Sunday, September 20, 2009

"Lie to Me"

Stunned and speechless. That's how I felt when Catherine Burke told WESH Reporter Dave McDaniel that victims of domestic violence should keep their abuse a secret. CourtWatch commends WESH for seeking comments from Carol Wick of Harbor House in order to balance the dangerous message that Mrs. Burke expressed. Because it is only when domestic violence is brought to light that abusers and victims can get the help they need to break the cycle of abuse. Far too many victims fail to seek help with law enforcement and the courts because they fear they will not be protected from their abuser. Judge Marlene Alva is, in our opinion, doing a superb job of making Mrs. Burke's safety a priority. But this case highlights the not uncommon situation that prosecutors of domestic violence face daily - that of a recanting victim.

If you've ever watched "Lie to Me" on Fox, you'll be familiar with the practice of deception detection by comparing our microfacial expressions and body language with what we actually say. Susan Constantine is a body language expert here in Central Florida. I asked her to review the Burke interviews.

Regarding Catherine's interview on WESH, Ms. Constantine provided the following assessment:
  • Mrs. Burke shows sadness in all regions of the face. The forehead shows distress, her eyebrow angles up in the inner corners, and down on the sides. The mouth's outer corners are slightly turned down in sadness. It is my opinion she is dealing with sadness and anxiety. Anxiety is shown in the shifting of the eyes back and forth from side to side, rapidly. She is vulnerable, lonely, and insecure. What I don't see is anger. She warns women "not to" report domestic violence because the system is prohibiting her from having contact with her husband. She does not show anger with the system or the judge. If she were angry, her voice, and facial expressions would have been presented "as anger" (horizontal tight lips and eyelids would have narrowed with lower lid tightened). Therefore, her words and body language were incongruent. She is a target for repeat violence because she does not see what Shannon did as domestic violence.  [emphasis mine]  The battered wife syndrome causes one to soften the blow with soft words and voice to ward off the intruder (being the press) and, at the same time, she is manipulating the public opinion with her soft tone to protect her husband.
  • She says she was not abused, then leans forward with an affirmative while nodding her head yes. This is an emblem. An emblem is a body movement gesture that has a universal meaning in the US. When she says she was not abused, she nods her head yes when it should have shook no. She was not confident that she convinced the reporter because she leans in to convince the reporter with an affirmative indicating she was not fearful.
  • She stated "IF (meaning she was) I was abused, and I was not, but IF (meaning she was) I was" (at this time the corners of mouth went down in sadness). She does not believe her own story.
Here's FOX's version of Catherine's interview.

Regarding Shannon's FOX35 interview with Amy Kaufeldt:
  • His 3 corner leg stance is one of confidence. His left arm is stretched over the sofa in the direction of the reporter (this is a non-verbal hug of wanting approval). His body language betrays him with his right hand. He leaves his right hand placed near his groin, and is not visibly out front in an open body posture. The right hand is hidden as if he got his hand caught in the cookie jar (a "hiding something back" gesture).
  • Shannon shoulder shrugs often. This is an emblem too. If he shrugged at the same time as saying "I don't know" this would have been believable although, he shrugs when his words are not consistent with his words "deceptive." He has a lot of anxiety.
  • The most telling is when he was asked if he was dangerous. He answers a question with a question. "Have you ever known me to be dangerous?" This is a rhetorical devise of "deception." He should have said "no."  He does not take ownership for his actions [emphasis mine] and uses another rhetorical device called "petty fogging" when he says this. One side corner of his mouth goes unilateral.  This is "contempt" (moral superiority and duping delight gesture - this happens when he thinks he has pulled one over on you). The facial gesture appears and then he used a "petty fogging" rhetorical device again by diverting the audience away from the issues at hand to present himself in a positive light when shifting to telling the audience he fixed a clock at the park with his child.
  • In my opinion, the judge made a good decision to keep them separated until they go through more counseling.
Susan, I second that opinion.


  1. I'm surprised that Mr. Burke's attorneys would allow him to speak to the press. It never seems to go well, and he comes across as a person desperately in need of attention. It would seem to me that he and his wife would be best served by working on their issues privately, rather than seeking out or interacting with media.

