Ohio Judge Orders Victims in Sexual Assault Cases to Submit to Lie Detector Tests

Rachel Dissell of the Cleveland Plain Dealer reports that Cuyahoga County Juvenile Court Judge Alison Floyd has ordered the victims in four sexual assault cases to submit to polygraph “testing.” In addition, Floyd has ordered the perpetrators of the assaults, who have already been found guilty, to submit to polygraph tests for sentencing purposes. It would appear that Judge Floyd acted ultra vires in ordering the victims to submit to lie detector testing.

The Ohio legal system has a long and shameful history of relying on the pseudoscience of polygraphy, from the case of Floyd Fay, who in 1978 was wrongly convicted of murder based on polygraph “evidence,” to the more recent case of Sahil Sharma, where in 2007 Summit County Common Pleas Judge Judy Hunter was duped into admitting polygraph “evidence” over prosecutors’ objections.

Ohio Defendant Acquitted Based Partly on Polygraph Evidence

Basing her decision in part on polygraph evidence admitted at trial against the prosecutor’s objection, Summit County Common Pleas Judge Judy Hunter on Monday, 20 August 2007 found Sahil Sharma of New York City innocent of felony sexual battery and two misdemeanor charges. While the text of Judge Hunter’s decision is not yet available, AntiPolygraph.org has obtained pre-trial polygraph testimony as well as video of a polygraph examination that was played in open court. For commentary, see Critique of Louis I. Rovner’s Polygraph Examination and Testimony in Ohio v. Sharma on the AntiPolygraph.org message board.

Continue reading Ohio Defendant Acquitted Based Partly on Polygraph Evidence

Special Forces Reportedly Using CVSA in Iraq, Afghanistan

A report about Computer Voice Stress Analysis (CVSA) on the website of Central Ohio television station WBNS (“Tool Catches Fibbing Suspects”) concludes by mentioning that the Special Forces are using CVSA to interrogate suspected terrorists in Iraq and Afghanistan. The entire report is reproduced here:

More and more police departments in Ohio are turning to technology used in war zones to question suspected terrorists and to determine if someone is telling the truth.

Critics call it “junk science,” but a central Ohio detective swears it turns suspects into confessors.

When Detective Dave King walks into an interrogation room, he brings a secret weapon. It’s a computer that measures stress in a person’s voice.

Detective King says the computer never lies. “These computers are now used in more than 140 Ohio police departments. At $10,000 a piece, they are actually a cost saver to departments that can’t afford a full time polygraph unit,” says King.

Critics say the voice stress computer is junk science and officers are using trickery to gain confessions.

10-TV Reporter Kevin Landers put the computer to a test.

Detective King hooked a microphone to him, and answered two questions. One question he answered truthfully and one with a lie. King says the results from the machine tell him when Kevin is lying.

King says, “There have been times when people come in and I totally bought their story.”

Then he turns the machine on.

“Had it not been for CVSA, I, and other investigators, would have believed what they told us and they would have gotten away with it,” says King.

Voice stress analyzers are also in use in Iraq and Afghanistan. Special Forces units use them to interrogate suspected terrorists.

The critics who call CVSA junk science are supported by the National Institute of Truth Verification (the company that peddles CVSA) itself, which has reportedly acknowledged in a court filing that CVSA “is not capable of lie detection.”

That the U.S. Government is relying on the junk science of voice stress analysis to interrogate suspected terrorists is corroborated by the testimony of a former Guantanamo detainee. See the AntiPolygraph.org discussion thread, Polygraph & Voice Stress Test Relied on at Gitmo.

“Telling the Truth: Local Detective Is Trained Polygraphist”

L. Roberson reports for the central Ohio Chillicothe Gazette:

It’s his job to distinguish fact from fiction.

Forget the darting eyes or nervous twitch — Tony Wheaton has another way to determine when a suspect is lying. He straps them to a machine and charts each time their heart skips a beat.

After more than 300 hours of classroom instruction and on-the-job training with the New York-based National Training Center of Polygraph Science, the Ross County Sheriff’s detective is now the only member in the department certified as an expert polygraphist. Before Wheaton completed his training, the department either consulted a retired examiner in Waverly or was put on a waiting list for a Bureau of Criminal Investigation and Identification test in London.

