Signatures, Ballots and Writing Analysis


Compare the two ransom notes. The note on the left is a copy of the kidnap note where Manny Strewl was accepted as the go-between or “Bag man.” The one on the right was dictated to Strewl by police for comparison. Do you think the same person wrote them?

Script handwriting is called “habitual.” It’s done without conscious thought. To properly analyze handwriting, it must be “freehand” which means no guides such as lined paper.

The note on the left was received by Dan O’Connell. The one on the right was dictated to Manny Strewl while a “guest” of the police (he was not under arrest at the time).  Do you think they were written by the same person?

Experts analyzed the letter spacing in the first note, the spellings, the margins, and sentence length. The police dictated the note on the right to Strewl. They told him where to begin on the paper, start and stop sentences, and the misspellings.  There were also two cops looking over his shoulder at the time, which can make people nervous. Therefore the dictated note was NOT free handwriting. In addition, since the kidnappers requested the return of all ransom notes the police could only work from photostats and not the originals.  The defense tore a hole in the prosecution’s handwriting analysis. Also, photostats (forerunner of the photocopier) or copies can be faked so working from them is NOT highly reliable.

Recall on your driver’s license and on a voting ballot there is often a “line” to sign on and only a limited amount of space to enter your signature. These issues could easily make two signatures from the same person look different.

So do you think Manny Strewl wrote the original note? Did you see the clue that told police they were looking in the “right place” for a suspect?