Oklahoma Probationer Benjamin Lawrence Petty Sentenced to 15 Years’ Imprisonment for Failing Polygraph and Denying Guilt

Benjamin Lawrence Petty

On Friday, 23 October 2020, Oklahoma district judge Dennis Morris revoked Benjamin Lawrence Petty’s probation and sentenced him to 15 years in prison because he allegedly failed two polygraph “tests” and denied having committed the crime for which he was on probation.

In 2016, Petty pleaded guilty to raping and sodomizing a 13-year-old girl at a church summer camp as part of a plea agreement that spared him prison time while subjecting him to 15 years of probation that included a requirement that he register as a sex offender and enter a treatment program. At the time, the Petty case sparked outrage because of the perceived leniency of the sentence and was reported both nationally and internationally.

Petty, who suffers from type 1 diabetes and is legally blind, insists that he is innocent of the crimes to which he pleaded guilty and that he entered the plea agreement because he feared for his life if sent to prison.

Court-ordered sex offender therapy programs typically include a requirement that the individual admit guilt and pass a series of polygraph “tests,” typically at the offender’s personal expense.

James R. Kelly
(LinkedIn profile)

On 14 February and 14 May 2019, Petty submitted to two polygraph “tests” conducted by James R. Kelly of Pauls Valley, Oklahoma. In both instances, Petty denied that he had committed the crimes to which he had pled guilty, and in both instances, Kelly opined that Petty “was attempting deception.”

In 2020, Petty contacted AntiPolygraph.org about his polygraph experience, and AntiPolygraph.org co-founder George Maschke prepared a written critique and evaluation based upon Kelly’s written reports of his polygraph examinations of Petty. That critique shows that Kelly, departing from common polygraph practice, constructed relevant questions that presupposed Petty’s guilt, making his “failing” more likely.

Maschke was unable to perform a complete review because Kelly refused to release the computerized polygraph data file, or even a printout of the charts, to Petty. Kelly told Petty that no data beyond the written report was available, even though Oklahoma law requires that polygraph operators in the state maintain on file all polygraph records for a minimum of two years. In the absence of such documentation, a thorough review of a polygraph examination is not possible.

Oklahoma District Judge
Dennis Morris

Despite polygraphy’s complete lack of scientific underpinnings and the specific shortcomings associated with James Kelly’s polygraph examinations, District Judge Dennis Morris relied on those polygraph reports and Petty’s refusal to admit guilt in therapy to revoke his probation and sentence him to 15 years in prison.

Randy Ellis
(Twitter profile)

On Sunday, 15 November 2020, veteran staff writer Randy Ellis of The Oklahoman, who in 2018 reported on Benjamin Petty’s plea agreement, reported on Petty’s protestations of innocence.

Among other things, Ellis reveals previously unreported information that bolsters Petty’s claim of innocence. According to a Department of Human Services report, the alleged victim originally denied that any sexual incident had occurred but admitted having told other girls at the camp that she engaged in sexual acts with Petty.

Petty also “provided The Oklahoman with copies of medical record notes that indicate he is legally blind and suffers from erectile dysfunction, diabetic neuropathy that has resulted in the amputation of two toes, fecal incontinence and other ailments.”

Petty has appealed Judge Morris’ revocation of his probation. The case is State of Oklahoma v. Benjamin Lawrence Petty, No. CF-2016-00159 in the District Court in and for Murray County, Oklahama.

Convicted Sex Offender Who Purchased Doug Williams’ How to Sting the Polygraph Passed Four Polygraph Examinations

Ray Dwight Sluss
Ray Dwight Sluss

On 21 February 2013, federal agents raided former police polygraphist Doug Williams‘ home and office, seizing his customer records as part of an investigation targeting polygraph countermeasure instructors. The U.S. government used these records to create a interagency watch list of individuals who had purchased Williams’ manual, How to Sting the Polygraph, an accompanying DVD, or had received in-person training on how to pass a polygraph “test.”

