Phil Trexler of the Beacon Journal reports on the exoneration of Jimmy “Spunk” Willams, who was wrongfully convicted of raping a child, in an article titled “A wrong is officially righted.” Williams was convicted in part on the basis of his having failed a polygraph “test.” Excerpt:
Further harming Williams’ case was an agreement between prosecutors and his trial lawyer to allow jurors to hear the results of a lie detector test. Williams flunked it. Unless both sides agree to reveal the results, lie detector tests are not admissable in court because they can be unreliable.
At the conclusion of the trial, Williams was convicted of rape and sentenced to life in prison.
A common prosecutorial tactic is to tell a suspect that charges may be dropped if he passes a polygraph “test.” But the suspect must first sign an agreement stating that the results of the “test” are to be admissible in court. This is typically done in cases where the evidence against the suspect is weak to begin with and the prosecution has little to lose. But even an innocent suspect has much to lose by stipulating to such terms. These pseudoscientific “tests” have an inherent bias against the truthful, because the more honestly one answers the so-called “control” questions, the more likely one is to “fail.” Moreover, a polygrapher’s prejudice or willful manipulation can also determine the outcome. See Chapter 3 of AntiPolygraph.org’s free book, The Lie Behind the Lie Detector for more on how these fraudulent “tests” really work (and don’t).