Thomas J. Luongo
Certified Criminal Defense Investigator
A Defense Investigator fulfills one of the most
important roles on the defense team.
The investigatorís job is to verify and validate all that has
been done by the investigating police department.
With that in mind, the investigator has to have accumulated some
training or experience which would allow him or her to recognize where
any errors or omissions have occurred or to indicate that all proper
procedures were adhered to during the investigation.
Know what the standards are!
The investigator has to talk to each witness and to review and
verify all evidence, physical, verbal, video, etc., that will be used by
addition, the Defense Investigator has to interview all witnesses
identified by the defense team. This
would include all independent witnesses located along the track of the
investigation. Witnesses no
one may knew existed or thought to talk to previously.
The Defense Investigator reviews all the accumulated statements
with the defense team to determine its usefulness and to determine
whether it must be further refined or defined.
It may be up to the investigator to determine whether a written
statement should be taken, a tape-recorded statement, a video taped
statement, etc., at the time of the interview.
Defense Investigator has to have enough self-confidence to act
independently when conducting investigatory duties and be able to
interpret pertinent statutes or policies, as the need arises.
Not all investigators have a specific skill or expertise, but
many experienced investigators have developed highly talented detection
skills which allow that person to review physical evidence and
scientific reports to determine whether what is reported is consistent,
accurate, and truthful. It
is not unusual for the investigator to detect something unusual in a
report i.e. firearms evidence in which the prosecution has identified a
specific type of weapon was used and determine there is something
peculiar with the report. The
investigator would verify with the manufactures the specific
identification items mentioned in the prosecutorís report to confirm
what has been reported is accurate.
Donít be surprised to learn that what has been reported as fact
on one hand is not actuality when checked.
investigatorís job experience is usually all encompassing.
Thereís some knowledge about serums and blood stains, human
anatomy, artistry and architecture for crime scene reconstruction,
photography and how to set up the shot, how to conduct research and
locate various governmental records, the art of conducting an interview,
some idea of firearms and how they work, how to organize for those large
scale cases, the basics of arson investigation, the basics of sexual
assault investigations, the basics of crimes of violence against people,
i.e. robbery, murder, felony assault, etc.; and a whole host of other
areas that are used on a daily basis.
the investigator gains experience that person then knows where to look
for the answers. Do we
check the post office for a new address or the prison to see if the
person being sought is locked up. Was
the witness one of our own clients or could the witness be on probation
and required to report to someone.
Has the investigator developed the networking capability to
contact investigators in other states to assist in locating a witness.
todayís new technology an investigator must have some knowledge of
computers and what benefits they bring to the job.
Now an investigator can use mechanical gathering to determine
peopleís financial worth, conduct skip trace investigations, locate
research materials on any given subject, and a whole range of new
subject areas around the world.
often falls to a Defense Investigator to locate expert witnesses who
will play a part in one of their cases.
The investigator may also be responsible for the transfer of
evidence to that expert for testing or verification of prior tests. It would not be unusual to find the investigator arranging
access to evidence held in the possession of the Court or prosecution
for examination. Or to
arrange for the collection of evidence submitted by the client which
will be tested or examined by an expert witness.
planning that is conducted in the office for administrative purposes
should always include an investigator as a representative. Why? The
information and statistical gathering is just as important to the
investigator staff. Information
stored in the officeís computer could be of vital use to an
investigator trying to track a client or another witness.
Further, disposition information generated would be of interest
for investigator staffing purposes.
with the culmination of all of this work, there are still many occasions
an investigator must take the witness stand and testify. The job of testifying is almost an art form.
You stick to the facts, answer yes or no, be respectful, and
donít let yourself be goaded into an argument to lose your temper.
Always be sure, double check anything you would have to testify
to, document calls steps, have physical evidence ready, never let them
catch you napping. Use each experience as a teaching experience and try to have
other junior staff members present so that they can observe what happens
in the courtroom and will be prepared when their turn comes.
a Defense Investigator acts as a mentor.
A mentor not only to other staff investigators and interns, but
to staff attorneys, paralegals, sentencing specialists, clericals, etc.
All phases of a defense office interact with each other and has
to understand the duties and roles of one another.
It is the only way to build an effective defense team.
all of this, a Defense Investigator must keep perspective, remain
objective and upbeat, keep a sense of humor, and develop a method to
deal with the stress of deadlines, the types of cases handled, the
continual dealing with human misery, lack of recognition, or even a
small thank you for caring enough to do a difficult job under trying
conditions. Feedback is
important, both pro and con, we learn from what we do right and what we
do wrong. It fuels the
creativity in a human being and the desire to learn as much as possible,
to be as good as possible, to present the best case forward possible,
and not feeling that anything was missed or overlooked.
Thomas J. Luongo retired as the Chief Investigator
for the Rhode Island Public Defenderís Office and is a former
president of the National Defender Investigator Association.
Mr. Luongo serves on the Advisory Board of the CDITC and is
responsible for Award & Commendations.
He is the first recipient of the prestigious CDITC
Investigator/Philosopher Award. Mr.
Luongo is currently a licensed private investigator in charge of
criminal investigations in Providence, Rhode Island for Case In Point
Investigations of New England.