Court records obtained by AntiPolygraph.org reveal that one of the individuals on the list, Ray Dwight Sluss of Johnson City, Tennessee, a convicted sex offender on probation, passed four post-conviction polygraph examinations. In a memorandum (PDF) dated 22 November 2013, United States Attorney William C. Killian writes:

In 2013, federal agents received information that Sluss had purchased polygraph counter-measures techniques and training from an individual in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma who marketed these products to convicted felons like Sluss who were subject to polygraph examinations. FBI in Oklahoma referred the defendant to FBI in Johnson City, where an agent confirmed that Sluss had been convicted of child pornography crimes, was on state court probation, and had completed periodic polygraph examinations. As a convicted sex offender, Sluss was also subject to limitations on his residence, employment, and activities. FBI verified that Sluss had successfully passed four polygraph examinations since his release from prison.

There is no indication that any polygraph operator ever detected Sluss using polygraph countermeasures. Sluss had completed his polygraph requirement and on 10 September 2010 was placed on “unsupervised” probation.

According to another court filing, on 28 August 2013, FBI Special Agent Peter O’Hare, Jr. “visited Mr. Sluss at his home to question him about a report that Mr. Sluss had purchased materials relating to polygraph examination countermeasures. Mr. Sluss denied making such a purchase.”

O’Hare returned to Sluss’s residence two days later accompanied by the latter’s probation officer, and a search of the home led to the discovery of computer media with child pornography, for possession of which Sluss was sentenced to 17.5 years in federal prison.

The Sluss case highlights the vulnerability of polygraphy to simple countermeasures (see Chapter 4) that polygraph operators cannot detect and the foolishness of official reliance on this pseudoscientific procedure for public safety purposes.

Minnesota Appeals Court Rules Polygraph Results Inadmissible in Probation-Revocation Proceedings

In a 10-page published decision (PDF) filed on 23 May 2016, the Minnesota Court of Appeals ruled that “[b]ecause polygraph testing has not been proven reliable, polygraph test results are not admissible as substantive evidence of a probation violation in probation-revocation proceedings.” The case is State of Minnesota, Respondent, vs. Chad Michael Nowacki, Appellant.

Federal Appeals Court Rules Certain Mandatory Sex Offender Polygraph Questions Unconstitutional

10-circuit-court-of-appeals
10th Circuit Court of Appeals Building in Denver, Colorado

The United States Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit has ruled in a 25-page opinion (PDF) that a convicted sex offender in a post-conviction polygraph program cannot be compelled to answer questions about his sexual history that could tend to incriminate him. So-called “sexual history polygraphs” are commonly administered early in such programs, and typically include questions about any past, undetected sex crimes. The court’s ruling finds that compelling an individual to answer such questions, under threat of sanctions such as being removed from a treatment program and returned to prison, violates the individual’s 5th Amendment right against self-incrimination in the absence of a grant of immunity.

The specific mandatory sexual history polygraph questions that the appellant, Brian von Behren, refused to answer, and that the court found violated his 5th Amendment rights, were:

  1. After the age of 18, did you engage in sexual activity with anyone under the age of 15?
  2. Have you had sexual contact with a family member or relative?
  3. Have you every physically forced or threatend anyone to engage in sexual contact with you?
  4. Have you ever had sexual contact with someone who was physically asleep or unconscious?

The 10th Circuit ruling in U.S. v. Brian Von Behren (No. 15-1033), if not overturned on appeal, will bind federal courts in Colorado, Kansas, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Utah, and Wyoming.

For additional commentary, see Jesse Paul’s report, “Colorado sex offender’s lie detector court win could have big impact” in the Denver Post and Jonny Bonner’s Courthouse News Service report, “Forced Polygraph of Sex Offender Unconstitutional.”

Reader comments are welcome.

Polygraph Operator Ken Blackstone Pleads Guilty to Perjury

Ken Blackstone
Ken Blackstone

Georgia polygraph operator Ken Blackstone has pleaded guilty to a single count of perjury, a felony punishable by one to ten years’ imprisonment and a fine of up to $1,000 under Georgia state law. Blackstone committed perjury by falsely claiming during a court hearing that another polygraph examiner, Charles Slupski, had reviewed the charts of a polygraph examination that Blackstone conducted on Guy Heinze Jr., who was charged with, and has since been convicted for, eight murders and one attempted murder. Blackstone was sentenced to five years’ probation and a $1,000 fine.

