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Is Polygraph a Good Investigative Tool?

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Submitted By joannelange
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After conducting "independent research", present arguments either in favor of or condemning the use of the "polygraph" as either an investigative tool or its admissibility in court. Should the polygraph even be available as an "investigative tool"?

I do not believe polygraph test results should be admissible in a court of law as evidence. I am however somewhat in favor of using the test as an investigative tool by law enforcement, as long as it cannot be used in any legal way against a person and with special restrictions for its use. In the state of Texas, polygraph results are not admissible into a court of law; however, if a legally obtained confession is obtained during the course of a post-test interview, the examiner in some cases will be subpoenaed to testify as to the details of that confession under oath.

There are too many variables when it comes to the instrument and examiner to make the test reliable. The instrument itself must be working properly, the examiner must be properly trained to ask the proper questions in the right way and the examinee must be willing to participate to even have a modicum of accuracy. If people are ill, on medications, elderly, under the influence of alcohol, mentally challenged or unbalanced or even obese, the results could be skewed.

The polygraph has failed on numerous occasions. It failed to catch Gary Ridgway, the "Green River Killer”. He passed the test in 1984 and then confessed 20 years later to killing dozens of women when confronted with DNA evidence. Aldrich Hazen Ames is an American traitor who was convicted of espionage in 1994. In 1986 and 1991, Ames passed two polygraph examinations while spying for the Soviet Union and Russia, respectively. Ames was initially "terrified" at the prospect of taking the test, but he was advised by the KGB "to just relax". Ames's test demonstrated deceptive answers to some questions but the examiners passed him, perhaps in the later opinion of the CIA because the examiners were "overly friendly" and therefore did not induce the proper physiological response. It has been 90 years since the invention of the polygraph machine and in the eyes of the federal law, polygraph examiners are not recognized in the criminal court system as expert witnesses. This indicates there is serious doubt about the validity of the examinee and/or the instrument. According to the New York Times, inventor John Larson regretted inventing the polygraph machine. Toward the end of his life, he called his work “a Frankenstein’s monster, which I have spent over 40 years in combating.”
In closing, with regards to my comment about using the polygraph machine as an investigative tool, I am generally in favor of it, but with reservations. The Austin, Texas police must participate in the Pre-employment Polygraph-Screening Program for both sworn and designated non-sworn personnel. The section also supports other federal, state and local law enforcement agencies as requested. The Austin, Texas police department primarily uses it as an investigative tool in criminal investigations as a good way to include or eliminate criminal suspects, and a way of obtaining information and/or confessions. However, as their website states, “a polygraph examination does not perform miracles, is not a substitute for a thorough criminal investigation, and will not always render a definitive opinion”.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/americas/3243015.stm http://www.nytimes.com/2007/03/02/books/02book.html?_r=0 http://www.austintexas.gov/page/polygraph http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aldrich_Ames http://www.goodreads.com/quotes/644754-the-reverse-side-of-truth-has-a-hundred-thousand-shapes…...

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