To catch a liar

Deception detection expert divulges secrets in Crime Conference keynote address
Janine Driver gives her speech "Lie Detection for Law Enforement!" to members of the Alaska Peace Officer's Association during the last day of their 2012 Crime Conference at Centennial Hall on Friday.

Errant pauses, emphatic denials, erratic eye contact.


They’re all telltale signs someone is being less than truthful, but how can you really tell if someone is lying to you?

On Friday, Juneauites had the chance to ask an expert in the deception detection field — Janine Drive, AKA “The Lyin’ Tamer.”

Driver, a former federal law enforcement agent with Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms who has trained officers within the ATF, FBI and CIA, spoke to law enforcement members at the Alaska Peace Officers Association Crime Conference at Centennial Hall on Monday. She gave a repeat performance Friday to the general public.

“I think at the end of the day is people want to separate fact from fiction,” Driver told the Empire in an interview. “We’ve all been lied to,” she said, noting that people lie in one of five social situations.

The first rule of lie detection, Driver says, is that not all liars are the same.

“Be cautious on saying liars always do this, or liars always do that,” she told her audience. “It’s not that simple.”

The way to catch a liar is to find a baseline of their normal behavior. If they deviate from their normal behavior, then that’s called a “hot spot,” or an indication of suspicious behavior.

So, for instance, Driver said, if someone you’re talking to someone who is leaning back in their chair, that doesn’t necessarily mean that their body language is telling you they are disinterested or want to leave. It could just be their baseline.

But if they are leaning towards you, then suddenly lean away when you ask them a question, it could be suspicious behavior.

Driver gave the audience a few hot spots to be on the look out for. One is when a person’s belly button will turn away to face an exit, Driver said.

“I call that navel intelligence, by the way,” she said with a smile.

Another is when someone’s lips are turned upside down, sucked in or pursed.

“When we don’t like what we see or hear, our mouths and lips suddenly disappear,” she said.

The important thing after pinpointing a hot spot is following up with a “powerful question,” couched in terms like, “Maybe I’m wrong here, but ...?” or “Is there any reason why ...?”

“Don’t be a mind-reader. Avoid mind-reading,” Driver said. “Get that baseline when there’s a deviation from a norm. If it’s a hotspot, then ask that powerful question.”

Driver broke liars up into three categories: Teeter-totters, who are going back and forth with their language and body language; Convince-not-conveyers who oversell their story (one indication is the use of “Obviously,” “Absolutely,” and “Never” — Bill Clinton was case in point, she said); and backsliders, who are the people who just want to disappear.

One example of teeter-tottering, Driver said, was Neil Entwistle, who murdered his 9-month-old baby and wife in 2006. Driver showed a video of him in court, who is seen smiling as he covers his face to hide tears that weren’t there.

“His facial expressions are not matching the moment,” Driver said. “He’s pretending to cry, but we’re actually seeing happiness.”

Casey Anthony was a good example of a backslider, she said, as she engaged in “body blocking” in court by trying to hide behind her bangs.

Verbal indications to be on the lookout for, she said, are the words “because,” “since,” and “so that,” which can be used to justify behavior.

Another is the use of pronouns, she said. For example, if you say, “I went for a walk, I talked on the phone, and I went over to a friend’s house,” that is consistent. But if you say, “I went for a walk, talked on the phone, and I went over to a friend’s house,” that could be a change in a person’s baseline.

Driver, who has appeared on national news and talk shows sharing her expertise, challenged the audience to more aware about what’s going on around them so they can avoid being a victim.

She asked the crowd which they were: a wolf or a sheep?

“The wolves can spot the wolves, and the wolves can spot the sheep,” she said. “What that means is the cops can spot the cops, the cops can spot the bad guys, and the cops can spot potential victims. But guess who else is a wolf? The bad guy. That means the bad guy can spot another bad guy.

“But the sheep aren’t spotting anybody,” she said.

Driver told the Empire she hoped her lecture helps people avoid be blind-sided by what she called sucker punches to the gut.

“Whether it’s a significant other cheating on us, a boss lying to us, us losing a job, getting a job we think we’re going to get and we find out it was given to someone else, a best friend lying, those are sucker punches to the gut,” she said. “We’ve been blind-sided, all of us, in one way or another, and so people want that edge in the game of life on who really has my back or not. You see it all the time, the Bernie Madoffs and you watch all this television, and you think, ‘Hey, are my finances safe? Am I safe? Are my kids safe? And at the end of the day, I think that’s what people want.”

After the four-hour lecture, audience members rushed over to meet Driver and tell her they couldn’t wait to buy her books, which were New York Times best sellers.

“I’m going to go home and see if my husband turns away from me when I talk to him,” Dot Wilson said jokingly. She’s a 71-year-old retiree who co-owned Coast Helicopters with her husband.

Former Soldotna Police Chief Greg Russell said he saw Driver speak Monday and liked her lecture so much, he invited a friend on Friday.

“It was a refresher,” he said, adding, “She’s able to put it into words and make sense of it.”

A TSA behavior detection officer for the Juneau International Airport, Cheryl Novak, attended the talk with a co-worker, and said she could incorporate some of what she learned into her work.

“It goes along with everything I’ve learned,” Novak said.

Florence DeTemple, who works for Catholic Community Services, said she left the conference determined to be try to pay attention to details that often go overlooked.

“I’m like oblivious,” she said with a laugh. “I’ll be the first to admit gullible is stamped to my forehead. So I take people at face value, and I really need to pay attention to those subtle things.”

Everybody lies, but it’s imperative to find out why, Driver said. Is it a harmless lie to avoid embarrassment? Is it to avoid admitting you’ve done something wrong? Or is it to cause someone pain?

Driver told the Empire she was molested by a neighbor when she was 6 years old in a backyard shed, and later pursued a career in law enforcement to learn how to protect herself, emotionally and physically.

The Empire doesn’t name victims of sexual assault without permission, which Driver gave, mentioning she wrote about her experiences in her books.

“At that point, at 6 years old, I was destined to go into law enforcement,” she said. “I was all about going into law enforcement to save myself, to protect myself. ... But now — once I got the tools that I have, and I feel safe — now I want to give it to everybody else. I want to save lives by boosting confidence and personal careers. I want people to know what I know.”

• Contact reporter Emily Russo Miller at 523-2263 or at


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