Florida Woman’s Probation Extended Based on Polygraph Results

Missy Stoddard reports for the Tampa Tribune in an article titled, “Judge Keeps Woman’s Probation.” This short article is cited here in full:

DADE CITY – A judge Monday denied a request to terminate the probation of a former Zephyrhills woman who had sex with two neighborhood teens.

Zephyrhills police arrested Lynne Cunneen, 37, in May 2000 after two boys, then 13 and 14, reported that Cunneen performed sex acts on them and sometimes gave them alcohol.

In October 2001, Cunneen pleaded no contest to two counts of lewd and lascivious molestation.

She was sentenced to a year of house arrest followed by two years of probation.

Circuit Judge Wayne Cobb denied Cunneen’s request for early termination of probation based in part, he said, because she failed a polygraph exam required as part of the terms of her probation.

Her attorney, Chip Mander, objected to the polygraph being considered, saying it is improper for the court to do so. Also, he does not know what questions she allegedly failed, he said.

Cobb told Mander that Cunneen can renew her request in six months.

“Polygraph Misuse Complicates Hearing”

Associated Press writer Catherine Wilson reports. Excerpt:

MIAMI (AP) — A polygraph examiner has admitted he broke the rules of his profession during a February undercover investigation into the 1990 murder of a policeman.

Broward County sheriff’s polygrapher Richard Hoffman testified he was ordered to perform the lie detector test as a ruse, didn’t ask required control questions and wrote a misleading report on test subject Andrew Johnson. The report showed Johnson was being deceptive when he said he never shot a deputy.

Johnson had emerged as a suspect in the Nov. 13, 1990, slaying of Deputy Patrick Behan — a murder for which a 26-year-old retarded man is serving a life term in prison.

Testifying on the final day of hearing seeking a new hearing for convicted killer Timothy Brown, Hoffman admitted last week that he violated the standards of the Florida Polygraph Association.

“This test should not ever have been run,” he said. “The test is worthless. The report is worthless.”

The fact that Florida Polygraph Association member Richard Hoffman rigged a polygraph “test” speaks to the true level of his faith in polygraphy.

“Backer Suggests Polygraphs for Priests”

Palm Beach Post staff writer Eliot Kleinberg reports. Excerpt:

Priests in the Diocese of Palm Beach should have to swear in writing that they never engaged in sexual misconduct, and be offered lie detector tests should there be any doubt, a top church critic says.

In fact, Ed Ricci says, he’ll pay for the polygraphs.

Ricci, a prominent lawyer who’s threatened to withhold six-digit contributions over the church’s handling of the sex abuse scandal, issued the call in a letter last week to Riviera Beach Councilman and retired Judge Edward Rodgers. Rodgers is special counsel to a church and lay panel investigating the controversy.

“I do not think it will be enough for the commission to simply come up with procedures to investigate future complaints, new applicants for the priesthood and transferees from other dioceses,” Ricci wrote Rodgers on Thursday.

Rodgers said Monday he plans to share the letter with the panel, but did not want to comment. Former state Senate President Phil Lewis, who chairs the panel, said Monday he hadn’t seen the note. Diocesan spokesman Deacon Sam Barbaro said Monday that the Rev. James Murtagh, the interim diocesan leader, also had not yet seen it and could not respond.

Ricci’s challenge follows the diocese’s establishment in recent years of significant background checks and other procedural safeguards to try to weed out priests with sordid pasts. But even that safety net has holes in it.

A priest who wants to transfer into the Diocese of Palm Beach must go through the same criminal background checks as police officer candidates. They must submit to medical and psychological evaluations and have a note from their current boss saying they have a clean record. Other standards have been in place for years.

Despite that, all three of the bishops in the diocese’s 18-year history and a half-dozen current or former priests have been swept up in the church’s worldwide sex abuse scandal.

“It’s not just us,” Chancellor Lorraine Sabatella said last week. “That’s what we’re hoping is being addressed right now.”

As additional safeguards, Ricci’s letter suggests all priests and staffers swear an affidavit that they have never been guilty of sexual exploitation in their church careers. He said any who balk should be investigated. If one could show he had a problem in the past but brought it under control, he should be allowed to continue under strong restrictions. Otherwise the person should be dismissed.

