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Should Polygraphs be used in Court Rooms as Admissible Evidence?

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Polygraph is widely rejected as pseudoscience by the scientific community. Prior to 1998 state and county courts allowed or could allow polygraph evidence to be admissible evidence to convict or prove guilt. Polygraphs should not be used in Court Rooms, the accuracy of the test have not and are yet to be proven. Because polygraphs are not accurate and can be manipulated they should not be used in pretrial or during the trial. Polygraphs affect the mental health world because most scientists do not rely on them or do not agree that they should be used in a court of law.

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Also known as, a “lie detector,” the polygraph has a controversial history in U. S. law. First developed in the late nineteenth century, its modern incarnation is an electromechanical device that is attached to a subject’s body during an interview. The discipline of polygraph is based on the theory that by recording involuntary physiological changes in the subject, the polygraph yields data that can be interpreted to determine whether the subject is telling the truth.

The paper will support the opinion that polygraph test should not be admissible in court as evidence.

Polygraph Use 1 Should Polygraphs be used in Court Rooms as Admissible Evidence? A polygraph which is often referred to as a lie detector test is an instrument that measures and records several physiological indices such as blood pressure, pulse, respiration, breathing rhythms/ratios, and skin conductivity. The subject is asked series of questions; and it is believed that the deceptive answers will produce physiological responses that can be differentiated from those associated with non-deceptive answers.

Polygraphs were being used outside the court room and inside as well. Polygraphs should not be used inside or outside the court room, if they were reliable evidence the Supreme Court and several other courts would have determined that they were admissible evidence already. Not only have courts not been receptive of polygraph test, the psychology world has not either. When a test can be manipulated so easily, the results could misread, or completely wrong, to base a person’s freedom or life on that would be inhuman.

The United States makes a claim to have justice system that is fair, and it is unjust to allow a polygraph test to be used as evidence against someone on trial. When a person is faced with a criminal or a civil charge, it can, and most of the time does affect their life immensely, therefore if anything is to be relied on it should be evidence that is somewhat solid or at least clear and convincing. In the justice system, there are burdens of proof that must be met; the polygraph would not be ideal evidence to assist in meeting any of those burdens of proof. In order for evidence to be admissible, it must be relevant.

Relevant evidence means evidence having any tendency to make the existence of any fact that is of consequence to the determination of the action more probable or less probable than it would be without evidence. Polygraph test are not relevant evidence. Polygraph Use 2 United States v. Scheffer was the first case where the Supreme Court issued a ruling with regard to the highly controversial matter of polygraph, or “lie-detector,” testing. At issue was whether the per se exclusion of polygraph evidence offered by the accused in a military court violates the Sixth Amendment right to present a defense.

United States v. Scheffer involved a former U. S. airman who was court-martialed for using methamphetamines, passing bad checks, and going AWOL. Yet he had passed a polygraph test asking whether he had used illegal drugs. The U. S. Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces said the military’s automatic ban on polygraphs was unconstitutional and that Scheffer had a right to try at least to lay a foundation for the reliability of the polygraph result, as he would other evidence. The Supreme Court reversed that decision, ruling that Scheffer was not “significantly impaired” by exclusion of the polygraph evidence.

Thomas and three other justices sought not only to uphold bans on polygraph evidence, but also to discourage states from ever allowing their use in court. “By its very nature, polygraph evidence may diminish the jury’s role in making credibility determinations,” Thomas said, joined by Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist and Justices Antonin Scalia and David H. Souter. This ban was and still is appropriate. States should not allow the use of polygraphs in court because of the high likeliness that the test could be unreliable.

Many people can manipulate the test and that is why many scientists do not consider them valid test. Many factors can cause the reading of a polygraph to be wrong. The Basis of the Supreme Court’s Decision in US v. Scheffer The court concluded that the Military Rule of Evidence 707 did not constitutionally abridge the right of accused members of the military to present a defense. A defendant’s right to Polygraph 3 present relevant evidence is subject to reasonable restrictions to accommodate other legitimate interests in the criminal trial process.

State and federal rule makers therefore have broad latitude under the Constitution to establish rules excluding evidence. Such rules do not abridge an accuser’s right to present a defense so long as they are not “arbitrary” or “disproportionate to the purposes they are designed to serve. ” The Court in this case found the exclusion of evidence to be unconstitutionally arbitrary or disproportionate only where it has infringed upon a weighty interest of the accused. Rule 707 was the evidentiary rule focused on in the case. Rule 707 serves the legitimate interest of ensuring that only reliable evidence is introduced.

