Investigation underway in Navajo Nation Toxic Spill

Last month, the Navajo Nation demanded the federal government pay $162 million to cover damages caused by the Gold King Mine spill. Citing the Federal Tort Claims Act, the nation said the toxic spill turned the San Juan River sickly orange color and continues to disrupt ranchers and farmers in the Native American nation. The toxic spill is believed to contain heavy metals, including arsenic, mercury and lead.

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Private investigators are often called upon in these cases to document the damages via extensive witness interviews as well as determine causation. Environmental cases are massive undertakings, with fact-gathering requiring the identification of witnesses at multiple properties over the course of decades. The spill is just the latest affront to the burgeoning Native American environmental movement.

“The spill disrupted the Navajo Nation’s economy and damaged the people and environment in numerous ways,” the nation said in the claim letter. “It fundamentally altered economic, cultural, ceremonial and spiritual practices that support the Navajo way of life.”

The EPA allegedly had documented signs of trouble for many years, but did nothing to prevent the blowout.

Use of lies and deception during interrogations

The Reid Interview folks offer some thoughts on using deception during interrogations. The article cites case law such as Frazier v. Cupp, 394 U.S. 731 (1969) (which holds the use of deception must be considered within the totality of circumstances when deciding the admissibility of a confession) and Cayward v. Fl., 552 So 2nd 971 (1989) (which compares and contrasts manufacturing evidence and false verbal assertions).

Some recent research of how innocent people may confess to crimes they did not commit makes this an area worth close monitoring, and points to the problems of allowing deceptive practices to be used in an interview of a witness or suspect.

Setting witnesses at ease: one question to avoid

A former cop turned PI introduced himself to a witness during an interview. Case involved a contract dispute in the business session in Suffolk Superior Court. Within 10 second of the introduction, he said: “I’ve been doing this for a while so let’s start from the top: what is your Social Security Number?”

Asking someone a question like that does not make them feel warm and secure. A question like that makes people shut down. It suggests that the questioner is a clueless conversationalist or a creepy stalker. Not sure when the trend began for opening with such questions (“Nice to meet you. How big is your pancreas?&rdquoWinking. But stop it. Now.