In this episode of Real Talk, KJK Student Defense Attorneys Susan Stone and Kristina Supler are joined by Carrie Hull, founded the You Have Options Program, nationally recognized for providing reporting options for survivors of sexual violence. Carrie also created the Certified FETI® Program, standardizing trauma interviews. They discuss the importance of utilizing effective interviewing techniques in investigations, specifically within the realms of law enforcement and Title IX cases. They also explore the necessity of gathering accurate information and avoiding biased assumptions through neutral questioning. The role of body language and filtering out implicit bias is also discussed.
- Carrie’s Background (1:30)
- The FETI framework (2:30)
- The science and study behind FETI (4:15)
- The applications of a FETI interview (5:30)
- How to ask questions using the FETI methodology (7:00)
- Collecting the dots vs connecting the dots (08:30)
- Receiving answers without judgement (10:00)
- Use in different disciplines (11:45)
- How FETI can be used in Title IX cases (13:50)
- The importance of framing an investigation (16:30)
- The role of body language in an interview (18:00)
Susan Stone: Welcome back to Real Talk with Susan Stone and Christina Subler. We are full-time moms and attorneys bringing our student defense legal practice to life with real candid conversation. Today’s episode is gonna focus on a topic that Christina and I really take for granted, and that’s the actual interviewing process of somebody who is either reporting a Title IX complaint or a crime.
Kristina Supler: I am excited for today’s guest because I think that sometimes when lawyers are brought in for student advisors, in particularly campus Title IX cases, there’s so much focus on the hearing. But I know Susan, you and I always talk about how important the interview is, and we spend so much time preparing our students for their interview.
Susan Stone: I agree. And we have seen so many different styles of investigators. It’s like snowflakes no two are the same. And I, I really do mean that we’ve seen people who make our students feel interrogated.
Kristina Supler: Sure. And, and then we’ve also had, you know, investigators who I felt were very impartial and truly there to just have a conversation to collect evidence.
Susan Stone: On the flip side, you want your investigator to be impartial, but you also want the details to come out and you wanna make sure they circle back and do a thorough investigation and really try to dig out the truth.
Kristina Supler That’s right. That’s right. Well, I’m excited to speak with today’s guest, Carrie Hall. Yeah. Carrie is an Oregon native, a former de detective with the Ashland Police Department and a leading figure in improving law enforcement responses to sexual violence. She created the Certified FETI® Program, which is an interviewing methodology intended to sort of standardize investigative interviews. And through her consultancy, Carrie Hall Consulting, she also offers specialized training to law enforcements across the globe. We’re really pleased to have you join us today. Carrie. Welcome. Welcome, Carrie.
Carrie Hull: Well, thanks so much.
Susan Stone: We’re gonna start with the first question. We like to go broad and then whittle down called the, is that the funnel approach? Carrie?
Carrie Hull: Funnel Technique. Funnel
Susan Stone: So describe the FETI framework. How’s that?
Carrie Hull: Yeah, so FETI stands for the Forensic Experiential Trauma Interview, and it really is made up of a series of principles and foundational, you know, metrics that are on the practitioner. So when we say practitioner, we mean the person who is conducting the interview. We don’t have any requirements or any restrictions that are placed on what we consider the participant. We don’t view our participants as victims, witnesses, suspects, anything like that, because we really want them to remain and us to remain in the neutral. We are fully just a methodology that is about information collection. So it’s been very interesting when I, when I was listening to that introduction and you talking about interacting with some of these different investigators, what I think is such a defining piece for me as an investigator of FETI is that it forces me to stay in the interviewer role and not conflate being an investigator at the same time, which lets me gather information in such a, well, more robust way, but also a more accurate way, because I’m not driving towards a conclusion, which is really more of that investigative side.
