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Ohio Court Admits Lie Detector Tests As Evidence

CowboyNeal posted about 7 years ago | from the good-enough-for-maury dept.

The Courts 198

An anonymous reader writes "Last month, an Ohio court set a new precedent by allowing polygraph test results to be entered as evidence in a criminal trial. Do lie detectors really belong in the court room? AntiPolygraph.org critiques the polygraph evidence from the this precedential case (Ohio v. Sharma)."

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Ohio, eh? (3, Funny)

ScrewMaster (602015) | about 7 years ago | (#20520583)

I was thinking about moving to a different State, but hadn't figured out which one. Now I'm down to 49 possibilities.

Re:Ohio, eh? (5, Funny)

PsychoSlashDot (207849) | about 7 years ago | (#20520625)

I was thinking about moving to a different State, but hadn't figured out which one. Now I'm down to 49 possibilities.


Given your subject line of "Ohio, eh?" and you're moving to a different state, and that you're down to 49 possibilities, I can only conclude you're one of those that view Canada as the 51st state. Come on up, we've got plenty of room, beer, and freshly-clubbed baby seals to go around. You do like hockey, eh?

Re:Ohio, eh? (1)

ScrewMaster (602015) | about 7 years ago | (#20520777)

Okay, so I just woke up and haven't had any coffee and I can't do arithmetic yet. Sheesh.

No, I've been to Canada several times, and while I don't consider you the "51st State" at least you are civilized, more than some places further south, believe me. I dunno about the hockey ... you do have big-screen TVs up there, don't you? I like to be able to see the puck.

Re:Ohio, eh? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20520865)

... you do have big-screen TVs up there, don't you? I like to be able to see the puck.

Actually, we Canadians just became the proud owner of our very first big-screen TV!!! We're soooo excited, although personally I feel it might cause our country economic ruin since we had to pay for it in Canadian dollars =(

If you want to see it, you just have to come up to Ottawa. If you decide to come, I would recommend travelling by dog-sled at this time of year!

Hope to see you soon! Bring warm clothes!

Re:Ohio, eh? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20521105)

No kidding, just think of the electricity bill too, eh!

selective outrage (1)

Scrameustache (459504) | about 7 years ago | (#20521049)

freshly-clubbed baby seals
Nearly lunch time, that must be why I feel like having some veal [wikipedia.org] , huh?

Re:Ohio, eh? (2, Interesting)

siyavash (677724) | about 7 years ago | (#20520779)

Maybe the free state project in New Hampshire is something you'll like : http://www.freestateproject.org./ [www.freestateproject.org]

48 possibilities, not 49? (1)

AHumbleOpinion (546848) | about 7 years ago | (#20521387)

I was thinking about moving to a different State, but hadn't figured out which one. Now I'm down to 49 possibilities.

Wouldn't that be 48 possibilities? 48 + Current + Ohio. Or is DC being counted? :-)

Lie Dectectors will persist... (5, Insightful)

bossesjoe (675859) | about 7 years ago | (#20520591)

...as long as people are still searching for some magical way to get the truth out of somebody. Won't happen short of the next fifty years of neurological research.

Re:Lie Dectectors will persist... (0)

ScrewMaster (602015) | about 7 years ago | (#20520789)

Doesn't take magic. Just a two-by-four and a willingness to use it.

Re:Lie Dectectors will persist... (4, Insightful)

Maxo-Texas (864189) | about 7 years ago | (#20520901)

Give me a two by four and I can have you begging me to believe you are Osama Bin Ladin in under 60 minutes!

Re:Lie Dectectors will persist... (3, Funny)

WhatAmIDoingHere (742870) | about 7 years ago | (#20521101)

There are FOUR lights.

Re:Lie Dectectors will persist... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20520821)

...Veritaserum!

Re:Lie Dectectors will persist... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20520837)

..and they are not really lie detectors either. They detect stress responses. Exactly why you are stressed is not a part of the equation, but it's assumed it because you are lying.

So, one way to handle them is to take a double dose of a potent laxative along with a sturdy dinner before the test. Your bowls will then provide you with a source of great stress at more or less random intervals... or just say that you did.

Gray area between truth and lies (1)

drgonzo59 (747139) | about 7 years ago | (#20521019)

Nothing current fMRI technology can't handle... But the problem is not with technology, the problem is with the gray area between truth and lies. The really good lairs are the ones that convince themselves that their lies are the truth. In other words they can sort of brainwash themselves.


Something similar happens during long police interrogations, the person being interrogated first is subjected to stress (16 hours of interrogation), they are bullied and yelled at, that lowers their confidence level to a point where they cannot discern between their memories of what happened and the version suggested by the police ("you probably don't remember, you are so stressed, you could have easily killed them and then forgotten") and then an apparent easy way out is presented if the person chooses the 'alternative' version of events ("you can go home if you sign this paper and this will all be over..."). I bet at that point if the interrogated person is subjected to a lie detector, they will actually believe that the alternative sequence of events was actually the truth. If someone would ask the question "did you kill" they will say "yes" and because they will believe that to be the truth, the lie detector, no matter how sophisticated will detect no lies.


Re:Gray area between truth and lies (3, Insightful)

gvc (167165) | about 7 years ago | (#20521149)

I bet at that point if the interrogated person is subjected to a lie detector, they will actually believe that the alternative sequence of events was actually the truth.
This statement presupposes that the lie detector can determine someone's belief. It cannot, at least not any better than Tarot cards or tea leaves.

Re:Gray area between truth and lies (1)

ls -la (937805) | about 7 years ago | (#20521681)

I bet at that point if the interrogated person is subjected to a lie detector, they will actually believe that the alternative sequence of events was actually the truth.
This statement presupposes that the lie detector can determine someone's belief. It cannot, at least not any better than Tarot cards or tea leaves.
No, it really doesn't. The statement doesn't actually make a conclusion or rely on any external presuppositions. The GP was just stating that by the time the police administer the lie detector, there's a good chance that the victim has already been essentially brainwashed by the police into believing he or she is guilty. No assumptions.

