Making a Murderer: Mike Halbach talks to the media; what is he hiding?

Part 1, Episode 3. Approximately 8 minutes into the episode, or 55 minutes in from the end.


Mike Halbach–Body Language & Nonverbal Communication

Mike Halbach, Teresa Halbach's brother, displays some odd behaviours throughout the series. What is he hiding? Is he involved, somehow, in the cover-up? Or is it something more sinister than that?

In this clip, Halbach displays three behaviours that indicate something is amiss–a single shoulder shrug, a tongue jut and hidden hands. Let’s look at each of those separately.


Shoulder Shrugs

One-Sided and Full Shoulder Shrugs

I've written about the one-sided shoulder shrug before when we analysed Trump's nonverbal behaviour. In short, its meaning is a lack of confidence in the words we speak. Get ready for many examples of this single shoulder shrug in this blog, because the Making a Murderer TV show was bursting with them. These were mainly from the side of the prosecution–the side against Steven Avery and Brendan Dassey.

The one-sided shoulder shrug signals that the speaker is not confident in their own words. The shrug takes place as the words are being spoken, or at the end of the sentence. In contrast, a full shoulder shrug (both shoulders) indicates the speaker is confident in their words. For example, saying, “I don’t know”, with a single shoulder shrug, means there’s more to it, and the speaker is potentially withholding information. Saying the same line with a full shoulder shrug indicates the speaker really doesn’t know. It can be subtle or pronounced.

Do not take this as a lying cue per se, it’s merely an indicator of lack of confidence in spoken words. How significant it is, relies entirely on the words spoken.

Remember these have opposite meanings:

One sided shoulder shrug–not confident in words.
Full shoulder shrug–confident in words.

In terms of clues to deception, we are interested in the one-sided shoulder shrug, because we are looking for misalignment between verbal and nonverbal communication.

Halbach Speaks to the Media

"You know, he's [Avery] denying this. He certainly has to blame it on someone else, but um–I mean–he, he chooses the Manitowoc County Police. I don't believe that one bit. Um–all the evidence I know about, and that evidence that other representatives presented today, obviously, are leading to him."

Let’s break that down and add some nonverbal behaviour analysis.

"You know, he's denying this. He certainly has to blame it on someone else, but um–

Halbach shrugs both shoulders.

“I mean–

This is a false start, where he changes his direction of speech. People often do this when they aren’t prepared or when they are being deceptive.

“he, he chooses–

Halbach shrugs one shoulder (red flag)–not confident in his statement.

“the Manitowoc County Police. I don't believe that one bit.

Full shoulder shrug. 

“Um–all the evidence I know about

Single shoulder shrug (red flag)–not confident in his statement.

“and that evidence that other representatives presented today, obviously, are leading to him."

Then we see what looks like another single shoulder shrug. However, it seems more like him raising his arm to gesture, so I’m ignoring this one.

Let's isolate that last part. He says it, but doesn't believe it:

"All the evidence I know about, and that evidence that all the references presented today, obviously, are leaning to him." 

Words and body language are misaligned. Here lies a red flag. This is an area in which to investigate further. 


Tongue Jut

Just after saying, "I don't believe that one bit. Um...", Halbach juts his tongue out.

We jut out our tongue when either, we feel like we've got away with something, we’ve just been caught, or we’ve made a mistake.

The tongue quickly juts out and then retracts. This subtle cue can easily be confused with lip licking. Lip licking is a self-soothing or pacifying, behaviour in which we try to bring comfort to ourselves by licking our lips. Like with other self-soothing gestures, lip licking increases with stress.


Hidden Hands

There's one more interesting cue here that I'd like to point out.

Note that for most of the duration of this snippet, Mike Halbach has his hands behind his back. Our hands indicate trust, and when can't see someone's hands, we perceive them as being deceitful and untrustworthy. Generally, when people are upfront and honest about something, they usually have their hands on display with palms open. Hands hidden behind the back, nonverbally says, 'leave me alone' or 'don't come near me'.


This is just one small interaction, yet several behaviours are present, which make us question Halbach’s honesty. We’ll revisit Halbach in another post and try to discover why he isn't honest.