled a knife from her purse to show me that she wasn’t that naïve.  She had confiscated the weapon from him that morning.  I reached out to her, to apologize, to offer comfort.  In that moment I knew we would figure out how to make it work.  I love… I loved her.  But, her heel caught in the air vents on the sidewalk as we turned to continue our walk, she lost her balance and fell over the fire hydrant into the street.  The car hit her before I could even react to try and save her.  It was horrible.”

Pertinent information:

The car is on the street, with dark tire tracks left in the road from brakes.  The lady was thrown several yards in front of it.  A knife was recovered near her.  The interviewees all appear visibly distraught.  An agitated crowd is gathering, and the longer you take to make a decision and clear the scene, the rowdier they get.  Half are screaming that the husband of the deceased needs to be arrested immediately for domestic violence, and half are screaming that the driver of the car needs to be arrested for reckless driving.


Which version of the events do you believe?  Which witness(es) do you trust?  Why?  What additional information do you need?

What do you decide to do?

Quick!  The whole nation is watching…


Update:  In a couple discussions in the comments I remembered and brought up a video I had watched in one of my psychology classes in college that showed how unreliable eye witness testimony can be.  I went looking for it on youtube, and while this isn’t the study I remembered, but it is close enough:


53 thoughts on “no pressure

  1. Metallic Mint Green Pontiac Tempest!

    Mrs. Peacock, with the lead pipe,in the conservatory!

    OK, when I actually have a minute, I will come up with a real answer though I think I would take them BOTH into custody until I could actually map things out properly.

      • Reasonable suspicion in the commission of a potential crime (manslaughter, voluntary or involuntary; or murder), so yeah, same answer.

        They have their rights, absolutely, but the police have to investigate. It’s almost go with them now or wait until they have warrants and you have no choice. Of course, waiting should also not imply guilt since the two have that right as well.

      • Nah, just hired a lot of police officers and was married to one. I think I know more than I actually do.

        What was your answer?

      • I was thinking about writing a follow-up post that spun the story completely a different direction “proving” that things are always more complicated than they appear. But, that seems like a lot of work.
        So… let’s say the husband pushed her on purpose. Though, if you ask me again I will give you a different answer. 😉

  2. I would not rush. Rushing is how mistakes get made. I would ignore the witnesses and look for the nearest video surveillance as there is most likely something.

    In the mean time, I would haul both the husband and the driver downtown. The driver because regardless of if he killed the woman, he was still wreckless. The husband, more for his protection and get a statement from him after he has calmed down.

      • Hmm, your description made it sound like the car went up on the curb. I’d have to re-read. Either way, it’s in his best interest to not be there either. Angry crowd with pitchforks is never a good place to leave anybody.

      • Fair enough. Pitch forks are pointy, and angry crowds are… impulsive when equipped with pointy things. Though, if you are don’t processing scene it may not be that simple… Keeping the peace and not infringing on the rights of innocents is getting harder and harder.

    • Have you seen the study that was done in a College Level Criminal Justice class? While the proffessor had his back turned working on the white board, someone walked into the room, and walked off with his laptop that had been left on a table at the front of the class… the descriptions given by the students ran the gambit: short, tall, skinny, fat, bald, long hair, mustache, no facial hair… It is scary how bad eye witness testimony is. And yet, as a society, we seem to rely on it so much…

      • I hadn ‘t heard of that. What an interesting study. I’d make a terrible witness; i notice nothing.

        My husband is a lawyer and he grinds his teeth over TV depictions (fictional and non-fictional)! He always shouts at the TV — you can’t rely on that!!!!

      • I’ll try to find a link to the study tomorrow and if I come up with it I’ll send it your direction.
        I too would make a horrible eye-witness. I’m always too lost in my own imagination to notice anything about the real world spiraling around me.

      • (is that the same study where the professor purposely misled them like “did you see the eyebrows on that guy?” even though there was nothing notable about them, but it impacted what the students told the sketch artist and how they did at line-up)

  3. At this point I’m just thankful I’m not a cop. It is indeed scary how unreliable witness accounts are – and with so many lives hanging in the balance, I’m not sure that I’d be able to handle the pressure.

    Also, I don’t understand why we convict people based on eye-witness accounts anyway. It’s not like people have photographic memories. Like any other piece of evidence, memory can be corrupted. Sometimes I find myself trying to fit what I remember with what I actually know and understand about what happened. Sometimes it becomes a bit of Chinese Whispers if you’ve been watching the news!

    • It does seem a bit strange how heavily we still rely on eye witness testimony when it has been proven time and time again to be faulty… I guess we proceed try to present the best evidence we can… But! I’d rather have our jails empty with criminals walking free than have a single innocent person behind bars.

      • I’m not sure I agree with having all criminals walk free if it means that a few innocent people can be saved. I don’t think the solution is that simple because in the end, (many more) innocent people will still suffer if criminals are at large!

      • Potentially… but, with a system that perpetuates the criminal mentality (there is zero rehabilitation going on), those criminals that we throw in jail end up back on the street to commit more crimes over and over and over… so, innocents are suffering anyway.
        It is not that simple, you are right.

  4. If the wife’s brother is that bad then it would take about 2 seconds for the police to be able to authorise a search and check his history, which would then confirm the husband’s story.

    I like what you’ve done here, it shows exactly how when you have a number of people witness an event, what you get is a different number of views about what actually happened, because people do notice different things.

    • This is sort of a spin off the debacle going on in Ferguson right now (I’m sure the unrest and rioting have made news across the pond, too, right?). The media is pushing eye witness testimony down our throat, enraging the general public, rather than letting the cops do their job, and the grand jury do their job. Our system is flawed, no doubt, but it’s what we have right now. Let the people who have the training and access to the whole story (the whole picture) sort out the mess rather than jumping to conclusions based on the same info that is being shilled to the general public from every major news source. I just got tired of the hypocrisy of people calling the cop a murderer while simultaneously yelling for his head…

  5. First, I need to know if there WAS a fire hydrant, or a grate? What kind of shoes did the woman have on? If those check out, since the knife was near the woman in the street, I would believe that she was the one with the knife. Then check the background of man and woman for history of violence. If none, I would rule that the man was defending himself and accidentally pushed her into the street. Either rule it as accidental death or manslaughter. Driver, no charges.

    • Those are some great questions. There was a fire hydrant, and she was wearing 3 1/2 inch heels. There is no history of violence between them, and the brother, with a long rap sheet, has been living with them.
      But, would it be suspicious if he had just taken out a life insurance policy on her the week before?
      Every violent relationship has a first time…

      As the creator of this story I can continue to shape things around, make them confusing, and nearly impossible to determine exactly what happened. Which is the point, right? We are the creators of our own stories, and the decisions we make and the conversations we have, all determine what we do… and we are the only ones who know the whole truth about it all. You can’t see inside my head to truly know everything about the events that have led me here…

      Fantastic comment. Thank you for playing my silly game.

    • An interesting strategy. I don’t trust any of them either… but, that’s not fair of me to say, because I created them so I know what’s really going on with them.

  6. Well the skid marks indicate the driver attempted to stop. The dining couples story matches the husband’s story. I think I believe the husband. There’s stories that match his and the vehicle is in the street and there are skid marks. Of course, an autopsy must be performed, the husband must be further questioned at the station, as well as the driver and the driver should be tested for drugs and alcohol. 🙂

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