Re:Gray area between truth and lies (1)

gvc (167165) | about 7 years ago | (#20521771)

With your interpretation, the clause "if the interrogated person is subjected to a lie detector" would be useless, having no more meaning than "if pink unicorns orbited pluto." The presumption that the clause is useful, i.e. that the use of a lie detector has some relationship to whether the subject's belief, is implicit in its having included it in the statement.

Re:Gray area between truth and lies (1)

thegnu (557446) | about 7 years ago | (#20521901)

The presumption that the clause is useful, i.e. that the use of a lie detector has some relationship to whether the subject's belief, is implicit in its having included it in the statement.

Do you know what a polygraph tests? It tests variance in body stress incurred by answering certain questions when compared to control questions (that the tester knows the answer to), BLEARGH! [wikipedia.org]

Therefore, it would make sense that the person's belief would make a difference. A polygraph does not detect lies. It detects body stress indicators, and the person interprets them. By what you've posted, it seems like you think that while it's preposterous to believe that a machine could possibly detect your belief, it's pretty reasonable that it can detect your intention (to lie).

Re:Gray area between truth and lies (1)

TapeCutter (624760) | about 7 years ago | (#20521255)

Oblig. Simpsons [youtube.com]

"Lie" detectors are very useful tools ... (1)

AHumbleOpinion (546848) | about 7 years ago | (#20521543)

"Lie" detectors are very useful tools. First they should really be called stress detectors. Second, knowing what questions are introducing stress can be very useful information to an investigator. No way should it be used against a person in court, but investigators are often called upon to make educated guesses as to whether someone is being truthful or not. Reading non-verbal cues is art not science and it has practical value every day to law enforcement and investigators.

Re:"Lie" detectors are useful tools like fingerpri (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20521671)

nts.

How many fingerprint experts can be asked to contradict themselves when shown the same prints and told that they are from a different person?

Lie detectors are bullsh*t and don't work! (2, Funny)

Paracelcus (151056) | about 7 years ago | (#20521723)

Back in the 70's I had to pass one for a job I was applying for, I couldn't pass the test questions due to an irregular heartbeat high blood pressure and (at that time) overweight.

If I can illustrate the kinds of test questions that were asked. Do you drink (yes) Bzzt, wrong answer. Are you male (yes) Bzzt, wrong answer. Is it daytime (yes) Bzzt, wrong answer.

Any technology that cannot tell if a fat male drunk is awake in the daytime ain't worth a damn!

No, I didn't get the job.

Nice, unbiased source. (2, Insightful)

Elemenope (905108) | about 7 years ago | (#20520601)

antipolygraph.com? Well, anyway, this is quite unfortunate, especially if polygraphs are as unreliable as they have always been...and I haven't seen or heard anything to suggest that they aren't.

Re:Nice, unbiased source. (4, Interesting)

hedwards (940851) | about 7 years ago | (#20520671)

I remember seeing a clip of Groucho being subjected to a polygraph from the 50s, and while funny, it didn't inspire any sort of confidence in the technology.

I agree, that considering how many minor things are consider to taint the jury, a polygraph is probably just about the worst of them. The reliability just isn't there, and even when they are accurate, they don't really give any indication of what the lie actually is.

Worse, they tend to work worse when the subject is already under stress. Overall, the technology just isn't there, and won't ever get there. If anything is more reliable, it'll be of a different form, probably something that scans the brain directly. Even that though is going to be tough.

Re:Nice, unbiased source. (2, Insightful)

gvc (167165) | about 7 years ago | (#20521163)

Worse, they tend to work worse when the subject is already under stress.


The above statement presupposes that lie detectors work at all. This presupposition is unsupported by evidence. So the statement is akin to "mediums are not as able to recall the dead if there's a skeptic in the room."

Re:Nice, unbiased source. (1)

xant (99438) | about 7 years ago | (#20521201)

Wow, even direct brain scans will be tough? I was about to go build a direct brain scanner in my back shed, but now it sounds like too much work.

Re:Nice, unbiased source. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20521257)

I've taken a polygraph, and I was rather impressed, I missed one question and I knew which question it was. First I missed a question where I was analyzing the question and the event, it was actually a matter of me changing my mind that I didn't miss it again. This would not work at all with crazy/incompetent/dumb people, quite a lot actually, that can't rationalize properly. The second thing was I was concerned about my breathing, the whole time, at the end he said it was perfect, all the way across, when I told him my breathing stressed me out. Finally, your polygraph tester must be moral and competent, I remember a story where a polygraph tester at the FBI had screwed up reports for 15 years or so. Anyways, I think the whole thing is kinda thin ice, as someone who was innocent the idea of failing my test scared the sh*t out of me.

Stress detectors, not "lie" detectors (2, Insightful)

AHumbleOpinion (546848) | about 7 years ago | (#20521441)

Worse, they tend to work worse when the subject is already under stress

My understanding is that they are really stress detectors. The flawed assumption is that stress indicates deception.

Re:Stress detectors, not "lie" detectors (1)

hedwards (940851) | about 7 years ago | (#20521873)

Close, from what I gather, they are supposed to measure changes in stress. Meaning that when one lies one should be more stressed than just before.

So somebody who is already horribly stressed, whether because they are guilty or just because they are possibly going to be falsely imprisoned is not going to be a good candidate.

The issue with somebody that is already under stress, is that the higher the background stress level, the noisier the data and the less likely that the examiner is going to get anything other than just noise.

Re:Nice, unbiased source. (3, Interesting)

amchugh (116330) | about 7 years ago | (#20522039)

There was a wired article [wired.com] on fMRI lie detectors.

