Making A Murderer, Chapter 1, Episode 1: Reesa Evans Body Language Analysis

Chapter 1 / Episode 1 / Steven’s Appointed Lawyer

Reminder–Purpose of Blog

When I write, for both this blog and my general body language blog, I aim to empower people to read and understand body language, so that they can spot the same behaviours within their daily lives and present the best versions of their self to others. If I only look at deceptive behaviours, I miss many important behaviours. It’s entertaining to read about interesting ‘characters’ and their deceptive behaviours, but we can learn a lot from all characters.

Reesa Evans, Steven’s Appointed Lawyer (1985)

Reesa Evans

“This was one of the biggest miscarriages of justice I ever saw in twenty years of criminal defence work and thousands of cases. Manitowoc County is working-class farmers. And the Avery family, they weren’t that. They dealt in junk. They had a salvage yard. They lived on Avery Road, I mean they had their own road and stuff. They didn’t dress like everybody else; they didn’t have education like other people; they weren’t involved in all the community activities. I don’t think it ever crossed their mind that they should try to fit into the community. They fit into the community that they had built, and that was enough.”

Self-Soothing Behaviours

Reesa self-soothes as she talks, her hands gently rubbing against each other, extending out towards her wrists. She then clasps her hands together with fingers firmly interlocked; this is another indicator of distress and discomfort.

Like with other nonverbal gestures, the slightest feeling of emotion is conveyed through our body, facial expression or voice. Most people are rarely consciously aware of the subtle emotions they experience, but this can be improved with practise. When you learn to observe your own behaviours, you start to notice that subtle gestures are beautifully synchronised with your thoughts.

To give you an example of this, my husband often points out the behaviour of my toes. Like the rest of our body, the toes respond to our emotional state. Most of the time, I'm not consciously aware of my toe behaviour, so Lee taps on them as they start to curl, drawing my attention to them as we sit watching television.

The slightest bit of negativity and sure enough my toes are curling. It’s not always related to what we’re watching. When Lee draws attention to them, I shift my attention to my thoughts, often realising my attention had deviated from the TV show to something else that’s causing concern. Without a doubt, there are negative thoughts and emotion present, causing my toes to respond.

I want to make clear that our behaviour–the language of our body–responds to emotion no matter how subtle it is. We don’t necessarily have to be experiencing a deep emotion.

Interlocked Fingers and Discomfort

There are very subtle differences in our gestures, depending on the depth of the emotion. For example, Reesa’s fingers are loosely interlocked with relaxed fingers, showing some degree of discomfort. If her discomfort levels were elevated further, we’d expect to see interlocked fingers that are tense and straight.

Reesa flits between discomfort gestures (soothing and interlocked fingers) to use purposeful hand gestures to describe or emphasise her words visually. If she were feeling deep discomfort, we would most likely see her forego purposeful hand gestures. Instead, she'd probably keep her hands and fingers tightly interlocked or continue to self-soothe.

We can establish from what we observe that Reesa is only feeling low levels of stress or discomfort. And we can assume that this stems from recalling and describing something that she views as unfavourable, an injustice that she feels passionate about, or the fact that she is being filmed.

Nonverbal cues are reliable. They are the language of emotions and can be incredibly insightful once we understand them. But what nonverbal cues can’t do is tell us why an emotion is present. We can assume, but we can never take our assumptions as truth. It’s up to us, as observers of emotion, to change our own behaviour, responding accordingly to what we see. Only then can we figure out why an emotion is present.

If we don’t observe or we chose to ignore our observations, we won’t get any further.

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