I’m getting really tired of hearing about how Roger Clemens’s demeanor, word choice, or tone indicate that he is clearly innocent or guilty (mostly I’m hearing the latter). Here is what experts think of Clemens’s body language.
From his parched, pursed lips to the jut of his shoulders, Roger Clemens was holding something back, three body-language analysts who watched him over the past two days said Monday.
“There’s more to the story,” said Janine Driver, a body-language consultant who trains law enforcement officers in truth detection. “There are several probing points that lead me to believe that he’s not going to be completely truthful.”
Since the release of the Mitchell report last month, Clemens and his lawyer have issued a series of increasingly angry denials, rebutting claims by his former personal trainer, Brian McNamee, that Clemens took steroids. But it was Clemens’s two recent television appearances — a “60 Minutes” interview Sunday, and a news conference Monday — that provided material to truth-detection analysts like Driver, who make a living parsing the slightest grimaces, shrugs and words for signs of subterfuge.
In the “60 Minutes” interview, for example, the analysts noticed that Clemens swallowed hard, looked down, and licked and pursed his lips when answering questions — all signs, they said, that he might not have been telling the truth. “That’s indicative of deception, that’s indicative of stress,” said Joe Navarro, a retired F.B.I. agent who trains intelligence officers and employees for banks and insurance companies. Navarro has also written a book about how to tell whether someone is bluffing in poker.
But, here is my favorite part.
Nevertheless, Navarro warned against concluding that Clemens was lying. Even the most skilled body-language experts are right in only about half of all cases, he said, and investigators often study body language to decide when to dig deeper. It is not evidence that someone has committed wrongdoing; Clemens might have been showing stress from defending against potentially career-killing allegations. “He clearly shows signs of distress, but we don’t know why he’s being distressed,” Navarro said.[Empasis added]
The most-skilled experts get it right about half the time? It must be difficult to eke out a living when your competition is a coin. [In fairness to body language experts, I suspect that they are a little bit better than half-right.]
Bottom line: we don’t know whether it is Clemens or McNamee who is lying, and it is OK to say so. There is no separating equilibrium here in terms of their behavior. If you are telling the truth you should continue to insist that you are being truthful, if you are lying you should continue to insist that you are being truthful. While something one of the parties does may lead us to favor one side over the other, there is no meaningful information to interpret: it is all just noise.
The truth will probably come out one day, so let’s worry about it then.
Addendum: This certainly doesn’t help McNamee.
McNamee was having sex with the woman in the resort’s pool and didn’t stop when confronted by security, the documents say. Police were notified. When they arrived, they found McNamee had helped the woman out of the pool and get dressed, according to the documents. Groggy and incoherent, she was taken to the hospital, where the documents said she was found to have GHB, the “date-rape drug,” in her system.
The woman told detectives she could not remember details of the encounter in the pool. She said she did not give McNamee permission to have sex with her, and witnesses told detectives they had heard her saying “no” during the encounter, according to the documents.
Detectives later recovered some of her jewelry, an empty beer can and a water bottle containing GHB at the side of the pool.
Police interviewed McNamee hours later, according to the documents, and he denied having sex with the woman or knowing Yankees batting practice pitcher, Charles Wonsowicz, who was also in the pool. McNamee refused to submit a saliva sample for DNA analysis, the documents said.