So what FETI does is it asks the practitioners to really just be an interviewer, even if their other roles are also to investigate and to put things together. What the forensic experiential trauma interview methodology allows us to do is stay very, very specifically in information collection. So within that, we have some, you know, pieces of our framework. It’s science-based. That’s very, very important for us because that as that changes, as the neuroscience and, you know, the information about the brain comes out about memory and encoding and retrieval, we wanna make sure that we are actually are applying that and it’s not taking years and years to be able to bring that into our methodologies. And then we have something called opportunities for information, and that’s the bulk of the methodology. It’s talking about using brain-based cues, very specific, we call them systems of security, to provide a lot of options for the people who are stepping forward and giving information to be able to actually have that information collected, but also have it documented accurately. So for us, it’s very, very specifically not an investigations practice. It’s all about information collection.
Kristina Supler: And what are the, the realms in which the applications for use of FETI methodology, criminal cases, school cases, a mix?
Carrie Hull: Yeah, it’s definitely a mix. It started out very much focused within sexual violence cases. So this was born out of law enforcement, specifically out of the Department of Defense in the Army. One of our instructors who was very active still with us, Lori Hyman, was the first one to actually use the FETI methodology within an investigation. And that was within the Army criminal command. And, and that was focused around sexual violence cases predominantly. So it started out being used with people who were stepping forward and either identified themselves or identified by someone else as a victim. What it has grown into in mainly because we wanna enhance that neutrality. Our learning was that this needed to not focus so much on what somebody was saying they were, or putting them into a box, but just trying to really gather the experience of what they are saying happened in a really three-dimensional way. Then we take that information and we move it into another system. That could be an investigation, that also could be a hiring process. I do a lot of work, surprisingly. I I did never intend for this to be the case in human resources. We use this a lot within human resources. So the applications are endless. It really is focused on if somebody has had an experience, being able to gather that and document it accurately.
Susan Stone: Carrie, I have a question that drives me crazy when I listen to interviews and it’s how should fact gatherers? ’cause I’m not gonna call you investigators. I’m learning, try to elicit information as to the ultimate issue without being too obvious. So for example, if you ask somebody, did you steal the cookie? What do you expect? No, no. With crumbs all over. And the reason I say that is we were just involved in an investigation where there were just blanket denials. And I can’t help but think that the reason everyone was just denying was because the questions were just too conclusive.
Kristina Supler: Did you do this really bad thing? It’s true. Yeah. Yeah.
Carrie Hull: Well, and, and for me, it’s so funny when I hear stuff like this because it just takes me back to the beginning of my career as a detective. Well, even prior to that as an officer. And I wish that I had this understanding then, because I used to, you know, find myself in very similar situations. And it was frustrating for everybody. ’cause you just didn’t seem like you were able to do anything with it. Right? You just had people on one end denying people on one end, assuming, and then not a lot of information being shared in between, which is not helpful. So if I just use the cookie analogy, I’ll just use that as an example. Let’s say you have somebody that has res all over their face, right? And you have somebody who’s accusing them of taking a cookie that they weren’t supposed to have. And so what we would say with FETI is move back from looking and making the accusation, because you might be wrong, right? The experience of the crumbs could have come from numerous other things other than a stolen cookie. Some of them might be unlikely, but it doesn’t mean that they’re impossible. And so we really just focus on gathering what that experience was for the person. So if I was walking up and interviewing the person who had crumbs all over their face, I might start out by saying, you know, help me understand how you feel right now instead of accusing them of doing something. Because just like what you mentioned, that’s not one gonna be probably the most fruitful way to do it. But more importantly, you might be wrong. And what you’re doing by, by going into that sort of investigative focus, driving towards an answer is you’re losing all the information that helps you ultimately get to the answer. So what we’ve found is by just backing away from trying to, you know, connect the dots, we say in FETI, we collect the dots. We do not connect them. This is a massive shift from where we started when, when FETI was in its infancy, we used to use this analogy of puzzle pieces. And we used to say like, you’re gathering the puzzle pieces. And the instructors would go up in front of the room and they would like throw a puzzle up in the air and do this big, you know, explanation of some puzzle pieces are upside down and right side up. And the goal right in the interview is to be able to gather them and put them together. That was so misinformed. And, and this is one of the things I love about this methodology, is we’re, we’re not guardians of it. We want it to change. And as neuroscientists push back, as practitioners push back, we realized, no, our goal as an interviewer is not to put the puzzle together. Our goal is just to collect the dots. So we, we say in our training that the dots are information, we collect them, we do not connect them. Connecting the dots is what you do in the investigation after you’ve collected that information. So to go back to that cookie analogy, I would just collect as much information as I could. You know, help me understand what I’m able to see on your face right now, and then let them answer. Right? Let them, even if let’s just say they are absolutely fabricating, they, they come up with whatever it is. You know, aliens came down from outer space and rubbed a cookie all over my face, right? I’ll just give a ridiculous one. Okay, tell me more about the aliens. And genuinely we’re not gonna say that, you know, with any sort of judgment, we’re not gonna say anything with that because that’s not my role.