Re:Nice, unbiased source. (2, Informative)

Kythe (4779) | about 7 years ago | (#20521327)

Antipolygraph.org makes no pretense as to being "unbiased"--they're an advocacy group. But the information they provide is scrupulously documented and referenced, and it comes from some of the most credentialed scientific sources. They've done their homework.

Re:Nice, unbiased source. (1)

Elemenope (905108) | about 7 years ago | (#20521395)

I'm not complaining about antipolygraph.com per se. What I was complaining about (and I suppose I should have been more clear) was that the /. editors saw fit to make their site the main citation for the posted story with no supplementary material that perhaps covered the matter from a less, um, tainted perspective.

Re:Nice, unbiased source. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20521619)

The only thing these so-called lie-detectors measure is the nervousness and function of the autonomical nervous system and the result is always down to the questioner who can control the situation and will pass the ultimate judgement. Likely an equally good measure is the rigidity of your penor. The harder it is, the more you lie and if it was harder than during the reference question that is considered true... well, too bad for you.

What the state of the art science can tell is whether a person perhaps recalls of having seen something similar to what they are shown that he is reminded of. Which doesn't really prove anything and requires perfect cooperation from the subject.

polygraph reliability. (1)

jbengt (874751) | about 7 years ago | (#20521679)

I personally know someone who beat a polygraph test, lying and not getting caught.
And the one time I took one, it was inconclusive on some of the things I was telling the truth about, and it didn't take into account some things that I had forgotten, but remembered after the test.
Granted, there can be a difference in skill using one, but that's just more evidence that they are not black and white as most poeple seem to think.

Even better story (2, Informative)

nbauman (624611) | about 7 years ago | (#20521685)

George W. Maschke, the founder of Antipolygraph, posted a nice statement of why he founded his web site. https://antipolygraph.org/statements/statement-003 .shtml [antipolygraph.org]

The guy sounds like a real straight arrow, super-patriotic American who worked with a Top Secret clearance for U.S. Army Intelligence and with the FBI on the first World Trade Center bombing, and who was particularly valuable because of his fluency in Arabic and Farsi. After doing exempliary work, he applied for a job as FBI special agent, but was rejected and blacklisted elsewhere because a polygraph examiner falsely decided he was lying and rejected him, and the FBI rejected all his appeals.

That's Maschke version, and I'd like to see any response by the FBI or anything to challenge his credibility. I couldn't find anything.

Precedential case? (1, Troll)

gEvil (beta) (945888) | about 7 years ago | (#20520615)

Well, if our Precedent can beat a lie detector, then I don't think they should be allowed in courts...

Re:Precedential case? BUllSHit (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20521529)

Well, if our Precedent can beat a lie detector

Lie detector, maybe. Bullshit detector, never. Duh Precedent's speeches are used for the "maximum stress load" test at the bullshit detector factory.

Two out of every units tested just blows up (real good).

Weight vs admissibility (5, Insightful)

deblau (68023) | about 7 years ago | (#20520629)

Getting evidence admitted is one thing, but getting a jury to believe it or give it any weight or credibility is something else entirely.

Re:Weight vs admissibility (1)

DrEldarion (114072) | about 7 years ago | (#20520679)

Exactly. Any lawyer that wasn't found through a TV commercial would be able to make it seem ridiculous.

Re:Weight vs admissibility (5, Insightful)

Elemenope (905108) | about 7 years ago | (#20520971)

That's fantastic! That means only people who can't afford better lawyers than the schmucks on TV will be imprisoned, and who cares about them, anyway?

But, to lose the sarcasm for a moment, most defendant protections in criminal law were developed so as to defend even the indigent, since they are the most vulnerable to unfairness seeing as how their lawyers either suck or are overworked (or both). If a method of obtaining evidence is bad enough that a decently trained lawyer can demonstrate its utter ridiculousness, it does not belong in a courtroom in the first place. The competence of the defendant's lawyer should not be depended upon as the single fail-safe employed to determine whether a person should be deprived of their freedom.

Re:Weight vs admissibility (1)

DrLang21 (900992) | about 7 years ago | (#20520761)

The jury is the problem. It is far to easy to have a jury that can't think objectively. That is why it is so important to not allow lawyers to bring in evidence that is not related to the case. Jurys might not be able to distinguish between relavent and irrelavent information. Considering that they aren't allowed to take written notes, they might just forget where a piece of information came from.

Re:Weight vs admissibility (1)

tomhudson (43916) | about 7 years ago | (#20520891)

"Considering that they aren't allowed to take written notes, they might just forget where a piece of information came from."

Huh? I sat as a juror in a murder trial in February, and we were all given notebooks to write down anything we wanted to while we were in the jury box listening to testimony. Just like we were given copies of all the photos, the crime lab / dna results, etc. And bottles of water to bring with us into the courtroom.

Re:Weight vs admissibility (1)

DrLang21 (900992) | about 7 years ago | (#20520953)

IANAL. This might just be a Pennsylvania thing then. I know I always thought it was retarded, but it's how they do things here. I guess I just assumed it was like that everywhere.

Re:Weight vs admissibility (2, Funny)

Foobar of Borg (690622) | about 7 years ago | (#20521029)

This might just be a Pennsylvania thing then. I know I always thought it was retarded, but it's how they do things here. I guess I just assumed it was like that everywhere.
Well, in Pennsylvania (except perhaps Philadelphia and Pittsburgh), a juror cannot even drive a car to the courthouse since they don't want the judge's horse disturbed and upset by those loud, new-fangled "automobiles".

Re:Weight vs admissibility (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20520769)

ROFLMAO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Seriously, the jurors will see this as "science" and take it as fact that the person questioned under the polygraph did/did not lie as the examiner claims.

