The over use of passive voice in a statement is a strong indicator of deception. In the passive voice, the subject of the sentence is neither a do-er or a be-er, but is acted upon by some other agent or by something unnamed. The key element is that passive voice allows the speaker or writer to withhold who is doing the action, which could be vital information. The following is a statement from Robert Kardashian in a deposition for the OJ Simpson murder trial,
“On June 13, 1994, I learned that Nicole Brown-Simpson had been killed. Upon learning this information, I drove to O.J. Simpson’s house on Rockingham in Los Angeles, California. When I arrived there I parked my car and attempted to enter the residential property on foot. However, uniformed police would not permit me onto Mr. Simpson’s property.
I learned that O.J. Simpson was not there but would be arriving soon. I waited outside the residential property for some period of time. I then saw O.J. Simpson, accompanied by Leroy “Skip” Taft, Esq., and Cathy Randa, arrive in a car at the Simpson residence. The car stopped outside the property. O.J. Simpson got out of the car and entered the residential property. Cathy Randa then left the car and took a Louis Vuitton garment bag from the car. She greeted me with a hug. I took the bag from Ms. Randa. I attempted, then, to enter the Rockingham property, but was again stopped by uniformed Los Angeles Police officers. I asked whether the police officers would take the bag onto the property and was told that they would not. I, then , put the bag in my car and left.
The bag remained in my trunk until the next morning when I moved the bag from the trunk of one car to the trunk of another car. I moved the bag because I was driving the other car and I wanted to have the bag with me to return it to Mr. Simpson. The next morning, June 14, 1994, I returned to the residence at Rockingham. I took the Louis Vuitton garment bag into the house and left it there. At no time did I open the bag and examine, alter or in any way observe the contents.
Later, I left Rockingham with Mr. Simpson. Mr. Simpson took several bags with him when he left, including the Louis Vuitton garment bag. The bags were placed in my car.
Mr. Simpson and I, later that day, went to the Los Angeles International Airport, American Airlines terminal, where we picked up Mr. Simpson’s golf bag at the baggage area. The golf bag was placed in my car.
We later went to my residence. At that time, the golf bag was placed in my garage and the Louis Vuitton bag was taken into my house. The golf bag remained in my garage until taken from the property by Judge Delbert Wong in 1995. I did not remove the contents of the golf bag or in any way alter the contents of that bag.
With respect to the Louis Vuitton bag, it remained in my residence until several weeks later when it was taken out of the residence by Cathy Randa. The Louis Vuitton bag was in my residence and the golf bag was in my garage at the time my house was searched by many police officers on June 17, 1994, the day of O.J. Simpson’s arrest. To my knowledge, law enforcement officers were aware of the Louis Vuitton bag and the golf bag at that time.
At no time did I open the Louis Vuitton bag, and I did not remove or in any way interfere with or alter the contents of the bag at any time.”
Did you spot all of the passive voice instances? Here they are:
–I learned that Nicole Brown-Simpson had been killed
-The bags were placed in my car.
-The golf bag was placed in my car.
-At that time, the golf bag was placed in my garage and the Louis Vuitton bag was taken into my house.
-With respect to the Louis Vuitton bag, it remained in my residence until several weeks later when it was taken out of the residence by Cathy Randa.
With the exception of the last sentence, where Kardashian assigns the action to Cathy Randa, we do not know who committed any of the other actions during the story. I have done a full analysis of this statement. There are many indicators that Kardashian withheld information. A big part of my analysis was Kardashian’s over use of passive voice.
Remember, if someone is telling you a story and using passive voice, then they are omitting information you may need.