U.S. Appeals Court Allows Testimony Regarding Polygraph Examination in U.S. v. Allard

The United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, in its decision (43 kb PDF) in U.S. v. Linda Gay Allard (Case No. 05-20087) filed on 11 September 2006, upheld the admission of testimony regarding a polygraph examination administered by Special Agent William Wind of the United States Secret Service. After failing the polygraph, Allard confessed to placing straight pins in a Hillshire Farms summer sausage purchased at Walmart, in hopes of getting money from Hillshire Farms. Allard alleges that Wind coerced her confession:

Allard testified on direct examination that her confession was involuntary because it was coerced by Agent Wind. She stated that Agent Wind told her she could not leave until she wrote what he told her to write in her statement; that Agent Wind threatened her by stating that he could take her farm and arrest her at work; that Agent Wind refused to honor her request for an attorney; that Agent Wind pushed her, shoved her, and told her to sit down and shut up; and that Agent Wind said he could make her children disappear.

The appeals court upheld the decision of the trial court to allow Special Agent Wind to testify regarding his polygraph examination and interrogation of Linda Allard, including mention that she had “failed,” for the limited purpose of rebutting Allard’s allegations.

The court’s decision makes no mention of any recording of the polygraph examination, and it would appear that none was made. However, it seems to be standard practice for the Secret Service to audio record the polygraph examinations of applicants for employment. There is no excuse for not recording the interrogations of criminal suspects (whether or not a polygraph is used). By routinely recording interrogations, abuse of the kind alleged by Allard, as well as false allegations of the same, can be minimized, and any doubts resolved.

(Hat tip to Robert Loblaw.)

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