My role is to document whatever they’re able to share with me at that time, and then to really, really be able to allow them space in that experience. And if that is a fabrication or a lie, that’s okay, I’m gonna document that. That’s just as important to take forward into an investigative process to be able to corroborate or refute that as, you know, this sort of feeling that we need to solve it in the moment. And once I realized that I didn’t need to have the answer in the interview, life just got so much more effective. And it actually got simpler. My job was actually what it truly was, which was to interview. What I see people do instead is they call an an interview, you know, this form of gathering information. But when I review it, when I evaluate these, they are absolutely investigating. They’re not interviewing, and they’ve completely bypassed the interview at all. And they’ve moved right, to trying to draw conclusions. So that’s really what the methodology does, is it, it puts those kind of breaks and those reminders on the practitioner to truly go in and gather.
Susan Stone: So you don’t make credibility calls.
Carrie Hull: We do not within the interview. Now, in other functions of like my work, I will absolutely be part of that process. But what I would say to my team if I’m working with them or myself, is I, have I gathered enough to be able to make that credibility assessment, right? So it is, and it can be pretty fluid, you know, as a police officer, we work all the time with people that are patrol and we work, you know, we don’t ever encourage somebody to like say to the person they’re interacting with right now, I’m doing an interview with you, right? And hold on, I need to stop and now I’m gonna be doing an investigation. That’s absolutely not what we’re saying. These are fluid principles and processes that you might be moving in and out of sometimes within a very short period of time. I’ll give you a really quick example. We never anticipated this to be used, be used with paramedics. This a hundred percent was first for law enforcement and detectives. And we started seeing these paramedics coming to our trainings, and I remember I got to talk to some of them and I said, you know, one of our cues help me understand using this methodology in your work. And they started talking about just little tweaks that they were able to make to the questions that they’re asking of their patients. And, you know, this was always the pushback we got is, I don’t have time to do this. It takes too much time. And I love this example because it shows that it’s really, the onus is on the practitioner for the words coming outta their mouth for how the data’s collected. So they have somebody in the back of an ambulance and they said, they’ve just modified from before. They would say, where are you injured? Instead, now they’ve shifted to, what are you able to tell me about your body right now? And it’s such a distinct and important difference. It costs the same amount of time to say, but what I’m told is they get so much more valuable information because one is asking for a conclusion, and it’s also asking for a patient to be able to assess what injury is. That is a complicated thing for a brain, let alone if they’re experiencing some sort of physical event to their body. So instead they say, what are you able to tell me about your body right now? And they’re, yes, some of the information may not be relevant, but a lot of it is. And then they can pass all that information off to the ER staff who then are essentially, you know, the equivalent of the investigators that are gonna take that intel and decide whether it’s relevant and whether it’s needed for their assessment. So I, I really see that as sort of this enlightening of separating out the investigation from the interview.
