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SEARCH INVESTIGATOR TIPS The Hillen Credibility Factors
Mar - April 2019 (click here for normal version)
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Several government agencies use the Hillen Credibility Factors to help their investigators and decision makers assess the veracity and credibility of a subject’s statement, particularly in instances where there is one person’s word against another’s and there is no independent corroborating evidence. These Hillen credibility factors come from a decision of the Merit Systems Protection Board in 1987 from their decision on the case: Hillen v. Dept. of the Army, 35 MSPR 453 (1987). From the opinion*:
To resolve credibility issues, an administrative judge must first identify the factual questions in dispute; second, summarize all of the evidence on each disputed question of fact; third, state which version he or she believes; and, fourth, explain in detail why the chosen version was more credible than the other version or versions of the event. Numerous factors, which will be considered in more detail below, must be considered in making and explaining a credibility determination. These include: (1) The witness's opportunity and capacity to observe the event or act in question; (2) the witness's character; (3) any prior inconsistent statement by the witness; (4) a witness's bias, or lack of bias; (5) the contradiction of the witness's version of events by other evidence or its consistency with other evidence; (6) the inherent improbability of the witness's version of events; and (7) the witness's demeanor.
The Hillen case involved allegations from five female employees at the command that a Senior Executive Service official of the Military Traffic Management Command (MTMC) sexually harassed them at work.
Research has demonstrated that brain functions and memory of victims of trauma, such as a sexual assault, are significantly affected by the event, and may not follow the “traditional” indications of credibility assessments. For example, oftentimes trauma victims do not remember events in a linear, chronological order or remember many of the “secondary” details. Their memories are focused on those details of things that presented the most significant threat to their well being at the time of the incident – such as the weapon the perpetrator was holding versus the color of the vehicle he was driving. Consequently, the criteria as described above should be used with caution when applied to victims of trauma. See the January/February 2019 Investigator Tip which discusses the Forensic Experiential Trauma Interview in some detail.
* Please note that case citations in the opinion that support the various points can be found in the full decision at https://1.next.westlaw.com/Link/Document/FullText?findType=Y&serNum=1987151913&pubNum=0000909&originatingDoc=I9f064f2c549611db8ac4e022126eafc3&refType=CA&originationContext=document&transitionType=DocumentItem&contextData=(sc.DocLink)
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