Louisiana Supreme Court Embraces Polygraphy

The Beauregard Daily News reports in an article titled,”La. Supreme Court upholds dismissal of policeman.” The officer’s dismissal was based in large part on polygraph “evidence.” This short article, which is no longer available on the Beauregard Daily News website, is cited in full here:

The 1997 dismissal of Johnny M. Evans, Sr. from the DeRidder Police Department was upheld by the Louisiana Supreme Court Thursday following an appellate court decision that ordered his reinstatement and prompted the DeRidder Municipal Fire and Police Civil Service Board to take the case to the Supreme Court.

Evans was dismissed by DeRidder Mayor Gerald Johnson on charges of “improper conduct” following an investigation by DeRidder Police Chief Arvin Malone that found Evans had disclosed sensitive police information that led to the beating death of Ernest Lee Prater Jr. in Vernon Parish in August 1997. Evans reportedly told his son, Johnny Evans Jr., and his son’s friend, Eric Pickens, that Prater was acting as a police informant and had informed on Pickens and others, leading to the earlier arrest of Pickens on drug-related charges.

Pickens and Evans Jr. were later charged with Prater’s murder, for which they are both currently serving time in prison.

Evans appealed his dismissal to the Civil Service Board on the grounds that he had not disclosed any such information to his son and Pickens. According to a “Facts and Procedural History” report compiled by the Supreme Court, the board upheld the dismissal, finding that, based on testimony by Malone and a polygraphist that stated Evans had failed an ordered polygraph test, Evans had in fact disclosed the information.

Evans took his appeal to the 36th Judicial Court, which also upheld the dismissal, affirming that the Civil Service Board’s decision was supported by admissable evidence.

Evans then took his case to the Third Circuit Court of Appeals in Lake Charles, which, according to the Supreme Court report, reversed the Civil Service Board’s decision, finding that the polygraph examination was “unreliable and irrelevant” and therefore inadmissable. The appellate court found that the 36th Judicial Court had committed a “legal error” in admitting the polygraph and that Pickens’ statements during the investigation were also inadmissable due to inconsistencies and hearsay rules.

On June 27, 2001, the appellate court ordered the City of DeRidder to reinstate Evans to his former police department position with back pay and allowances that, after four years, would cost the city up to $100,000.

The city’s application to the appellate court for a rehearing on the matter was denied for undisclosed reasons, prompting Johnson and the Civil Service Board to take the case to the Supreme Court.

In a conclusion of its findings, the Supreme Court stated that the results of a properly administered polygraph examination are competent and reliable evidence and that Pickens’ statements constitute exceptions to the hearsay rule.

Based on these and other findings, the Supreme Court ruled that the judgment of the appellate court be reversed and the judgement of the 36th Judicial Court to support Evans’ termination be reinstated.

By embracing the pseudoscience of polygraphy, the Louisiana Supreme Court has set a dangerous precedent. Relevant documents available in PDF format from the Louisiana Supreme Court website include:

  • Opinion in Case No. 01-C-2466, Johnny M. Evans, Sr. versus Deridder Municipal Fire and Police Civil Service Board.
    In its conclusions, the Supreme Court of Louisiana holds that “[a]lthough not 100% reliable, the results of a properly administered polygraph test are competent evidence and are of the type upon which reasonable persons would rely.”
  • Dissenting Opinion of Chief Justice Pascal F. Calogero, Jr.
  • Concurring Opinion of Jeannette Theriot Knoll
  • Concurring Opinion of John L. Weimer

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