We, the public, rely on law enforcement personnel to protect us, right?
OK, then, it’s a given that collective law enforcement should be afforded the tools necessary to adequately protect us: funding, training, weaponry, up-to-date technology, vehicles, legislative measures, etc.
However, there exists one aspect of the law enforcement process with which I am totally uncomfortable: the polygraph test, a.k.a. the “lie-detector” test.
Not only am I uncomfortable with it, but, apparently, Tennessee lawmakers, also, are uncomfortable with it, since it is “inadmissible” as evidence in court proceedings in the state of Tennessee.
The Sept. 9, 2002 issue of USA Today carried an article titled, “Telling the truth about lie detectors” (written by Dan Vergano).
A paragraph from that article shed some much-needed light on, what some might call, this rather “dark” area of the law:
“Polygraphs are perhaps the most controversial tool in law enforcement. Some states and federal court judges now accept lie-detector results, but many states ban them outright. A 1998 Supreme Court decision allowed such bans, but read in part, ‘There is simply no consensus that polygraph evidence is reliable. The scientific community and the state and federal courts are extremely polarized on the matter.’”
Jerry Ray, brother of James Earl Ray, had this to say about the polygraph: “I’ve taken five lie-detector tests in my lifetime. I lied on all five, and I passed all five.
“One of those five tests happened back in the early ’80s, on a popular television show called Lie Detector, hosted by famous criminal attorney F. Lee Bailey. The person who actually administered the test to me – on national television, now – was a man named Ed Galb, widely regarded as the best polygrapher in the business at the time.
“On that show, I was asked if I’d ever been involved in a bank robbery, and I answered ‘no,’ which was a lie. I’m not saying that I’m proud of having been involved in a bank job; I’m just saying I had been involved when they asked me the question on Lie Detector.
“At the end of the show, Bailey announced that I had passed the polygraph test.
“So much for the great F. Lee Bailey, and so much for the validity of the polygraph test.”
Of the 50 states in the United States, only 18 allow polygraph results in court. Further, as mentioned, Tennessee is not among those 18 states that allow polygraph results to be used as evidence in court proceedings.
Since the U.S. Supreme Court – arguably, a collection of our nation’s most brilliant legal minds – has taken the stance that the polygraph is unreliable and Tennessee lawmakers, of whom many are legends in their own minds, have obvious reservations regarding the polygraph, with it still being “inadmissible” as evidence in Tennessee, I am forced to ask a simple, though highly-important, question: Why would any well-intended, truth-seeking investigator or prosecutor even want to utilize the polygraph in compiling evidence, and building a case, against a suspect?
A possible answer is that the polygraph is nothing other than a strategical “scare tactic,” meant to corner immature and weak minds to the extent that he/she can be easily “prompted” and “led” by the ones asking the questions.
Personally, the only way I would submit to a polygraph test, of my own free will, is if I planned to “lie” on every single question, solely, for the purpose of staying out of trouble!
Why so? Well, since the U.S. Supreme Court has deemed the polygraph unreliable, common reasoning deduces polygraph results could show a polygraph testee was lying when, in fact, he or she was telling the truth.
Visa-versa – again, factoring in the variable of “unreliability” – that same polygraph test could show the polygraph testee was telling the truth, when, in fact, he/she was lying.
I rest my case!