The added responsibility of issuing the test and potentially gaining a confession does not bother Wheaton.

“It will make my job a lot busier, but I look at it as a good thing,” he said. “Not only will I be able to help convict the right person, but I can also clear a wrongly accused person, too. When the police identify you as a suspect but you know you’re innocent, nothing feels better than to take a polygraph test and pass it.”

The polygraph machine is widely used in law enforcement to eliminate suspects, but Sheriff Ron Nichols said it is rare a small-town department can boast an in-house authority.

“The training is just so intensive, few men actually make it to ‘expert,’ and to know we have one right here in the department will be a tremendous help,” he said.

Nichols said he is confident the test will not only discern truth from lies in interrogations but prompt suspects to confess when they realize they can’t lie their way out of the investigation. More confessions, he said, will lead to stronger cases for the prosecution.

“There’s no question a solid confession is like a slam dunk in court,” he said.

The test uses the body’s involuntary reactions to detect levels of deceptions. Wheaton said after he places a blood pressure cuff and heart monitor on the subject’s arm and chest, he explains the exam and begins asking scripted questions to gain a reference point for truthful and deceptive answers.

“By then, most suspects realize they are screwed,” he said. “They start sweating, fidgeting and slumping their shoulders because, at that point, they know I know when they are lying.”

Once the test begins, Wheaton said, he asks a series of 10 “yes” and “no” questions designed to ascertain a person’s involvement in a crime. Asking the right questions can have just as much impact on the accuracy of the test, he said.

“With a poorly worded question or one that is not emotionally charged enough, you will not get the psychological reactions you want,” he said.

While the admissibility of these tests is questioned in some court cases, Mike Corwin, former police chief of the Waverly Police Department and the next closest expert polygraphist, said it is highly unlikely a person can beat a polygraph test.

“We look at physical characteristics you can’t change or alter,” he said. “Unless you are a complete sociopath, the tests are pretty accurate.”

Corwin said only one in about 1,000 people can actually lie their way through a polygraph test.

However, the average person is no match for Wheaton. He was trained at a school founded by Dick Arthur, the same polygraphist the federal government used during the Iran-Contra affair and the John F. Kennedy assassination.

The notion that polygraph results can be used to “clear” a suspect is a dangerous delusion: polygraph “testing” has no scientific basis whatsoever. And despite Mike Corwin’s claim that only one in about 1,000 people can beat the polygraph, peer-reviewed research has shown that half of deceptive subjects provided with a maximum of 30 minutes of instruction passed. The foregoing article is a good example of the kind of credulous, uncritical journalism that helped establish the myth of the lie detector in American culture.

“Suspect Awaiting Polygraph”

Christopher Bobby reports for the Warren, Ohio Tribune Chronicle. Excerpt:

WARREN – Murder defendant Gentry Freeman has agreed to take a polygraph exam that his attorney says could free him.

Common Pleas Judge Andrew Logan authorized the agreement last week between prosecutors and defense attorney Sarah Kovoor.

The test will be administered sometime Wednesday by William Evans of Akron, who has previously worked with the Trumbull County prosecutor’s office. Results will be available at a later time, and since the test is stipulated, those test results could be used as evidence in Freeman’s trial scheduled for Jan. 12, 2004.

Freeman, 25, of Allenwood Avenue S.E., pleaded innocent to aggravated murder and kidnapping charges. He is accused of stabbing Denise Angelo of Warren numerous times and leaving her body in a ditch off North Road S.E. in late April 2002.

Kovoor said Freeman earlier took a polygraph, given to him by an expert who works with the Cuyahoga County Sheriff’s Department. However, Kovoor said she thinks there is another killer responsible for the murder.

Without revealing the results of that earlier, unstipulated polygraph, Kovoor said she also wants Evans to have the benefit of viewing the results of the first test. This could be a hint those results could be considered favorable to Freeman, who remains in Trumbull County Jail without bond.

Kovoor contends DNA tests done on semen and skin samples under the fingernails and found on the victim’s body have excluded her client as a suspect.