And Ricci said priests or workers should be offered a voluntary polygraph test. Ricci said his personal charitable foundation would pay for testing at the Wackenhut headquarters in Palm Beach Gardens. Anyone who failed a polygraph would be investigated by a committee who would decide whether they could stay.

As a lawyer, Edward M. Ricci, Esq. should know better than to believe in polygraphs.

“Lie-Detector Test Reveals Deception”

Larry Lebowitz and Wanda J. DeMarzo of the Miami Herald report. Excerpt:

Former Broward Sheriff’s detention deputy Andrew Johnson repeatedly gave deceptive answers to lie-detector questions posed by detectives investigating the murder of Deputy Patrick Behan, according to a memo summarizing the tests.

Johnson, who was fired from his job as a jail guard four months before Behan’s 1990 murder, was lured back to BSO on Feb. 8 under the pretense of a job interview.

According to records released Wednesday, detectives were trying to determine whether Johnson had been telling the truth when he told undercover agents he had killed a deputy or whether he was bragging in hopes of landing a job with drug traffickers.

Johnson was broke, had been acquitted on a 1995 rape charge and had run through a series of jobs when he showed up at BSO for the fake job interview. He declared bankruptcy in 1999, and four weeks before the interview he and his wife of 12 years had filed for divorce. He had never given up a dream of being a law enforcement officer.

According to experts who examined the BSO reports for The Herald, the polygraph results raise more questions than answers. Renowned Miami polygrapher George Slattery said the detectives never asked the key question — ”Did you fire the shot that killed Behan?” — during the five-and-a-half-hour polygraphed portion of the fake job interview.

Expert Warren Holmes of Miami agreed: ‘The bottom line is that you cannot absolve Johnson in any way. To resolve it, there would have to have been more definitive questions, such as `did you shoot someone on the night of …’ He didn’t ask any of that.”

The notion that anyone can be absolved (or incriminated) based on the results of pseudoscientific polygraph “tests” is a dangerous delusion.

“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.

“Sheriff’s Polygrapher Winked for Boss’ Daughter”

Palm Beach Post staff writer Bill Douthat reports on alleged impropriety in the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office. The allegations involve polygrapher Harold Thomas Sorensen, a member of the Florida Polygraph Association. Excerpt:

A sheriff’s polygrapher who gave a lie detector test to the daughter of his boss failed to properly report her deceptive answers about past drug use, an investigation has concluded.

Reviews of the polygraph chart of Lori DeMario “clearly indicate deception,” an internal affairs report says.

DeMario, who took the test as part of her application for a sheriff’s office job, is the daughter of Frank DeMario, who was internal affairs commander in January 2000 when the test was administered by Harold Sorensen, a deputy who worked under DeMario.

After doing the polygraph, Sorensen noted there was “no significant information nor any consistent deceptive responses,” the internal affairs report says.

But two re-readings of the polygraph chart by veteran polygraphers shows deception on two questions of past drug use, said investigator Sgt. Steven Thibodeau.

“The professionals said it was blatant, that it just jumped out on the pages,” Thibodeau said.

The investigation, released this week, found Sorensen committed official misconduct and violated the sheriff’s code of ethics for overlooking Lori DeMario’s deceptive answers. Because Sorensen, 56, retired last July, he’s not subject to any discipline.

Sorensen has done nothing wrong, said his attorney, Michael Salnick. “I’ve never seen a police officer so badly slandered in a IA (internal affairs report) than this one,” Salnick said. “This is a good guy who, for some reason, is being victimized.”

Lori DeMario, 30, who was hired as a drill instructor at the sheriff’s Eagle Academy for troubled teens, was not cited for any wrongdoing.

The Internal Affairs report noted that Frank DeMario recommended in September 2000 that Sorensen attend a three-month school at Fort Jackson, S.C. The training, which was not required for Sorensen’s position, cost the sheriff’s office $12,169, the report said.

In November 2000, a month before he left the sheriff’s office, DeMario recommended a one-time special merit increase in pay for Sorensen, adding $153 a month to his salary.