Kristina Supler: It’s interesting to hear you speak so much about, I like the phrase collect dots, don’t connect the dots. Yeah. It, when students come to us, particularly in the Title IX realm, and we’re sort of preparing to embark on navigating the student through the process, oftentimes we’re just engaging in information gathering and, and trying to identify what evidence might be out there. And so often, particularly with sex cases of any type, we’re met with the response. Well, it, it was just, there was just two of us alone in a room. So who’s to say it’s one person’s word against another? Carrie, I’d like to hear from you what sort of damage can occur when an investigator in Title IX case frames a case as a a, he said, she said, or something along those lines during an interview.
Carrie Hull: Oh, it’s my most hated phrase, and there’s a lot of things that I don’t like hearing, but he said, she said is just one that crawls up my back and, and gives me the worst feeling. So what I will say when I’m working with investigators specifically, and, and I get a lot of pushback for this, some of them take it very personally, and I think they should. But I am adamant if you as an investigator are ever saying it’s a he said, she said case. Now, again, I’m talking as an investigator. Unfortunately society uses this term way too much. But as a professional, if you are using the term he said, she said, what you are communicating to me loud and clear is that you are very bad at your job. So if I, if I work with somebody, well, because what, what you have communicated, if you say, I have a he said, she said case one, the gendered problem is right there out, out as the front. But let’s just say it is somebody stepping forward who identifies as a male and somebody identifies as a female. All you are telling me is that you have done two things in that case at best, you’ve talked to the female and you’ve talked to the male, you haven’t investigated anything. So you don’t have a case. You have two interviews. That’s not a he said, she said case. And so that’s where I say, you are really bad at your job if you said you have a, he said, she said case. There is always something to corroborate or refute, even in the cases that seemingly have very little information, you need to actually put the time and work in. This requires effort. These investigations require effort. And so if you are just going forward and you’re taking a, you know, the report from one person and you’re going and talking to the other person, and you’re not doing anything else to corroborate or refute the information that’s gathered in those, you don’t have a case, you have two interviews and you just need to be accurate in your documentation that that’s all you did.
Susan Stone: 2 What I worry about in terms of what is considered cooperation, it’s often bringing up prior mud slinging character evidence saying, oh, well she has a reputation of X, he has a reputation of Y and therefore they must have behaved a certain way at the incident in question. And so I agree with you, there are, it is limited when you frame something as, let’s say they said, they said to be more neutral, but I also get worried what we consider to be valid corroborating evidence.
Carrie Hull: Sure. And again, that’s where I separate out the interview from the investigation, because now we’re talking about drawing conclusions, we’re talking about bringing that in. And instead, if somebody said to me, I just go immediately to my, my interviewer mind when I hear somebody say like mud slinging, for instance. And that’s, of course this happens and it’s horrible and it shouldn’t, well, let’s just go with the reality of it happening. If somebody came to me in one of my investigations and they said something like that, well, this person A, here’s the reason that they should not be believed. I am going, Ooh, this is another opportunity for an interview. So I’m gonna, I’m gonna ask permission, you know, would you be willing to sit down and tell me more about that? Because when it is truly just the quote unquote mudslinging, right, there’s no real relevancy. It falls apart in a really good professional interview when you have somebody who’s skilled and knows what they’re doing, or you can at least get back to this is where that credibility potential comes in. And at least now you’re taking all those dots and you’re offering them to whoever is the finder of fact or whoever’s making that determination so that they have more than just a one or two word statement, which is traditionally what I see now that should not be entered in there, but, but there could be really good intel underneath that, right? Help me understand more about this, whatever that is. And I’m gonna have them explore it. And if it comes into, it’s just an opinion, we don’t really weigh opinions in our investigations very much. There needs to be more than that. We don’t disregard it. We include everything that somebody gives us. But again, it’s for that professional finder of fact that needs to determine the weight of it.
Kristina Supler: Carrie, what role does body language play in both an interview and then I guess subsequently in an investigation because they’re very different roles?
