“Producer Eyes Killen Lie-Test for TV Viewers”

Jerry Mitchell of the Jackson, Mississipi Clarion-Ledger reports:

If producer Ralph Andrews gets his way, reputed Klan leader Edgar Ray Killen will appear on his new TV series, Lie Detector.

“If he’s claiming he is innocent, then he should jump at the chance to appear on our program and take a polygraph examination,” Andrews said. “If he’s guilty, he’s not going to come on our show unless he’s an idiot, but we’ve had some idiots come on before.”

Informed of the request, Killen’s lawyer, Mitch Moran of Carthage, replied sarcastically, “Yeah, like I’m going to let him go on that show.”

Killen, a 79-year-old sawmill owner and part-time preacher, pleaded innocent Jan. 7 to three counts of murder stemming from the June 21, 1964, killings of Michael Schwerner, James Chaney and Andrew Goodman.

Chaney’s brother, Ben, of New York City, who believes Killen is guilty of the crime, said if he had a chance to ask Killen one question while strapped to the lie detector it would be, “Why? Other than the issue of race, why did you do it?”

Killen has repeatedly proclaimed he had nothing to do with the killings. “I don’t believe in murder,” he said in a 1999 interview with The Clarion-Ledger. “I believe in self-defense.”

Lie Detector, which will air for 13 weeks starting in March on the PAX network, is a reincarnation of an old show that first appeared in 1962. It was revived in the mid-1970s.

In one show, James Earl Ray, who pleaded guilty to the 1968 murder of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., took a lie detector test. He failed miserably when he pronounced his innocence.

“He was lying,” Andrews said. “There was no question.”

In its most recent incarnation in 1998, hosted by O.J. Simpson prosecutor Marcia Clark, James Nichols, brother of Oklahoma City bombing conspirator Terry Nichols, failed a test when he said he knew nothing of that plot.

“We were way ahead of our time,” said Andrews, who has produced such shows as the Super Comedy Bowls for CBS.

Although the U.S. Supreme Court has rejected the admissibility of polygraphs because of the split in the scientific community about their reliability, Andrews said he’s convinced the tests are accurate with the right equipment and, more importantly, the right operator. “It’s like a scalpel,” he said. “A scalpel is no good if a doctor doesn’t know how to use it.”

He said he’s never been able to fool his highly qualified operator, despite repeated attempts. In fact, he said, the 1970s version of his show offered to pay $10,000 to anyone who could successfully lie.

No one did, he said. “If I were (wrongly) charged with murder, I would rather put my life in the hands of a polygraph operator than the jury.”

Polygraph examiner Wayne Humphreys of Brandon, a former Jackson police officer who has been conducting such tests for 20 years, chuckles when he sees the detectors used on reality shows. “They’re using the old analog instrument, which is not widely used anymore,” he said.

On top of that, “most of the shows I’ve seen, the machine’s not even activated,” he said.

The lie detector test of today hardly resembles the analog system, he said. Computers monitor the body’s electricity and not just breathing, but swallowing. In addition to blood pressure, computers record movement of “the aortic valve and any extraneous thing the heart may do,” Humphreys said.

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