Florida Times-Union reporter Terry Dickson writes:

Polygraph examiner pleads guilty to lying in Guy Heinze Jr. hearing
Kenneth Blackstone sentenced to 5 years probation, gets 2-year ban on criminal trial testimony

By Terry Dickson Fri, Oct 10, 2014 @ 8:42 pm

BRUNSWICK | A polygraph examiner pleaded guilty to perjury Friday for testifying falsely under oath in the Guy Heinze Jr. murder case.

Kenneth Blackstone, 63, of Stone Mountain pleaded guilty Friday to a single count of perjury over his testimony on July 18, 2013, in a motions hearing in Heinze’s case, District Attorney Jackie Johnson said in a release.

Superior Court Judge Roger Lane accepted Blackstone’s plea under Georgia’s First Offender Act, sentenced him to five years to be served on probation and ordered him to pay a $1,000 fine, Johnson said.

Lane also banished Blackstone from the 5-county Brunswick Judicial Circuit and ordered him not to testify in any criminal proceedings in court for two years, Johnson said.

In the motions hearing, Blackstone said he had administered a polygraph to Heinze in which Heinze said he had not killed his father, Guy Heinze Sr., his father’s friend, Russell Toler Sr., Toler’s four children and sister and the boyfriend of Toler’s eldest daughter. It was Heinze Jr. who made the 911 call on Aug. 29, 2009 in which he told an operator he had come home to find his whole family “beat to death.”

One person survived the beating. Byron Jimerson Jr., the then 3-year-old son of Chrissy Toler recovered from a severe head injury.

Blackstone, who was hired by Heinze’s defense team, testified that the test indicated the Heinze was not being deceptive when he said he had not killed the eight victims.

When Assistant District Attorney John B. Johnson III questioned Blackstone about his methods, Blackstone said he had sent the charts from the polygraph exam to Charles “Chuck” Slupski, an independent expert in polygraph examination methods. The state had its own expert, retired Georgia Bureau of Investigation special agent Jerry Rowe who told prosecutors that Slupski had been out of the country at the time and said he had not spoken with Blackstone about the Heinze examination.

Confronted with Slupski’s statement, Blackstone said something to the effect he had been caught.

Polygraph exams are not admissible as evidence but Heinze’s lawyers had intended to use the results as mitigation during sentencing if Heinze had been found guilty later. The defense withdrew the motion and a Glynn County grand jury later indicted Blackstone for perjury.

Heinze was found guilty in November of all eight murders and the attempted murder of Byron Jimerson and is serving life in prison.

Terry Dickson: (912) 264-0405

As of the time of this writing, Blackstone remains listed as a member in good standing of the American Polygraph Association, the Georgia Polygraph Association, and the Florida Polygraph Association.

Update (17 Oct. 2014): Ken Blackstone’s profile page on the American Polygraph Association member directory has been deleted.

Polygraph Operator Ken Blackstone Under Investigation for Perjury

Ken Blackstone
Ken Blackstone

Terry Dickson reports for the Florida Times-Union that polygraph operator Kenneth E. Blackstone of Atlanta, Georgia is under investigation for perjury in connection with a death penalty murder case:

Guy Heinze Jr.’s polygraph examiner under investigation for truthfulness in court
Posted: July 18, 2013 – 9:01pm  |  Updated: July 18, 2013 – 9:14pm

By Terry Dickson

BRUNSWICK | A polygraph examiner who testified on Thursday in Guy Heinze Jr.’s death penalty murder case is himself the subject of a perjury investigation, an official said.

Testifying in a motions hearing, Kenneth E. Blackstone said Heinze showed no deception in saying that he had not killed his father and seven others in a mobile home on Aug. 29, 2009.

