To hear private detectives tell it, appearances, references, witnesses, and promises of reformed behavior can be deceiving. So some of them — like lawyers, doctors, educators, and military units — turn to handwriting analysis for psychological assessments when investigating someone.
The pressure applied by the writer, the slant of the letters, the look of crossed t's and dotted i's, the amount of space between words all create a unique profile, they say.
"Handwriting does not lie," said Ronald Rice, a forensic handwriting examiner and certified graphoanalyst with 36 years' experience.
Recognizing that handwriting analysis has supporters and skeptics, the Globe asked Rice to analyze the handwriting of Aaron Hernandez from two jailhouse notes posted online by TMZ that presumably were written by the former Patriots tight end.
Rice, owner and director of Checkmate Forensic Services, Inc., is qualified to examine handwriting for courts in seven states, including Massachusetts. He has done profiles of Timothy McVeigh and O.J. Simpson, and has been retained by companies for pre-employment screening.
Using Trait Theory, an approach to personality study that focuses on patterns of behavior and emotions and uses categories like introvert and extrovert, Rice provides information on a writer's emotional intensity, social tendencies, and hostility level in certain situations. Rice bases his analysis on his experience and a system developed by psychologists who examined and compared thousands of writing samples.
The traits he believes are reflected in this handwriting sample may make for a good fit with the Patriots on the field but may be less advantageous, even concerning, off the field.
"I would've told [Bill] Belichick this: You've got a good guy here," said Rice, who also consults for private detective Jay Groob and American Investigative Services. "Hernandez is not a problematic individual. He'll roll with the punches. He may get along with others, but basically he's a loner. He prefers to be able to come and go as he pleases.
"But when he's out on the field and when he's in the locker room, he'll be a team player. He's not going to blab about Patriots secrets. He's not going to be backstabbing any of the guys. He'll do what he's told because he's submissive."
Here is how he came to that determination:
■ Letter slant: Rice concluded that the slightly leftward slant of Hernandez's letters points toward an introvert who is "extremely self-protective" and suppresses his emotions. "He's not going to give you information just because you asked for it," said Rice. "He's too logical. He's going to ask, 'Why do you want to know this? What are you going to do with it? How can I trust you?' "
The presence of unslanted letters also indicates an ambivert. The combination of slightly left slanted and unslanted letters translates into someone who prefers one or two close friends and demands absolute loyalty from those friends. The ambivert part of Hernandez's personality means that, according to Rice, "he'll do what's in the best interest of everybody, as long as he doesn't get hurt." But, Rice added, "If he is provoked or experiences an unexpected, real or imagined, offense from a friend or family member, he may not be able to suppress his emotions."
■ Writing pressure: Rice determines pressure by the thickness of different letter strokes, and pressure indicates "how much gasoline someone has, how volatile he will be if he gets into a situation."
On a scale from 1 to 6, the pressure applied by Hernandez fell between 3 and 3.5, which rates as "average" or "moderate." McVeigh was a 3 and Simpson a 4. Rice noted that "most people involved with road rage or explosive, violent actions usually fall within the moderate range" and that the moderate range is "the normal range for almost everyone walking around today."
■ Word spacing: With relatively large spaces between his words, Hernandez scored high in "generosity." But in combination with other traits, his generosity is manipulative. "Mr. Hernandez uses his extreme generosity as a means of gaining approval," wrote Rice. "Basically, he uses generosity as a weapon to buy, intimidate and/or seduce his person of interest."
■ Letter formation: Hernandez also scored high in the "yielding/submissive" trait. This conclusion comes from the bottom portion of his lower-case "p," which does not swing out but remains perfectly vertical. This submissive tendency may have made Hernandez a good fit with Belichick and the Patriots.
When it comes to crossing t's, the crossbar appears very high in some words and very low in others. Rice said this indicates someone with fluctuating self-confidence. One moment he is "flying high" and the next he is having second thoughts about himself.
Also, the crossbar mostly falls to the right side of the stem, a sign of irritation. And in several instances, the lower-case "t" comes down hard on the notepad lines, which Rice said shows decisiveness.
Two other revealing letters, according to Rice, are the lower-case "a" and "o." In many instances, they are closed circles, indicating someone who is "secretive and can also be reticent." But both letters sometimes show small openings, which is common in people who are open and talkative.
Asked about the presence of both closed and open ovals, Rice said, "He can be congenial, good at small talk, but not talk about anything private. You do not go into his private world unless he allows you to."
Shira Springer can be reached at Shira.Springer@globe.com