Carrie Hull: Yeah, so for us as an interviewer, any sort of somatic response is again, just an opportunity. We, we really, this is a huge part of the framework where we talk about opportunities for information. We don’t draw any conclusions about it. We just gather it and we document it. For instance, I do a lot of human trafficking work. There’s just a ton of, you know, investigations that I get invited into to do the interviews for both people who are accused of being involved in human trafficking and people who are, you know, stepping forward as a victim of it or identified as a victim. And in those interviews, it is very, very common for there to be body movement, right? So, you know, as we’re going in and, and they’re, they’re sort of inviting us into their experience. We’ll do a lot of tell me mores. And as somebody’s talking about it, I will might see them touch a part of their body. Sometimes it could be outside of their awareness, sometimes it could, it’s not for me to determine that, but for instance, I might see them do this, right? Touch their wrist or do something like this. Now that can just be something that somebody does that could just be that they do that frequently when they talk. Or it might be something that is connected to the memory of what they’re telling me about. My job as the interviewer is not to make a determination. My job is to cue to it. Now, what I won’t do in an interview is I won’t point out, oh, I see you that you’re rubbing your wrist because that’s leading, that’s the same as a leading question. And I don’t wanna do that. What I will say instead is, when appropriate, without interrupting them, what, if anything, are you able to tell me about your wrist at that time?
Right? If they’re talking about a specific event occurring, I’m, I’m going to, as long as they have a wrist, it’s not leading right. But I’m not gonna point out that they’re doing that movement now based on how that was encoded for them based on their memory. It may be that that then jumps off into a memory that they’re able to tell me about or something relating to the event. There may also be nothing there. And so by not pointing it out, but queuing to it instead, I haven’t done anything to sort of change their memory or alter it. I’ve just given them an opportunity to enhance it without me being the director of that. My job as a really skilled interviewer is just to be sitting with them and hearing and collecting not to ever be giving anything back. We call it within FETI unidirectional interviewing. We as the interviewer, should never under any circumstances, put something into that interview. We should walk away from that interview fully, just with things they gave to us. So you would,
Susan Stone: Well, it’s so funny, your unidirectional interviewing has led me to a thought. And I’m wondering, when you’re looking at body language or the way people frame responses, how do you filter in or filter out implicit bias?
Kristina Supler: Oh, that’s a good question.
Carrie Hull: Yeah, it’s incredibly hard and it really requires a lot of practice on the part of the practitioner. We rely on something we call the never again 10. And again, it’s, it’s a system for us that is baked in to hopefully interrupt that and keep it from happening. We do acknowledge humans are human, and so you’re never gonna have it perfect, but the goal needs to be neutrality. So for instance, one of the requirements of the never again 10 is you do not ever offer any personal information or advice. So there is just no, it’s not at all allowed, especially at an advanced level for FETI, I would say most of our basic practitioners really avoid this as well. That really helps For any of that. Again, going into these interviews, my ideal situation is not to know anything about what happened. That can be harder depending on how involved I’ve been with the investigation. But I’ll give you a just an example. If I get called to deploy to something, usually something’s gone wrong, right? There’s usually a mass casualty incident or something’s been really bad, they’re not usually calling in outside interviewers unless something’s gone wrong. And they will often call me up and say, Hey, here’s what happened. I have to stop them and say, Nope, I don’t wanna know anything about what happened. I try and go into those interviews as blind as possible, as neutral, as much of a blank slate, whatever, you know, you want to use as that. And that’s a very different, when I was a detective working on the homicide team, we would sit around for, I mean, days, weeks, coming up with every question that we wanted, reading every report we could get our hands on everything we could to formulate our questions. And what that did was really increased the chances for bias. And what it also did is gave us the feeling like we already knew the answer and we were driving to something. So instead, we really try and go in as neutral as possible.
Kristina Supler: So you’re making me think back to the anecdote you mentioned of paramedics and like, oh my gosh, we’re responding to a 911 call. There’s cars and bodies on the side of the road. We don’t have time. We have to get information fast. And hearing you talk about going into interviews as a blank slate, I’m just imagining, again, in, in our world, in campus, title IX proceedings interviews conducted with this methodology. I, I would think they take a really long time. Is that accurate?