Blackstone said he asked Heinze three relevant questions: Did he physically assault anyone in the trailer, did he assault any of his family members in the trailer and did he cause the deaths of his family members?

Heinze answered no to all three questions, and the polygraph showed no deception, Blackstone said.

It was during District Attorney Jackie Johnson’s examination, however, that Blackstone got into trouble. When Johnson asked Blackstone if he had undertaken any quality control measures to ensure his findings were correct, Blackstone said at first he had reviewed it himself.

He said later, however, that about two weeks ago he had shown it to Chuck Slupski, who operates a polygraph examiners’ school in the Atlanta area.

He had shown the polygraph charts without Heinze’s identity to Slupski, Blackstone said.

“He said there was no deception,” Blackstone said.

Johnson then asked Blackstone if he was aware that Slupski was out of the country and had been in South Africa during the two-week time frame. Blackstone responded he may have shown the charts to Slupski earlier.

Johnson had intended to call Jerry Rowe, the director of polygraph for the Department of Juvenile Justice, as a witness to rebut Blackstone’s testimony after court reconvened after lunch, but it never got that far.

Heinze’s defense lawyer, Newell Hamilton Jr., withdrew his motion to have Heinze’s polygraph results used as evidence during the sentencing phase of the trial, should Heinze be found guilty.

Rowe said he had spoken with Slupski, who said he had not seen Heinze’s polygraph results nor talked with Blackstone about them. Slupski was willing to come to court and testify if necessary, Rowe said.

‘CAUGHT ME IN A LIE’

Greg McMichael, Johnson’s chief investigator, said he will conduct an investigation on whether Blackstone testified falsely.

Rowe, a retired Georgia Bureau of Investigation agent, said Blackstone’s examination would have been easy to refute because he didn’t use a necessary tool, a motion sensor in the chair of the person being examined. The movement sensor can detect when a person is tightening the sphincter muscles or doing other things to try to fool the test or reacting, Rowe said.

When Johnson asked Blackstone why he hadn’t used a motion sensor, he called them worthless and said they are used only in evidentiary examinations.

Johnson referred Blackstone to a section of the bylaws for professional polygraphers which says “a motion sensor is used in all cases.”

“You caught me in a lie,’’ Blackstone said. “I didn’t know that was in there.”

He then said he would always use the sensors in the future.

Outside the courtroom, Rowe said the motion sensors are essential.

“You’ve got to have the movement sensors, or the polygraph is no good,’’ Rowe said. “It’s for the person [under examination], too.”

Blackstone also erred in his choice of non-relevant questions on which he had Heinze purposely lie to show bodily responses to deception, Rowe said.

Blackstone posed questions on drug use to Heinze, an admitted drug user, so those responses would have contaminated the results, Rowe said.

There were also some glimpses of the case against Heinze in Johnson’s cross-examination of Blackstone, who had said he had familiarized himself with the crime scene and some of the evidence. She asked Blackstone if he was aware that Heinze’s bloody palm print was found beside the body of a victim or if he knew that drugs belonging to one of the victims were found in the console of the car Heinze was driving.

The drugs belonged to Michael Toler, 19, who was still alive the morning of Aug. 29 when Heinze called 911 and said he had found his whole family beaten to death. Toler, who had Down syndrome, died the next day.

The others killed in the mobile home at Good Hope Mobile Home Park were Guy Heinze Sr., 45; his close friend, Russell “Rusty” D. Toler Sr., 44; Toler’s children, Russell Toler Jr., 20, Chrissy Toler, 22, and Michelle Toler, 15; Rusty Toler’s sister Brenda Gail Falagan, 49; and Chrissy Toler’s boyfriend, Joseph L. West Jr., 30. Michael Toler was also Rusty Toler’s son.

Chrissy Toler’s son, Byron Jimerson, now 7, recovered from a severe head injury.

Until Thursday, jury selection for the trial was to begin in late September and the trial itself in October. Presiding Judge Stephen Scarlett met with Johnson and Hamilton after the hearing on scheduling, and the dates might change.