On a personal note, I have NO training whatsoever, and I have beaten the polygraph twice. :D

Re:Weight vs admissibility (1)

Lloyd_Bryant (73136) | about 7 years ago | (#20520785)

Getting evidence admitted is one thing, but getting a jury to believe it or give it any weight or credibility is something else entirely.
You seem to forget the concept of "guilty beyond a reasonable doubt". Admitting polygraph evidence for the *defense* would tend to create such doubt in the mind of jurors, regardless of how hard the prosecution tried to convince them to ignore it.

Actually, this whole case stinks. First, the judge admitted the polygraph evidence. Then, the defendant waived a jury trial. Then the judge, based in part on said polygraph evidence, found the defendant not guilty. So the judge allowed the evidence, despite it's lacking the "accepted by the scientific community" status, and then used if to acquit. Sounds to me like he was *trying* to find a justification to acquit...

Re:Weight vs admissibility (1)

tiananmen tank man (979067) | about 7 years ago | (#20521331)

Sounds like it was important, from the link in the story, "During the reading of the verdict, Dr. Rovner's testimony was cited as one of the primary pieces of evidence that led to the finding of Not Guilty."

Re:Weight vs admissibility (1)

QRDeNameland (873957) | about 7 years ago | (#20522093)

Getting evidence admitted is one thing, but getting a jury to believe it or give it any weight or credibility is something else entirely.

That may be true, but that certainly doesn't mean that there shouldn't be stringent standards of what evidence should be admissible. How about spectral evidence [wikipedia.org] , should that be admissible on the grounds that the jury wouldn't give it any crediblilty? (In some parts of the US, I personally wouldn't want to test that theory.)

Lots of potential evidence is not admissible: hearsay, non-pertinent prejudicial testimony, etc., and for good reason.

No (3, Insightful)

spyfrog (552673) | about 7 years ago | (#20520635)

"Do lie detectors really belong in the court room?"

No. Next question please.

Re:No (1)

JoelKatz (46478) | about 7 years ago | (#20521581)

Tea leaf readers?

Psychics?

Phrenologists?

Nope (4, Interesting)

symes (835608) | about 7 years ago | (#20520657)

Imho, polygraphs should not be used. The simple reason is that some of the more violent and unpleasant people, psychopaths [wikipedia.org] , show blunted responses in psychophysiological tests compared to your 'regular' violent perpetrator. As psychopaths tend to be the ones we should really keep off the streets then a misinformed jury might take polygraph results as definitive evident the perpetrator (psychopath) had not committed the offense and judge accordingly. Also, with a bit of practice and insight, some people are able to control their responses or give misleading results. There's no definitive objective means determining whether someone is telling the truth or not... next to honest evidence the polygraph is pretty useless. It's a nice idea but anyone who has used these psychophysiological tests will know, for every half decent result you also get a fair bit of noise (excluding, of course, the people ho make and sell polygraph tests).

Accuracy as against usefulness (4, Interesting)

SEMW (967629) | about 7 years ago | (#20520689)

The most common figure for the accuracy of polygraph tests is 70%. Which sounds reasonable, until you realise that since the situation is binomal -- i.e. the only possible results are "truth" and "lie", so pure chance (e.g. flipping a coin) would give you 50% accuracy; at which point 70% starts to look considerably less impressive.

As I understand it, the most useful (from the police's point of view) way to use of lie detectors is psychological: pretend that they're 100% accurate, get the suspect to say "I didn't do it", bluff and claim that "The Machine Knows You're Lying", and get them to give a confession that way. Of course, such a strategy will fail if the polygraph becomes so widely used that everyone becomes familiar with its limitations.

Re:Accuracy as against usefulness (5, Informative)

Kandenshi (832555) | about 7 years ago | (#20520887)

There are policing agencies out there who already do similar things. Despite it's absense, they may explain that there's incontrevertible evidence that shows that the suspect is guitly, they just want a confession so that the trial goes faster and with less fuss/humiliation for others/etc...

Turns out that one can get a fairly large number of confessions that way, much like you apparently desire. The problem is, it's not all THAT uncommon for the confessions to be lies. Innocent people will lie and confess to horrible, horrible crimes. And a confession given to a jury is a really really good predictor of them finding the defendent guitly. Even if there's little to no other evidence. People tend to believe confessions, which is sort of confusing since they have to reconcile the idea that "this is a dangerous lunatic with no morals and a willingness to kill" against "this is an honest man, who will condemn himself to jail by giving a confession". Still, they manage it.

Feel free to read a bit more about the subject of false confessions here [psychologytoday.com] , on some webnotes for a college class here [72.14.205.104] or even here [innocenceproject.org] (this last one is perhaps more likely to cherrypick it's evidence, but what it says appears to be true).

False confessions are a rather worrying thing to me, as once a person confesses, the police have a tendency to cease looking for other potential guilty parties. While it's possible some other person will eventually be found guilty and you get released, it's not really something that The System tries for. Makes 'em look bad if they accidentally put someone in jail and gave 'em a whole bunch of publicity as a convicted rapist.

Re:Accuracy as against usefulness (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20521479)

False confessions are unintuitive for me. I am not denying their existence by any means; I've read about many cases where confessions have been proven to be false due to exculpatory evidence. I am, however, perplexed by the willingness of an innocent person--or a guilty one for that matter--to confess to a crime when doing so will result in a maximum penalty. They're going to charge you, and you're going to go to jail. Interrogation must be pretty unpleasant if that seems preferable. They aren't going to send you home with a complementary handjob, they're going to toss you in with loosely-regulated sociopaths five-sixths on the way to Lord of the Flies. It isn't like a round of Prisoner's Dilemma. You don't get anything for defecting against yourself.

What this unintuitive scenario tells me is that humans are much more easily controlled than my naive assumptions lead me to think. Or they don't realize that when the police tell you that it's going to be "easier for you" that they are lying.

