“Lie Test Touted as New Evidence”

South Florida Sun-Sentinel staff writers Paula McMahon and Ardy Friedberg report. Excerpt:

The man at the center of the reinvestigation of the 1990 murder of a Broward sheriff’s deputy showed deception on a lie detector test when he said he had not killed a deputy, according to the polygrapher’s report released Wednesday.

Sheriff’s detectives began looking at Andrew Johnson after an informant told law enforcement officials that Johnson’s wife said he had killed a deputy.

After a 10-month undercover investigation, Sheriff Ken Jenne said last week that his agency does not have enough evidence to charge Johnson in the murder of Deputy Patrick Behan. The sheriff declined at the time to discuss the results of polygraph tests done on Johnson during a phony job interview that was set up by detectives heading the undercover investigation of the former detention deputy.

Johnson, through his attorney, denies killing anyone.But attorneys for Tim Brown, 26, the Broward man who is serving life in prison for Behan’s murder, released the Sheriff’s Office polygraph report as another example of new evidence that has been gathered in the murder investigation that could help to clear their client. Brown denies that he killed Behan and says that detectives beat him and forced him to confess to the crime. His attorneys hope the new evidence, including undercover surveillance tapes that show Johnson saying he killed a deputy, will help get Brown released.

Polygraph tests are legally considered unreliable and are not usually admitted as evidence in criminal court trials in Florida and many other states. Investigators, prosecutors and defense attorneys use the tests to try to find out whether someone is being straightforward with them.

According to the report, detectives wanted to check whether Johnson was truthful when he told undercover officers, posing as criminals, that he killed a deputy. Detectives wanted to see if Johnson, who was fired from the Sheriff’s Office in July 1990 for several policy violations, was just boasting.

While polygraphy may be helpful in inducing naive and gullible suspects to confess, no logical inference regarding whether a person has spoken the truth may be drawn based on the examination of polygraph charts.

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