Terry Dickson: (912) 264-0405

Blackstone specializes in polygraph screening of convicted sex offenders and is the author of a book titled, Polygraph, Sex Offenders, and the Court: What Professionals Should Know About Polygraph… And a Lot More.

Chris French on Polygraph Screening of Sex Offenders

Professor of psychology Chris French writes for the Guardian on why mandatory polygraph screening of convicted sex offenders is a bad public policy choice. Excerpt:

It is clear that offenders only have to spend five minutes on Google to realise that experts generally agree that polygraph testing is in fact not a reliable technique for detecting deception. If such testing becomes mandatory, it is inevitable that this truth about polygraphs will become widely known among offenders. From then on, any effect that unfounded belief in the effectiveness of the technique had in terms of increasing disclosures is likely to disappear.

To make matters worse, techniques exist to beat the test. Once the underlying rationale of the test is understood, steps can be taken to either augment the psychophysiological response to control questions (eg via self-induced physical or mental pain) or else reduce the response to relevant questions (eg using mental training, such as meditation).

 Indeed, polygraphs are easily beaten, and information on how to do so is freely available here on AntiPolygraph.org, among other places. Authorities in the US, UK, and elsewhere would be wise to terminate their misplaced reliance on the Emperor’s-new-clothes technology of polygraph “testing.”

Operation Truth or Consequences: Polygraphing for Prevaricating Pedophiles in New York State

Associated Press writer Michael Gormley reports on the introduction of post-conviction polygraph screening of sex offenders in New York State:

States use polygraphs to monitor paroled sex offenders
By MICHAEL GORMLEY
Associated Press Writer

December 11, 2006, 6:43 PM EST

ALBANY, N.Y. — When Andrew McDaniels, a convicted sex offender in upstate N.Y., was interviewed by a parole officer in September, he faced something new. The parole officer had a laptop computer receiving data from skin sensors on McDaniels. When the parole officer noticed a blip, he asked more pointed questions.

Soon, McDaniels acknowledged he had been around boys near Watkins Glen, parole officials said Monday. More officers followed up in the field and the parolee was accused of violating the condition of his release that requires him to stay away from children. He remains in Schuyler County Jail until a hearing this week, Parole Division spokesman Scott Steinhardt said.

New York is the latest state to require paroled sex offenders to answer questions while hooked to a lie-detecting computer.

It should be noted that as of December 2006, there is no such thing as a lie-detecting computer.

The action, by the outgoing Pataki administration, comes just before the legislature will consider civil confinement for the most dangerous sex offenders after they complete their sentences. Gov. George Pataki has called for the legislature to meet Wednesday to pass a civil confinement bill for sex offenders.

Parole officers equipped with the computers ask convicted sex offenders about where they have been and who they have seen to determine whether they might have violated parole. They are also asked if they committed any new crimes.

“It is being used more,” said Anna Carol Salter, a Harvard-trained clinical psychologist in Madison, Wis. She lectures on sex offenders and is a consultant to the Wisconsin Department of Corrections, which uses polygraphs for sex offender cases.

“I think it is proving to be effective. You get many, many more admissions by offenders about illegal activities and it also appears to act as a deterrent,” she said. “They are often more fearful of lying to a polygraph than they are to a person.”

That may be. But as convicted sex offenders subjected to polygraph screening come to learn that the lie detector is a pseudoscientific sham, the admissions will inevitably dry up.

Skin monitors provide data on changes in a subject’s skin temperature, moisture and electrical signals sent to the brain. The information is then sent to the computer, where a trained operator does the analysis. Long gone is the stylus hooked up to a paper roller.

Actually, standard polygraph instruments do not provide data on changes in skin temperature, nor do they record “electrical signals sent to the brain.” Associated Press writer Michael Gormley hasn’t done his homework on polygraphs.

Salter said, however, there is a concern. A badly administered test, for example, could yield results that show a parolee is following the rules when he or she isn’t. That would lull parole officials into a false sense that all is well. And, she said: “It’s easy to do a bad polygraph.”

It doesn’t take a “badly administered test” to yield erroneous results. Not only does polygraph testing have no scientific basis to begin with, it is also vulnerable to simple, effective, and readily available countermeasures.

