The Interview and Witness Rapport

Success in a legal investigation during an interview requires effectively working with any witnesses. Private investigators should reach out to witnesses with a respectful, but personal contact. Private investigators should prioritize establishing a rapport early on with each witness. This will help create a sense of friendship with the private investigator. The private investigators who are able to contact or interview a witness first, usually have the most effective interactions and are able to obtain the most relevant information. Witnesses may even begin to sense feelings of familiarity with the interviewer based on their interactions versus any preconceived notions of private investigators from television. Unfortunately, some private investigators neglect to personally contact witnesses and establish a rapport. As a result, these interviews are more likely to be deficient, failing to obtain the maximum pertinent content and negatively affecting the process.


Success in a legal investigation during an interview requires effectively working with any witnesses. Private investigators should reach out to witnesses with a respectful, but personal contact. Private investigators should prioritize establishing a rapport early on with each witness. This will help create a sense of friendship with the private investigator. The private investigators who are able to contact or interview a witness first, usually have the most effective interactions and are able to obtain the most relevant information. Witnesses may even begin to sense feelings of familiarity with the interviewer based on their interactions versus any preconceived notions of private investigators from television. Unfortunately, some private investigators neglect to personally contact witnesses and establish a rapport. As a result, these interviews are more likely to be deficient, failing to obtain the maximum pertinent content and negatively affecting the process.

Once personal contact has been established, the private investigator can arrange an interview and begin to form a character assessment of the witness. All interviews should be conducted in person. Upon meeting the witness, the private investigator will begin to assess their demeanor. First impressions are crucial not only to investigators, but also trial juries.

It is best to begin an interview by taking notes and allowing the witness to speak freely. If the witness is unwilling to speak freely, or begins to discuss unrelated and irrelevant information, the private investigator should shift to another interview tactic, asking direct and specific questions. When asking questions, the private investigator should stick to the observations and personal knowledge of the witness. Any irrelevant or incomplete material may detract from the quality of the witness’s statement. Usually a combination of the two interview techniques, speaking freely and asking direct and specific questions, yields the most useful information. Any notes taken by the private investigator will serve as an oral statement and form the basis for any memorandums later submitted to their clients. Ideally, at the end of the interview, the witness will sign the handwritten statement. If the witness fails to sign a handwritten statement, their oral statement can still serve as the basis for any future character impeachment if they recant any part of their story.

Following the interview, private investigators should continue to make thorough notes regarding their impression of a witness, including their appearance, lifestyle, attitude and sympathies. A skilled private investigators must learn to constantly assess the demeanor of a witness and have the foresight to estimate the type of impact they will likely have on a trial jury.

The best evidence is always the actual testimony of the witness in court. Witnesses should present their own testimony, so that they may be cross-examined by the other side. Statements are used in the courtroom only to impeach a witness who testifies differently in court than they have in their statement. When a statement is utilized to impeach the character of a witness, the private investigator who took the statement will often be called to the stand as a witness themselves, to verify the authenticity of the statement and its contents.

There are several elements required to conduct a successful interview and obtain the maximum amount of information from a witness. Private investigators must quickly establish a friendly and respectful rapport with the witness. Private investigators are also responsible for assessing the demeanor of the witness, applying the most appropriate interview techniques and recording thorough notes.

Pennington & Associates ltd. provides witness interview services. Private investigators are available for immediate service in Ohio throughout the cities of Ironton, Portsmouth, Gallipolis, Jackson, Chillicothe, Cincinnati, Columbus, and surrounding areas. Service is immediately available in West Virginia throughout the cities of Huntington, Charleston, and surrounding areas.
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