Re:Accuracy as against usefulness (3, Interesting)

Kandenshi (832555) | about 7 years ago | (#20521553)

Oh, humans are very readily controlled. Check out Asch's line length study [wikipedia.org] , or Milgram's study on obedience [wikipedia.org] . Those are two pretty famous experiments in psychology, and you can read about them at length in pretty much any introduction to psychology text.
There's plenty, plenty more examples in the history of psychological experimentation, but people can be played pretty readily. That's why psychopaths do so well, it's really not as hard as we'd like to believe to control our thoughts.

Even worse, a tinfoil hat provides little protection against this sort of thing.

As to the false confessions bit, it's my belief(can't cite good evidence for this though), that people expect to get a plea-bargain of sorts. For a judge to go light on the sentencing if they just admit that they did it rather than maintain their denial. If I give you two choices, one where the judge is going to probably lock you away for the next 20 years, and one where you can confess and only get 5-10, which are you going to choose? Keep in mind that we already have multiple eye-witnesses that place you at the scene, and DNA evidence.

Re:Accuracy as against usefulness (1)

vranash (594439) | about 7 years ago | (#20521869)

I'll give you another example:
What if it's NOT a criminal trial per-say but a traffic violation.

You maintain your innocence, but have no eye-witnesses to the traffic violation in question. The cop lies on the ticket, police report, etc about what you were doing. The pretrial judges all think you're guilty, regardless of the requirement for presumption of innocence. In order to take it to trial you're going to have to wait months, pay two times the cost of the ticket for court fees (non-refundable), plus if you're over 2k/month income you have to hire your own lawyer (who doesn't really care about your case anyhow and is going to require 6k to defend you in court, unless you pleabargain with the DA for a reduced sentence/violation/whatever.)

All of a sudden you're choosing between trying to prove you're innocent by placing your word against the cop (regardless of right, wrong, just having a bad day). You have to either find a witness who can corroborate your story, or prove this isn't the first time the officer in question lied to corroborate a supposed infraction.

Thousands of dollars to prove you're innocent, and get nothing back, plus take lots of time, or pay a few hundred for a lesser penalty and saying you're guilty.

I chose the road less travelled, but having spoken to a number of other people, who could've been guilty or innocent, very few would risk the financial investment in proving their innocence given a lesser penalty (and hey in the case of traffic violations, pretty much everyone is guilty of something that day, even if the ticket in question wasn't something they did, right?)

Just my take on things, and increasing distaste for the system and how it handles things.

Re:Accuracy as against usefulness (4, Interesting)

gvc (167165) | about 7 years ago | (#20521221)

The most common figure for the accuracy of polygraph tests is 70%.

No repeatable study or sequence of studies has demonstrated that the polygraph as deployed for interrogation, screening or any other diagnostic purpose, has 70% accuracy. Or, to be more precise, better than 30% false positive or false negative rates.


The argument is not well served by taking figures like this from the air. If you care to cite a particular study, we can debate its methodology, statistical power, and freedom from confounds such as selective sampling or lack of blinding to the "true" result.

Re:Accuracy as against usefulness (1)

ClosedSource (238333) | about 7 years ago | (#20521905)

I entirely agree. Furthermore, nobody is going to do such a study. Scientists won't because there's really no scientific theory that would account for it working. The polygraph community isn't going to do one because they have nothing to gain and everything to lose from such a study.

The fact that an "examiner" must be present and is the one "evaluating" the result makes the whole process quite suspect. If I get an EKG, or an MRI, or some other diagnostic test, the process is usually handled by a nurse or technician, not the doctor who evaluates the result.

It's most likely that the outcome is based on the non-polygraph observations of the examiner and the bluff factor with the polygraph as an impressive prop.

Re:Accuracy as against usefulness (2, Informative)

SEMW (967629) | about 7 years ago | (#20521963)

The argument is not well served by taking figures like this from the air. If you care to cite a particular study, we can debate its methodology, statistical power, and freedom from confounds such as selective sampling or lack of blinding to the "true" result.
I didn't realise there was much of an argument to be had. The 70% figure was remembered from a chapter on polygraph testing in a book I read about 5 years ago, not any particular study; if you want to read the details of particular studies, there are a few hundred out there, and Google is your friend (for example this 2003 meta-study [nap.edu] ). They all seem to broadly agree that polygraph testing, whilst significantly better than chance, still isn't very good (e.g. the meta-study linked to concluded that a polygraph test regarding a specific incident can discern the truth at "a level greater than chance, yet short of perfection"; not very specific, but I have no particular desire to pay $3 to read the conclusions in more detail). If you are either so convinced that this is incorrect, or desperately wish to pin down one particular specific figure for accuracy, that you wish to "debate [the] methodology, statistical power, and freedom from confounds such as selective sampling or lack of blinding to the 'true' result" for each study in turn, feel free; I personally don't really see much point. That's what meta-studies are for.

No, I don't believe they have a place in court (2, Informative)

HouseArrest420 (1105077) | about 7 years ago | (#20520707)

Lie detectors don't detect lies, contrary to the device's name. They detect physiologal responses to stress, such as elevated blood pressure, pulse, respiratory changes, and sometimes body temperature. All of these things can be "faked". During the initial questioning process that they use to gauge your bodies responses, simply answer a question you know as being true while you clench your ass checks (change in respirations and pulse), or while you try to mimick pain (thumb tac under big toe concealed in shoe). Most lie detector tests ask the same questions in 2 (or more) cases-1 being the control (graphing your responses), and the 2nd time (trying to anticipate your lie). That way when you really do have to lie, your response seems more natural, thus providing false negatives for the test.

Any test that can possibly provide false results should never be used (IMHO) when the resulting information could possibly deny a man his freedom.