”I think police might have acted too quickly to charge someone in this case. Gentry’s story has never changed from the beginning, and there are never any inconsistencies in what he says,” Kovoor said.

Freeman reportedly said Angelo got into his car about 3 a.m. April 24, 2002, while he was stopped at a light on Atlantic Street. Angelo told him she wanted to go to her hotel room, but he refused to take her.

Freeman said he eventually dropped her off on North Road, and he told police he returned home briefly before taking a walk on North Road. Freeman said he happened upon Angelo walking on North Road and that he pushed her into a ditch and beat her unconscious.

A coroner’s report indicated the victim had 44 stab wounds from some sort of sharp object. Freeman told investigators he never stabbed her.

Freeman admitted to placing two calls to the 911 center two days after the murder, which tipped off police to finding the body.

”Gentry claims he struck the victim once and that was after she struck him. I’m convinced he picked her up and they had a fight and then he dropped her off, worrying about her later,” Kovoor said.

Kovoor said that considering the number of times Angelo was stabbed, her death could be linked to other unsolved murders in the city in which women were stabbed dozens of times.

That the defense and prosecution have stipulated to the admissibility of the lie detector “test” to be administered in this case does not confer any reliability on this invalid procedure. Polygraph results should never be admitted as evidence in a court of law.

“Summit Elections Worker Fails Polygraphs”

Akron, Ohio Beacon Journal staff writer Julie Wallace reports. Excerpt:

A Summit County Board of Elections employee quizzed as part of a probe into a candidate’s missing petitions failed two polygraph tests after admitting using drugs and alcohol before the tests, law enforcement officials said.

Several sources familiar with the investigation identified the employee — who was not named in a news release issued Tuesday by the Summit County Sheriff’s Office — as Deputy Director John Schmidt, a Democrat who holds the No. 2 position in the board’s office.

Schmidt declined to comment. His lawyer, Carmen Roberto, said Schmidt did not fail the polygraphs; he said the results were inconclusive on both tests.

Sheriff Drew Alexander, a Republican, said 11 full-time employees were asked to submit to lie-detector tests in the investigation into the June disappearance of election petitions belonging to Akron City Councilman Joe Finley, D-2. Finley is a maverick often at odds with his party’s local leaders.

Eight of those 11 full-time employees easily passed the polygraph.

Three others were tested twice. Two of them had results that initially were labeled inconclusive but later were determined by polygraph examiner Bill Evans to be truthful.

The third employee also underwent two voluntary tests — showing up and acknowledging to Evans that he had used marijuana and alcohol prior to the appointments, Alexander said.

Alexander, who declined to confirm that the employee is Schmidt, said no charge would be filed against the employee over his admitted drug use because the tests were voluntary.

“Both times, he failed miserably at over $500 a pop,” Alexander said. “That’s enough polygraph examinations. I have no confidence that he’d come in and take a third or fourth and not try to beat it.”

Although it is not mentioned in this article, the Summit County Sheriff’s Office’s news release accuses the employee who “failed” the test of having employed countermeasures:

TO DATE ELEVEN FULL-TIME EMPLOYEES HAVE BEEN ASKED AND VOLUNTARILY SUBMITTED TO POLYGRAPHS. TWO EMPLOYEES WERE POLYGRAPHED TWICE. EIGHT EMPLOYEES POLYGRAPHED WERE CONSIDERED NON-DECEPTIVE. THE RESULTS OF THE POLYGRAPHS OF TWO EMPLOYEES WERE INCONCLUSIVE BUT THE POLYGRAPH EXAMINER ULTIMATELY CONCLUDED THE EMPLOYEES WERE TRUTHFUL AND COOPERATIVE. IN THE OPINION OF THE POLYGRAPH EXAMINER, THE REMAINING EMPLOYEE WHO WAS TESTED TWICE EMPLOYED COUNTER MEASURES TO PURPOSELY SUBVERT THE POLYGRAPH TEST PROCESS. THE EMPLOYEE ADMITTED IN BOTH PRETEST INTERVIEWS TO USING ILLEGAL SUBSTANCES INCLUDING MARIJUANA AND CONSUMING ALOCOHOL WITHIN A TIME PERIOD PRIOR TO THE POLYGRAPH EXAMINATIONS THAT MAY HAVE BEEN CRITICAL TO OBTAINING CONCLUSIVE POLYGRAPH RESULTS. IN THE OPINION OF THE POLYGRAPH EXAMINER THIS INDIVIDUAL WAS NOT TRYING TO HELP THE INVESTIGATION BUT TRYING TO IMPEDE IT BECAUSE THE EMPLOYEE KNEW THE IMPORTANCE OF THE POLYGRAPH EXAMINATIONS AND HAD PRIOR KNOWLEDGE OF THE DATES AND TIMES THAT THE TESTS WOULD BE ADMINISTERED.