Carrie Hull: I, I mean it, it’s everything above, right. You know, so I can go in, I might have been working with a team for three years and our human trafficking work is a really great example. I have tons of knowledge of that case. And so it’s on me to remind myself before I go into these interviews, I literally will have a process that just works for me. I’m a very visual person as I’m walking to the interview, even if it’s a phone, if it’s a, a zoom, whatever it is in person, I actually mentally bulldoze the information I think I know out of my head just for that interview piece to the best that I can. Now you’re still gonna have stuff that creeps in and that’s when you’re gonna see potentially a leading question or something like that. But as my skill has gotten better, I’ve really gotten better about being able to do that.
And it can be quick too. We work with our, you know, like I mentioned, our patrol officers on traffic stops, you know, they, they on viewed something that made them make a determination to, to make that, whether it was a field contact or a, you know, they stopped a vehicle. So they have that information. What we encourage them to do, just very quickly, same as the, you know, paramedics just go up there and just remind yourself that you don’t know everything and you’re just collecting, you already have this other facts that you’ve observed. And that’s fine. We’re not saying throw it away, but go up into that, that sort of interview, even if it’s a very quick one, that information collection and just be open because there might be some other reason that this happened that you’re not aware of often there is. And it’s gonna give you so much more access to that. And you can always bring that other information back in very quickly. Write the ticket, you know, do whatever you need to do, but engage with that person and see if they’re willing to share with you about their experience. Because they had an experience too. You observed something, but they also contributed to whatever this interaction is. And we wanna hear from them. We just don’t wanna, you know, diagnose it or we don’t want to make a determination about it until we give them a chance to engage with us about it.
Susan Stone: It’s really a mindset FETI. Yeah. Versus, it’s not the same as telling an attorney when you frame questions don’t lead, right. Open versus closed. Open versus closed question. It’s really just having that mindset of being open to whatever you’re going to hear. But as we close the investigation of you, oh, any CSI TV moments that you’d like to share with our listeners out there?
Carrie Hull: 4 Oh gosh, I don’t know if there’s anything I’m allowed to share. I’m under about a hundred different non-disclosures. Oh,
Kristina Supler: Come on. I bet you’ve got the best stories at cocktail parties. That’s terrible. You can’t share anything with our, you know, I literally-
Carrie Hull: Don’t think I have
Susan Stone: Hundreds of thousands of your best friends. They out. No, no doubt. No one
Carrie Hull: I wish I could secret. There’s a lot of things that I wish that people knew. And you know, what I will say is that you would think that with the work that I’m exposed to and all these things that I hear, ’cause you get, really get to get in to people. A lot of people are surprised that I’m not more pessimistic. And I will actually say this work has made me the most optimistic about just humans that I’ve ever been. Because when you allow someone to sit down and truly share their experience without judgment, no matter what side they’re on, whether they’re accused of something or whether they’ve had something happen to them, you really get such a better understanding of the human behavior. And that has given me a lot of optimism. I see that we’re gonna be much better at this, and we have these skills and these tools now that weren’t available to me when I started my career. So I do wish that people had the opportunity to hear what I hear. I do think that if you use something like this, it doesn’t have to be FETI, right? But something that is truly neutral, truly around information gathering, it’s gonna make all this work that we’re involved in that’s really difficult. Just a little bit better.
Susan Stone: Oh, I love ending on that.
Kristina Supler: Optimistic. I was just gonna say, I think that’s, let’s end on a positive note. That’s great, Carrie. It was really, thanks Karen, a lot of fun to talk with you today and I’m so interested in your work and what you do. I think it’s wonderful. Thanks for joining us today. Thanks for listening to Real Talk with Susan and Christina. If you enjoyed this episode, please subscribe to our show so you never miss an episode. And leave us a review so other people can find the content we share here. You can follow us on Instagram, just search our handle at Stone Souper and for more resources, visit us online at studentdefense.kjk.com. Thank you so much for being a part of our Real Talk community. We’ll see you next time.