What is needed is a truth detector (1)

camg188 (932324) | about 7 years ago | (#20521069)

"Lie" detectors only detect an emotional response which is interpreted by the examiner. I have first hand experience taking a polygraph test by some guy that was supposed to be one of the country's leading experts in the field. It returned a false positive. So in my opinion, if a situation every arises where you're asked to take polygraph test, never, never, never take it.

Re:What is needed is a truth detector (1)

HouseArrest420 (1105077) | about 7 years ago | (#20521213)

There are instances when you have no choice in the matter. The important thing to remember in those instances is to never admit to what you are being accused of irregardless of how accurate the examiner portrays the test.

Lie detectors are very unreliable (5, Informative)

slashqwerty (1099091) | about 7 years ago | (#20520717)

The most common lie detector, the control question test, takes a set of baseline readings where the suspect is expected to tell the truth on some questions and lie on others. It then compares those results to the questions the examiner is most interested in. These tests have been shown to product accurate results about 65% of the time (that's per person tested).

Professional polygraphers will claim their test works 96% of the time. Those claims are bald-faced lies. Regardless of that we can take a look at what happens if the test really did work 96% of the time.

Some employers have been known to hire polygraphers to identify which employee may have been involved in some inside theft (or similar situation). The employer asks the polygrapher to test 50 employees. The odds that the tests will be correct with all 50 employees is 0.96^50=13%. So there is an 87% chance the test will accuse an innocent person...and that assumes the test is correct 96% of the time. What invariably happens is the polygrapher 'discovers' the culprit after the first few tests, packs up his things, and goes home. He identifies the suspect so quickly because the test is only right 65% of the time. Whether the accuracy is 65% of 96% the test will still point to a suspect even if none of the employees did anything wrong.

Re:Lie detectors are very unreliable (1)

ettlz (639203) | about 7 years ago | (#20520839)

Professional polygraphers will claim their test works 96% of the time. Those claims are bald-faced lies.
"Polygrapher plot thyself!"

Re:Lie detectors are very unreliable (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20520907)

Exactly there's many things that can produce a false positive. While they try to make the process relaxed (comfortable chair, no noise, etc) there's plenty of factors to why a person can be stressed. If they ask "have you ever abused your kid" to a person that went through horrible child abuse, its reasonable to expect stress. Asking questions to a person with poor english skills may stress them out. Thats before even considering the factors they measure may even be caused by other things then stress. Breath rate, perspiration, heart rate... maybe they're just aroused? (Ok hopefully not on the child abuse question)

I've been through a poly and talked with others that have and in my experience they look for the largest spike and dwell on that question. They'll tell the person that they think they're lying on it (which obviously makes it harder to pass that question when they repeat it). They'll try to convince you its just better to "confess". Then they'll eventually give up and say you passed (the question never gave a response high enough to cross the threshhold, just enough that they dwelled). Everyone I've talked to had a similar experience, where they were told they were lying on a ridiculous question.

However as long as a poly gets people to confess, it's doing its job (these are background poly's)... so they're unlikely to get rid of them. The people in charge know they can't be trusted but know they also get some small results. Most spy cases the spies passed the poly because if you know what it is, it's easy to fool.

Re:Lie detectors are very unreliable (1)

morgan_greywolf (835522) | about 7 years ago | (#20521031)

I've been through a poly and talked with others that have and in my experience they look for the largest spike and dwell on that question. They'll tell the person that they think they're lying on it (which obviously makes it harder to pass that question when they repeat it). They'll try to convince you its just better to "confess". Then they'll eventually give up and say you passed (the question never gave a response high enough to cross the threshhold, just enough that they dwelled). Everyone I've talked to had a similar experience, where they were told they were lying on a ridiculous question.


Similar tactics to what were used during the Spanish Inquisition, only nobody gets phsycially tortured. You just have the mental aspect, and that's enough to get people to talk sometimes.

Of course, the best lie detector is a human being. Because people who are lying often say conflicting things or things that don't make sense given the circumstances. A truly skilled interviewer will be able to tell when most people are lying. It's maybe 1% of the population that is good enough at lying to go undetected by someone who is skilled at interviewing people.

Re:Lie detectors are very unreliable (1)

gvc (167165) | about 7 years ago | (#20521319)

These tests have been shown to product accurate results about 65% of the time (that's per person tested).


Please cite a reference. The statement asserts that polygraph tests have better than chance diagnostic capability and if that has been demonstrated in the literature, I would like to hear about it.

However, I'm skeptical based, if nothing else, on how the result is paraphrased. It is not hard to make a test that has 0 diagnostic capability be "accurate 65% of the time." Here are two examples:

1. I have a deck of cards all of which say "true" I draw 100 people at random from an elementary school and ask them each in turn to say, "I did not murder anybody." Then I hold up one of the cards from my deck. Guess what? My test will be accurate nearly 100% of the time. Way more than 65%, in any event.

2. Now that's absurd, but suppose 65 of the cards said "true" while 35 said "false." I would be able to accuse school children of murder with 65% accuracy [sic]. The test -- drawing a card from the deck -- is utter crap, but still 65% accurate.

If, on the other hand, my deck of cards identified 65% of a group of murderers as such, and 65% of a group of non-murders as such, it would have some diagnostic value. But it would still be *utterly useless* for screening school children. Or murder suspects, for that matter.

That said, I do not stipulate that any study has shown that a lie detector test has *any* diagnostic power, whether or not that diagnostic power is of practical investigative use.

If you disagree, please cite the study.

Re:Lie detectors are very unreliable (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20521621)

Please cite a reference. The statement asserts that polygraph tests have better than chance diagnostic capability and if that has been demonstrated in the literature, I would like to hear about it.

