CrimeWhy Are Cops around the World Using This Outlandish Mind-Reading Tool?

By Ken Armstrong and Christian Sheckler

Published 3 February 2020

The creator of Scientific Content Analysis, or SCAN, says the tool can identify deception. Law enforcement has used his method for decades, even though there’s no reliable science behind it. Even the CIA and FBI have bought in.

The police gave Ricky Joyner a pen and a nine-page questionnaire.

Write what you did, beginning to end, on the day Sandra Hernandez disappeared, one question asked.

“Went ot work …,” Joyner wrote, transposing the letters in “to.” “Went home toke shower got dress pick Sandra up … went out to eat … went the movies … toke Sandra home … stop at [bar] for little while, then spent the night with a grilfriend.”

“Did you cause Sandra to become missing?” another question asked.

“No,” Joyner wrote.

“How do you feel now that you have completed this form?”

“Yes,” Joyner wrote, that one word the entirety of his answer.

When Hernandez went missing in Elkhart, Indiana, in March of 1992, the police suspected Joyner might be responsible. But Joyner, who worked with Hernandez at a door-manufacturing company, denied having anything to do with her disappearance.

To assess Joyner’s credibility, Elkhart police turned to a tool — well known to many police departments, little known to the public — called Scientific Content Analysis, or SCAN for short.

A detective, trained in SCAN, reviewed Joyner’s written answers. He also examined the answers of a second suspect who filled out the same questionnaire. After conducting his analysis, the detective typed up a two-page report. The second suspect’s responses were “truthful,” the detective concluded. Joyner’s, he determined, were “deceptive.”

He noted that while summarizing the day Hernandez disappeared, Joyner had not used the word “I,” writing, for example, “went home,” not, “I went home.” “That in itself is a signal of deception,” the detective wrote. Instead of writing “my girlfriend,” Joyner had written “a girlfriend.” What’s more, the detective wrote, Joyner’s handwriting was larger and more spread out in the answer’s last two lines than in the previous seven.

When asked why the police should believe his answers, Joyner had written, “I have nothing to hide.”

“This is not the same as stating I did not lie,” the detective wrote.

When Hernandez was later found dead, Joyner was charged with, and convicted of, murder.