“Elections Board Idea Ignites Sparks: Summit Democrat Suggests Members Take Polygraphs; GOP Chief Objects”

Akron, Ohio Beacon Journal staff writer Lisa A. Abraham reports. Excerpt:

The chairman of the Summit County Board of Elections wants all board members to take polygraph tests voluntarily to protect the board’s integrity.

Russell Pry made the suggestion at a board meeting Tuesday night.

The county Democratic Party chairman said he would put a formal motion on the agenda of the board’s next meeting.

Pry said he thinks the tests would serve to clear the board’s reputation in light of recent “bad press” it has been getting over mistakes made by elections workers. He noted the ongoing criminal investigation into the lost elections petitions of Akron City Councilman Joe Finley, D-2.

Finley had to sue to get his name on Tuesday’s primary ballot after the board lost his petitions. The Summit County Sheriff’s Office is investigating.

Republican board member Alex Arshinkoff questioned whether the sheriff wants board members to take the tests.

Pry said the sheriff had not asked for that. The sheriff, however, has been testing elections employees over the missing petitions.

“I’m not going to take a polygraph test with Diane Evans’ husband,” said Arshinkoff, who is the chairman of the county Republican Party.

Evans, a staff writer for the Akron Beacon Journal, is married to Bill Evans, a local private investigator and one of the area’s leading polygraph administrators. Arshinkoff has been an outspoken critic of past Beacon Journal coverage.

Whistleblower Fired Based on Failed Polygraph

Beacon Journal staff writer Craig Webb reports in an article titled, “Falls police dispatcher loses job.” Excerpt:

The Cuyahoga Falls police dispatcher whose allegations about her bosses led to a major departmental shake-up is no longer on the job.

Mayor Don Robart said Tuesday that Kathleen M. Ball was fired as the result of a continuing departmental investigation.

Robart said the part-time dispatcher was dismissed earlier this month because investigators looking into police department problems did not believe she was truthful on a polygraph.

Robart also said Ball was talking publicly about the probe when she had been warned not to.

Ball, through a relative, declined to comment.

Based on Ball’s allegations of inappropriate behavior, the city last year spent $25,000 on a probe by personnel consultants Clemans, Nelson & Associates of the department’s top brass. The investigation did not result in any criminal charges but brought about leadership changes.

Police Chief Gordon Tomlinson was demoted in December to sergeant of the midnight shift and ordered to undergo sexual harassment training and alcohol counseling or face firing.

His brother, Capt. Thomas Tomlinson, agreed to retire in exchange for not being fired.

The city did fire Sgt. Thomas Coffman for a variety of infractions, including using city computers to work on an outside venture, showing pornographic images and making inappropriate comments to co-workers. He is appealing the firing and seeking reinstatement to the force.

A “failed” polygraph “test” is a convenient pretext for retaliation against whistleblowers. This story speaks to the need for passage of a Comprehensive Employee Polygraph Protection Act.

Ohio: “Probe for Missing Petitions Now Using Polygraph”

Beacon Journal staff writer Julie Wallace reports. Excerpt:

The investigation into the missing petitions at the Summit County Board of Elections has moved to a new level — lie-detector tests.

This week, investigators from the Summit County Sheriff’s Office started picking employees from the roughly 35 full-timers and 21 part-timers and asking them to submit to the test, Capt. Larry Momchilov said.

The tests are voluntary, but no one has refused so far, Momchilov said. He said he cannot say how many of the tests will be administered or if everyone will be asked to submit to one.

Wrongfully Convicted Man Who Failed Polygraph Wins Declaration of Innocence

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).