Kleinmuntz, B., & Szucko, J. J. (1984) A field study of the fallibility of polygraph lie detection, Nature, 308, 449-450. (p. 304) [nature.com] . I'm too cheap to spend $30 for the article but the summary in my intro Psych book says,

Benjamin Kleinmuntz and Julian Szucko (1984) had polygraph experts study the polygraph data of 50 theft suspects who later confessed to being guilty and 50 suspects whose innocence was later established by someone's confession. Had the polygraph experts been the judges, more than one-third of the innocent would have been declared guilty, and almost one-fourth of the guilty would have been declared innocent.

This shows results far better than chance but nowhere near sufficient to trust the results.

Re:Lie detectors are very unreliable (2, Informative)

gvc (167165) | about 7 years ago | (#20521959)

Does this link [nature.com] not work for you? I can attempt to paraphrase the paper but since it is only two pages long it would speak for itself much better. I was aware of this article and it does show in one particular laboratory experiment that polygraph results likely differ from chance. The article does not conclude that the results are reliable or transferrable to a diagnostic setting. The authors report on a single experiment in which 100 people are re-interviewed for theft cases that have previously been resolved. 50 are innocent (because somebody else confessed) and 50 are guilty (because they confessed). In this experiment, false positive rates of up to 50% and false negative rates of up to 36% were observed (depending on the interpreter of the charts). These findings are better than chance (p .05). The authors conclude, "Hence, we conclude that the validity and reliability of polygraphic interrogation have yet to be established."

Meh, back in... (1)

Splab (574204) | about 7 years ago | (#20520727)

the mid evil times there was a much better method of figuring out if someone was lying. Just make them walk 10 paces with red hot glowing iron in the arms, if they where talking the truth god would protect them.

Re:Meh, back in... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20520763)

Just a note, it's medieval, which is Latin for middle time or period. It has nothing to do with evil nasty bad things.

Re:Meh, back in... (1)

Usekh (557680) | about 7 years ago | (#20521443)

And it was probably every bit as accurate as the polygraph.

What's next handwriting analysis and phrenology? (4, Insightful)

GoatRavisher (779902) | about 7 years ago | (#20520745)

I once interviewed for a job and was told that I would be required to handwrite a statement so it could be analyzed by their "handwriting expert." I promptly got up and left. They looked shocked. Apparently they initially tried polygraphing applicants, but found it to be too expensive. Years later I bumped into the HR person at another job and asked her about the success of the vetting process. She said it didn't work and if anything made things worse.

Re:What's next handwriting analysis and phrenology (1)

gEvil (beta) (945888) | about 7 years ago | (#20520933)

Hey now, don't knock phrenology! I like the thought of being able to alter key characteristics of my being simply by bashing my head against things.

This is somewhat offtopic (3, Interesting)

Drakin020 (980931) | about 7 years ago | (#20520803)

Ok this is somewhat off topic but it has to do about Lie detectors.

A long time ago my brother worked for Electronic Boutique (AKA EB)

One of the employees stole some money from the cash register and it was pinned on my brother and some other guy.

Well funny thing is they both recieved Lie detector tests and failed. As more and more evidence came in they found the other guy guilty and my brother innocent.

But EB was convinced that my brother took it or had some affiliation because of the lie detector. Now they didn't use that as evidence in court however the managers at EB had accepted those results.

Now on a personal note my brother wouldn't take the money. He is an honest hard working citizen and I just couldn't see him doing something like that, so I know it wasn't him.

But basically what I am getting at is the lie detector was not used in court however because of the results my brother lost his job there. They simply did not give him any more hours.

I see that as being unfair, but yeah...just thought I would share.

Re:This is somewhat offtopic (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20521305)

When someone accuses you of a crime like theft, don't give them the option of taking it into their own hands. Insist that they either formally accuse you and present their evidence against you, or drop the matter. In your brother's case that probably means quitting the job, but if someone accuses you of a crime you did not commit, and cannot produce evidence against you, it's slander at the very least.

They aren't doing you a favor by conducting their own investigation. They are concealing a crime from the police. The police can't force you to take a polygraph. If you're under arrest, you don't have to say one word (and shouldn't). If you are not under arrest, you are free to walk away (that's the definition of arrest.) The problem of course, is that the employer can fire you for no reason at all. But what they *cannot* do is fire you for *stealing* if they cannot prove in a court of law that you are stealing. To fire someone for a fabricated reason is totally illegal.

Lie detectors vs functional MRI lie detectors (1)

NynexNinja (379583) | about 7 years ago | (#20520875)

Traditional lie detector tests can easily be tricked into whatever answer you want. Functional MRI [newscientist.com] (fMRI) are the only form of lie detector that should be trusted to be used in a court. At least the probability of defrauding a fMRI lie detector is much lower than traditional lie detector tests.

More smoke and mirrors (1)

gvc (167165) | about 7 years ago | (#20521347)

Polygraph, voice stress analysis, fMRI, Tarot cards, have equal diagnostic value. Zero.

To be more precise, no study has yet demonstrated that any is more or less effective than the others.

DON'T CALL IT A LIE DETECTOR!!! (4, Insightful)

Robber Baron (112304) | about 7 years ago | (#20520885)

It doesn't "detect lies"!!! It detects physiological changes ONLY! Determining what those changes actually mean is entirely subjective and open to varied interpretations!

Re:DON'T CALL IT A LIE DETECTOR!!! (1)

Daimanta (1140543) | about 7 years ago | (#20520927)

Agreed. This article should be tagged "!liedetector"

dwindling states (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20520967)

So Ohio is the new Texas?

Next in Ohio (1)

stox (131684) | about 7 years ago | (#20520977)

The Quija board will be allowed to be presented as evidence. After all, it is almost as accurate as the polygraph.

Re:Next in Ohio (1)

gEvil (beta) (945888) | about 7 years ago | (#20521055)

Ahhh, but you're assuming that the spirit of the deceased doesn't know who killed them...

Truth is a point of view. (1)

Z00L00K (682162) | about 7 years ago | (#20520979)

And the use of a polygraph is really useless, it may be working for the average man that has a "normal" mind, but persons with a skewed mind may not at all provide the expected response.

