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Investigation Hypotheticals: Handwriting and Acronyms

Buckner provides investigation best practices using hypotheticals derived from the firm’s investigations conducted for its sports, education and corporate clients:

FACT PATTERN: John Dough, an attorney, has been retained by ACME University to conduct an internal investigation of alleged violations of NCAA legislation and university policies. During the evidence collection phase, Dough discovers a handwritten letter, which provides unique clues to who may have been involved in the alleged violation and the possible purpose behind the illicit action. The handwriting is unfamiliar to Dough, as well as Dough’s university contacts. The letter also contained several acronyms. What is one method Dough can use to obtain information on the handwriting and acronyms?

ANSWER: One method Dough can use to collect useful information is the investigation interview. Specifically, Dough can show selected interview subjects the letter (or, if it is important not to show the full contents of the document for investigative integrity purposes, excerpts of the letter) and request the individual if he/she recognizes the handwriting. If the subject recognizes the handwriting, then the person could possibly identify either: (a) the author; or (b) the occasion when or where the subject first saw the handwriting. Further, Dough could ask selected interview subjects to provide any information or background on acronyms from the letter. [Note: If it is important not to show the full contents of the document for investigative integrity purposes, then Dough could write the acronym on a blank sheet of paper or orally communicate it in a question.]