The use of polygraphs for sex offenders, begun in the early 1970s in Oregon, Idaho and Washington, has spread steadily nationwide, said T.V. O’Malley of the American Polygraph Association.”It’s getting more popular as polygraph has cleaned up its act and we became very sophisticated about sex offender results,” he said. “The alternative is self-disclosure. And that doesn’t work.”

This is the same T.V. O’Malley who recently said of polygraph testing, “It’s kind of like…confessing to a priest.” AntiPolygraph.org would be interested to hear more from the American Polygraph Association precisely how, and since when, “polygraph has cleaned up its act.” It is to be recalled that the American Polygraph Association doesn’t consider the fact that a life member and past president is falsely passing himself off to the public as a Ph.D. in marketing his polygraph services to pose an ethical problem.

In New York, 13 parole officers have been trained to do the tests as part of “Operation Truth or Consequences,” state Division of Parole Executive Director Anthony G. Ellis II said Monday. The training, equipment and the cost to dedicate trained officers to conduct the tests is about $1 million this fiscal year, according to the division.

“There are no limits as to what you can ask, but they are trained to gear it in a certain way so you can get what you are looking for,” said Angela Jimenez, director of operations at the division. “This group needs tighter control,” she said, noting that there is a high rate of recidivism among sex offenders.

If tighter control is what’s needed, why grant sex offenders parole in the first place? Imprisonment is a much more reliable deterrent to recidivism than pseudoscientific polygraphs.

Polygraphs are being used on sex offenders in more than two dozen states, sometimes in trial programs, and in Great Britain, according to newspaper accounts. A British pilot program found 85 percent of convicted sex offenders were committing new crimes or violating parole or simply failed the polygraph, according to The Independent of London.

A study by the Colorado Department of Public Safety sponsored by the U.S. Department of Justice found more than half of the sex offenders subjected to polygraph tests were in violation of their supervision rules. As a result, 37 percent were given new treatment plans and 15 percent were returned to court for further action.

Polygraph “testing” can only detect parole or probation violations to the extent that those “tested” are naive and gullible enough to admit to them.

The National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers based in Washington is studying the issue, but has some concerns. For example, supporters say the tests are 90 percent accurate, while detractors say they are only 70 percent accurate. Even at 90 percent, that could mean thousands of innocent men and women would face jail time or further restrictions because of a bad test, said the association’s Jack King.

The claim that detractors say polygraphs are “only 70 percent accurate” is a misleading piece of disinformation that has in the past been actively spread by polygraph proponents such as Frank Horvath. In reality, the commonly held view among polygraph critics is that because polygraphy is unstandardized and lacking in scientific control, no meaningful accuracy rate is knowable.

“We don’t have a policy yet, but generally you don’t want to put somebody’s liberty in the hands of a polygrapher,” King said.

In May, the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Albany ruled that lie detector tests can be used on sex offenders, but included safeguards such as limiting questions to information necessary for supervision, case monitoring and treatment.

New York State Division of Parole director of operations Angela Jimenez seems to be unaware of any such limits on questioning. She is quoted earlier in the article as saying, “There are no limits as to what you can ask…”

The appeals court ruling found that polygraph testing “produces an incentive to tell the truth, and thereby advances the sentencing goals.”

The polygraph can only continue to produce an “incentive to tell the truth” so long as parolees remain under the delusion that the polygraph can detect lies. It is sad to see the courts, who should know better, embrace such magical thinking.

Fairbanks, Alaska Sex Offenders Face Polygraph Screening

The Associated Press reports in “Convicted sex offenders will take polygraph tests” published 18 November 2006 by the Anchorage Daily News:

FAIRBANKS — Convicted sex offenders in Fairbanks will have to take lie detector tests as a term of their parole or probation.

Plans are under way to expand a polygraph test pilot program started last spring in Anchorage, said Portia Parker, deputy commissioner for the Alaska Department of Corrections.

“We have to know what’s going on in their heads in order to treat them better,” Parker said Thursday in remarks before a local civic organization.

