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VINSON: Reasons I would not take a polygraph test

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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!
Read more from:
Meat & Potatoes
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Crime, Mike Vinson, Politics, Voices
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Members Opinions:
December 11, 2011 at 3:12pm
We "the public" should be thankful for this article. It was a eye opener that that authories probably rather we remained blind about. Some damn good information that needs to be out there.
December 11, 2011 at 3:12pm
We "the public" should be thankful for this article. It was a eye opener that that authories probably rather we remained blind about. Some damn good information that needs to be out there.
December 12, 2011 at 10:41am
Someone finally came out and wrote about something that has helped put lots of innocent people in prison, the polygraph. A few years back when I was younger and didn't know better, I agreed to take one. The detective said it would help me. I told the truth on the test but they said it showed I wasn't telling the truth, I was lying. Even though they couldnt' use it in court, word got around that I hadn't passed it, and it went against me. Mr. Vinson is on the mark when he asks why would a investigator or DA even want to give you a polygrpah if they can't use it in court. Like he said, because when you're young you get scared and the next thing you know they got you in a corner. Somebody should pass a law that makes the police read this article to anyone first before asking them if they will take a polygraph.
December 12, 2011 at 2:55pm
People will buy anything that is written in the newspaper as truth. How do you know the people that took the lie detector test actually failed the test by lieing. Anyone in the article could have been not telling the truth in their quotes in this paper. Well, Vinson says he does not want to take one. Most people can understand why. It's really easy to see if some one is making up a story. Just look at their body language. Judge Judy uses that on the tv show. The eyes are indeed the window to the soul and the truth.
December 13, 2011 at 8:19am
Jimmy Church: You make a valid point when you ask, "How do you know the people that took the lie detector test actually failed the lest by [lieing](?) Anone in the article could have been not telling the truth in their quotes in this paper."

Here's my rebuttal to that: As you noted, I used as a source Jerry Ray, brother of James Earl Ray. Aside from Jerry taking the polygraph on F. Lee Bailey's television show Lie Detetctor - which Jerry lied on, but passed - here's irrefutable proof. Jerry, during his lifetime, took 4 other polygraphs. One was for a restaurant chain ( and I will refrain from mentioning that chain by name, to avoid needless embarrassment). When Jerry interviewed for the restaurant job, and was taking a mandatory polygraph, Jerry was asked if he'd ever been in trouble wiht the law, because Jerry was going for a job as a "nightwatchman" and would be around money/ safes. Jerry answered "no," was given the job, and, yet, left the job of his own accord. Ironically, the fact of the matter is/was that Jerry had been in trouble numerous times, having done both jail and prison time for armed robbery, theft, etc. This all is a matter of RECORD. Again, as Jerry said, "so much for the validity of the polygraph test.
December 14, 2011 at 7:00am
polygraph is what you use when you have nothing credible. A shot in the dark so to speak. I agree body language, especially eyes, is more accurate than the polygraph.
Good article, very enlightening to those who didn't already know. I heard to be an attorney you must fail one LOL!
December 16, 2011 at 6:28pm
Great informative article. I love hearing about how our U.S. Supreme Court rules in decisions for citizens protection and justice, in this case,better practices in law enforcement. So thankful to be an American.
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