And as noted - statistics works against the polygraph. There is a reason why it's not used all over the world.

Some medication may also cause an unexpected outcome - either causing the person to be more relaxed or being more tense.

Let's stick to hard evidence. If there is a lack of evidence it's better to wait - at least if the suspect isn't considered a danger to the public.

And of course - there are many things that can be said about the justice system (not only the US) - and it isn't all good.

I don't get it (1)

proind (837269) | about 7 years ago | (#20520981)

how can a court decide that it's admissible? isn't there a law that makes it inadmissible? otherwise , how come there aren't more judges that allow it ?

I do not see a problem in this case (1)

HairyCanary (688865) | about 7 years ago | (#20521037)

IMO, a lie detector test amounts to a statement by the defendant. And as such, I feel that it should be strictly under the control of the defendant whether it is admitted in the trial or not. The defendant can invoke their right against self incrimination and refuse to let it be admitted, or they can choose to testify and let it be admitted.

If you read the article, that is precisely what happened here. It would bother me if the court were introducing polygraph evidence over the objection of the defense.

Let the Knee Jerk responses begin... (4, Informative)

DumbSwede (521261) | about 7 years ago | (#20521057)

In this case it is the DEFENSE offering the lie-detector evidence. Most sexual molestation/battery cases come down to he-said she-said. Lots of innocent people have been convicted under these circumstances. While lie-detectors are not perfect I think in this type of situation they are perhaps appropriate. I would not allow them for prosecution (which is what I think a lot of knee-jerk post here have assumed) and only in cases where the evidence comes down to what is being said by two people, which appears to be what the Judge has decided in this case. While lie-detectors are only about 70% accurate, that is better odds than deciding just on the demeanor of two people in court.

I can sympathize that women are outraged by the high number of men that get off scott-free with these type of charges, but that doesn't alter the fact that it really isn't fair to convict someone on nothing more than an accusation by one person without direct supporting evidence (bruises are not direct evidence). Yes direct evidence is hard to come by in these cases, they are usually executed in private without other witnesses, but I for one would rather see 10 guilty men free than send 1 innocent man to jail.

Re:Let the Knee Jerk responses begin... (3, Insightful)

Alicat1194 (970019) | about 7 years ago | (#20521653)

In this case it is the DEFENSE offering the lie-detector evidence.

It doesn't matter if the side offering the evidence is the defense or the prosecution - once the evidence is accepted it sets a (potentially dangerous) precedent.

I see... no wom-can openings on your watch (0)

DumbSwede (521261) | about 7 years ago | (#20522053)

So you would be in the it's better to possibly send an innocent man to jail than to set a dangerous precedent camp?

Instead of arguing lie-detectors are in all cases BAD, how about we acknowledge their weaknesses like any forensic tool and decide how best to use them to improve our justice system. We could also work on improving the science behind them and the protocols for their use.

Ridiculous, but was it even necessary? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20521087)

The judge should NOT have allowed the polygraph evidence into court. There's no concensus in the scientific community about its accuracy. If the defendent was allowed to enter that as evidence, the prosecution should have found a psychic that could claim to have "remote viewed" the alleged crime, and could recount the "vision" into the record as evidence.

What recourse do we have against a judge for allowing this kind of nonsense into evidence? I imagine this case itself will not carry much weight as precedent, but this is just a symptom of bad thinking -- citizens of Ohio, beware.

On the other hand, from the little about the actual case I saw, the polygraph evidence seems unnecessary. I don't have the court transcript, but from the report it sounded like a "she said / he said" case. It makes me sad to think that a woman's rights may have been violated, but I can't justify the conviction of a person on no other evidence than accusation. A security camera in the hotel hall showing him carrying or coercing her into the room, "date rape drugs" in her blood, even a independent witness's testimony that she seemed dazed or confused. Anything would be helpful. Otherwise, there's no evidence to suggest her story is any more credible than his. That doesn't get you "beyond a shadow of a doubt", no need for a polygraph.

not a precedent (2, Informative)

delong (125205) | about 7 years ago | (#20521095)

This evidentiary order is not a "precedent". First, it's a mere evidentiary order. Second, the decisions of state district courts are not precedential. They aren't in any way binding on any other court. Third, this is almost certainly error and will almost certainly be reversed on appeal if it isn't harmless error. The federal rules of evidence and the rules of evidence of every state that I know of bars polygraph evidence as unreliable, and has been so held in state appellate courts. THAT is precedential.

Re:not a precedent (1)

falsified (638041) | about 7 years ago | (#20521851)

Reversed on appeal? It was a not guilty verdict in a criminal court.

Re:not a precedent (1)

delong (125205) | about 7 years ago | (#20521893)

Sorry, didn't read the article. Why bother when the headline gets it wrong from the get-go?

but...but... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20521123)

What about Basic Instinct? We might as well throw that out the window!

Personal Experience (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20521267)

I've failed and then passed a polygraph test. It is a nervousness detector and a useful tool for interrogation. It should not be admitted in court, and I would expect this to be overturned on appeals. Hopefully.

Re:Personal Experience (1)

Ghubi (1102775) | about 7 years ago | (#20521903)

He was acquitted. There won't be any appeals. That would be double jeopardy.

Waterboarding next? (1)

Lost Penguin (636359) | about 7 years ago | (#20521375)

I guess the next thing will be water boarding, followed closely by the NeoInquisition.

Grounds for appeal (1)

jcr (53032) | about 7 years ago | (#20521827)

The trial court fucked up by admitting polygraphs as evidence.

-jcr

precidential? (1)

thegnu (557446) | about 7 years ago | (#20521843)

FTS:

AntiPolygraph.org critiques the polygraph evidence from the this precedential case (Ohio v. Sharma)."

See? I KNEW our Precident was a liar!
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