Studies have found lie detector tests to be an effective tool in monitoring and treating sex offenders, Parker said.

Parker said almost 40 other states already require rapists and pedophiles to undergo polygraph testing upon release from prison. The practice has been challenged in court, but a federal appeals court upheld the use of polygraph testing on a convicted sex offender in May after a New York man sued, saying it violated his Fifth Amendment right to avoid self-incrimination.

Results of polygraph tests are rarely admitted as evidence in court. “This has nothing to do with prosecuting people,” Parker said. “It has nothing to do with court. This is a treatment tool.

“It has a proven positive effect. It puts responsibility on the offender to change their behavior.”

Between 100 and 120 sex offenders are released from prison in Alaska every year, Parker said.

She said the challenge is having a large enough pool of polygraph examiners trained to work with the offenders. The pilot program in Anchorage relies on a contractor who travels here from Washington state.

“We’re not getting resistance from sex offenders to taking the polygraph, but they are being deceptive because they have been for years,” Parker said.

The National Academy of Sciences reportedly rates the median accuracy of polygraph testing on parolees at nearly 90 percent, provided the examiner is properly trained.

Alaska tops the nation for its prevalence of sexual assault and sexual abuse of minors per capita, according to Parker.

It is unclear on what basis it is claimed that the National Academy of Sciences “rates the median accuracy of polygraph testing on parolees at nearly 90 percent, provided the examiner is properly trained.” The NAS’s report, The Polygraph and Lie Detection makes no such claim. On the contrary, the Committee to Review the Scientific Evidence on the Polygraph found (at p. 2) that “Almost a century of research in scientific psychology and physiology provides little basis for the expectation that a polygraph test could have extremely high accuracy.”

British Charity Calls for Polygraph Testing of Pedophiles

BBC News reports on a call by the charity, Barnardo’s, for lie detector testing and GPS tracking of pedophiles in the UK. Excerpt:

Children’s charity Barnardo’s is calling on the government to use lie detector tests and satellite tracking to monitor sex offenders.

It claims pilot studies in the UK have shown promising results.

One such trial found up to 80% of cases showed lie detector tests revealed new information about the offenders’ intentions or behaviour.

Barnardo’s says this helps probation staff assess the risks they pose when they are released from jail better.

Barnardo’s make the claims in its new report, entitled A Risk Too Far? which is published on Tuesday.

It also says such measures will be more effective than the introduction of the proposed Sarah’s Law, which would allow parents to learn of registered sex offenders living in their area.

This is because it believes such a law would drive sex offenders away from supervision and into hiding.

‘False comfort’

This proposed legislation is named after eight-year-old Sarah Payne, who was murdered by paedophile Roy Whiting in 2000.

Barnardo’s chief executive Martin Narey said: “Barnardo’s is committed to protecting children from harm, but we feel that a Sarah’s Law would offer a false comfort to parents and could put children in more, not less, danger.

“That said, the current arrangements for the safe supervision of dangerous offenders need to be strengthened and public confidence restored.

“Our report outlines how the use of polygraphs and satellite tracking could radically improve the effectiveness of supervision.

“All the indications are that polygraphs can be effective in helping control behaviour.

“I have personally seen their use on sex offenders, spoken to the probation staff who have used this technology in a pilot [study] in the North East, and been impressed by the officers’ conviction that it significantly improves the rigour of supervision.”

But human rights group Justice questioned the effectiveness of lie detector tests.

“We’re very doubtful as to any evidence that’s been produced to show that it’s a reliable method,” the group’s policy director Eric Metcalfe told BBC News.

“In our view, this kind of measure has more of a headline effect than actually being demonstrated to be genuinely effective.”

Eric Metcalfe has it right about lie detectors. Regarding British proposals for polygraphing sex offenders, see Dr. Drew C. Richardson’s 21 May 2005 letter to the Telegraph. Barnado’s express concern about policy measures that would provide a false comfort, yet only a false comfort can result from relying on such a widely discredited procedure such as polygraphy. Make-believe science yields make-believe security.