Please Make a Mess of Your Bible
by J Warner Wallace
I’ve examined many claims about the past; most of them were criminal. At our agency, we’ve got a room full of binders that contain the details of every homicide our department has ever worked. Our homicide vault holds the files of all our solved and unsolved murders. My dad’s old cases are in this room, along with the cases that I’ve solved over the years. Someday my son may also have some of his cases on the shelves along with those of his father and grandfather. The first step in examining an unsolved case from the past is to pull out its binder and make a copy. I copy the contents because the next thing I am about to do is going to be ugly. I’m about to make a mess of the case files and documents. I want to encourage you to do something similar when examining the contents of the most important case in history; I want you to make a mess of your Bible.
When I examine a case from the past, I begin by parsing through every word from the original file. I read the case from cover to cover in the sequence of events as they occurred. I have a set of colored markers at my disposal and I use these markers to circle, underline, and highlight important areas of concern or evidential value. By the time I’m done, it’s clear that an investigator has been going through the file. It’s a colorful mess. I examine a few distinct areas and try to understand the connected nature of all the evidence. Here are just a few of the things that are important to me:
I highlight those items that are described in the original documents that ought to be recoverable as pieces of evidence. This helps me to form an early list of what might be important at trial.
I highlight events or aspects of the case that I should be able to confirm with some piece of evidence that wasn’t available at the time and isn’t presently part of the case.
I highlight statements from witnesses that parallel one another in order to examine any apparent contradictions or better understand the symbiotic relationships between eyewitness accounts.
There are many other issues (especially related to the statements and activities of the suspect) that I examine as I brutalize the case files, but these are three areas that are particularly important to me. By the time I’m done, every margin of the case documents, every available space in the reports, has been filled with some notation for later reference…
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