  2. I find this site to be amusing. Burke hasn't been charged with a domestic violancr charge for a reason. You ACTUALLY brought in a "body language expert"? That is hysterical. There is a reason that "Body Language" as a science/criminology is not respected. There is no meritorious value in it whatsoever and just like "lie detectors" is NOT admisable in court. You should be ashamed at how you use this "junk science" to scare your readers and perpetuate your own existence. Only the Burkes know what happened in their bedroom that night. You do not. There must be a reason that Mr Burke's charge of "aggravated domestic violence with a deadly weapon" was REDUCED to "discharging a firearm in a dwelling". Wouldn't you agree? Perhaps it is because Burke wasn't attempting to nor intended to ever harm his wife. Mrs. Burke may appear "sad and anxious" because she can't be with the man she loves because of people like YOU. The guy came home drunk, handled a loaded gun & it went off. Unbelievably stupid! He was an idiot for sure. I find it patheitic that you people feel the need to latch on to this story so tightly simply because Burke is a celebrity. Get over yourselves! You are doing a HUGE disservice to REAL victims of domestic violence here in our community. It is a SLAP IN THE FACE to every poor beaten woman in Central Florida! Go hitch your wagon to a real victim, someone who needs your help!

  3. For example, you never posted ANYTHING about the Inspector General's investigation into Harbor House did you? Appearantly Carol Wick ORDERED one of her employees to NOT call the abuse hotline to report a child injured at her facility. Then she went on to lie to her employees and tell them that SHE was the CEO and THE ONLY ONE ALLOWED TO CALL THE HOTLINE. She certainly wouldn't want to put her nifty 75k/yr salary at risk with some pesky abuse charges now, would she?

    Read it for yourselves.
    Laura, please, please please stop with the "drive-by papparazi" style reporting. There are perhaps thousands of women who deserve your attention right here in Orlando. Don't lower yourself or your blog to the level of "TMZ" or "Access Hollywood". Unless of course all you are trying to do is raise money and not awareness.


  5. Don't forget alcohol-free!

  6. Speaking as a woman who has been a victim of repeated violence at the hand of my husband, I agree with "Anon.". It seems a little lopsided to spend so much time and energy on this case just because the guy was a popular disc jockey. I was in court in Seminole County, I needed help and protection but the Courtwatcher wasn't in my hearings nor did they write about my husbands body language. It seems they, like all the media outlets, are simply interested in ratings and web hits. This organization makes it appear as though this is the only case of abuse in the state. It is not. It doesn't even seem to be a domestic violence case either.

  7. Brenda,
    CourtWatch has monitored thousands of hearings in Orange and Seminole Counties over the past two years. Any victim can request a volunteer to be present for their injunction or criminal case by sending us an email or calling us. Unfortunately, we don't have enough volunteers to be in every courtroom for every hearing. But if we've been requested, we do everything we can to be present.

    If you review the cases we've blogged about, you'll see that most of them are of the "non-media interest" variety. This case provides several opportunities to educate the public about the dynamics of domestic violence, particularly its correlation with animal abuse.

    Finally, anytime someone shoots their spouse's pet during an argument, it is domestic violence. The shooter is trying to control their victim by threatening something or someone that is important to their victim. Tragically, it is often a child. The fact that Mrs. Burke was accidentally shot does not negate the fact that her husband pulled the trigger in her presence. He was obviously attempting to intimidate her.

    Her petition for injunction may be viewed at

  8. Oh boy...

    have we learned nothing...

    some of used to beg and plead for assistance, but it was just a family matter, we could work it out at home, I belonged to him... animals were just animals... accidents happened all the time... death was just a part of life...

    He was an important figure too...

    I am so glad this judge gets it...
    change is good.

  9. I am so glad I found your blog Laura. I spoke to you on referral from a mutual friend/professor - you might or might not recall.

    I find it curious that one of the Anonymous posters discusses your alleged use of a "junk science" then quotes from the biggest woman hater blog out there. Interesting is the first fact that this poster speaks of junk science. The blog he mentions utilizes "junk science" in nearly every post. They harp on PAS constantly on that blog and many other "male-oriented" blogs. These "men" use PAS as another tool to abuse the victims even further.

    PAS is JUNK SCIENCE. The biggest and most harnful junk science out there today. This junk science rips children away from protective mothers (and yes it is nearly always mothers who have been alleged to commit PAS - junk science du jour) and places them in the custody of abusers.

    I know this because I myself have been threatened with jail, I have been threatened with the loss of my child. All because my abusive ex wants to continue to control and dominate me.

    I want that control to stop! But how do I make it stop when the courts will not stop him? How do I get the endless contacts where my abusive ex continues to harrass and intimidate not just me but our child? How do I get the endless interrogations of our child as to the who's, what's, where's, why's and how's of OUR (hers and mine) lives together to stop?

    How do I protect her and myself? How do I make it stop? How do I get the legal profession to see abuse for abuse?

    I want it to stop. But the courts won't help.