Here the decision turned on the issue of whether the defendant is impaired by not being able to use the results from the polygraph to prove his innocence and to lay the foundation for the reliability on the results. In this case, Rule 707 did not implicate a sufficiently weighty interest of the accused to raise a constitutional concern under this Court’s precedents. The three cases principally relied upon by the Court of Appeals, Rock v. Arkansas, 483 U. S. 44, 55, Washington v. Texas, 388 U. S. 14, 23, and Chambers v. Mississippi, 410 U. S. 84, 302—303, which did not support a right to introduce polygraph evidence, even in very narrow circumstances. The exclusions of evidence there declared unconstitutional significantly undermined fundamental elements of the accuser’s defense. That was not the circumstances in US v. Scheffer, where the court members heard all the relevant details of the charged offense from respondent’s perspective, and Rule 707 did not preclude him from introducing any factual evidence, but merely barred him from introducing expert opinion testimony to bolster his own credibility.

Polygraph Use 4 In contrast to the rule at issue in Rock, Rule 707 did not prohibit respondent from testifying on his own behalf; he freely exercised his choice to convey his version of the facts at trial. Legally the accuracy and actual polygraph test is not what is at issue. What is at issue legally about the polygraph test is when the defense or the prosecution attempt to admit it into evidence to prove or disprove guilt or credibility. This is when polygraph test become an evidentiary issue.

For the mental health world, they are an issue because of their accuracy and the person being tested has the ability to manipulate the test results. Frye v. United States and its Impact on Polygraph Testing For years, lie detector tests were inadmissible as evidence in virtually all courts. However, in the 1970s and 1980s, as the practice of lie detection gradually gained respect in the scientific community, some courts began to admit the evidence in certain situations and for limited purposes in both criminal and civil trials.

However, courts in most states continue to prohibit all forms of polygraph evidence. In Frye v. US (54 App. D. C. 46, 293 F. 1013. No. 3968, 1923), the ruling set a standard for acceptance of expert testimony in courts that by the early 1970’s was adopted by most federal and state courts. In Frye, James Alphonzo Frye the defendant appealed his conviction for second degree murder. Frye confessed and later retracted his admission, had been prosecuted by the federal government and convicted by a jury sitting in a Washington, D. C. trial court.

At trial, the court refused to let Frye introduce evidence about his truthfulness through a “systolic blood pressure deception test,” a crude precursor to what is now popularly known as a lie detector or polygraph test. The court also refused to let Frye introduce an expert witness to testify about the deception test. The sole basis of Frye’s appeal was the Polygraph 5 failure of the trial court to admit the deception test. In a unanimous decision, the three-judge Court of Appeals of the District of Columbia ruled for the United States in a short opinion that became one of the most notorious opinions written by a federal appeals court.

The formula for admissibility of scientific evidence was created by Frye and it reigned for seventy years, before the Federal Rules of Evidence was adopted, courts across the country cited to Frye. The formula created in Frye was whether the practice or procedure attempting to be admitted into evidence was generally accepted in the scientific community. Eventually this test proved too difficult for courts to manage as the scientific community expanded and progressed. In Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals, Inc. (1993), the Court held that admissibility of expert testimony should be controlled by Rule 702 of the Federal Rules of Evidence.

The Court also determined that it does not have to be generally accepted in the scientific community to be admitted; rather, expert testimony should be admitted if it rests on a reliable scientific foundation and is relevant to the issue at hand. This case superseded Frye but it still did not make polygraphs admissible because even under this rule, it does not make it undoubtedly admissible. Polygraphs and Other Uses Polygraph test are not only used for investigative purposes they are also used in post assessment for convicts.

The polygraph instrument precisely records physiological measurements that are interpreted in accordance with specific protocols by professional polygraphists with specialized training. These interpretations are used to form professional Polygraph 6 opinions about whether an examinee was attempting deception while answering specific relevant questions during the examination. There are several different types of polygraph exams that have different purposes in gaining knowledge about an offender (Post Conviction of Sex Offenders and Polygraph Testing, www. msc. state. nm. us). Currently in the mental health world, there is simply no consensus that polygraph evidence is reliable. The scientific community and the state and federal courts are extremely polarized on the matter. Because there is no consensus that polygraph evidence is reliable, it should not be admissible. The American Polygraph Association claims that the tests are 98% accurate when administered correctly. This can be refuted, because it has also been proven that the results of the test can be manipulated and therefore should not be relied on.

There are twenty-nine states that outright ban polygraph admittance into evidence, six states allow polygraph test to be admitted into evidence in the prosecution and defense agree, and New Mexico allows the use of the polygraph test. Federal courts are split as to whether polygraph evidence may be introduced and after US v. Scheffer; more federal courts determined that polygraphs should not be used as admissible evidence. In conclusion, until there is a consensus in the scientific community, the results from a polygraph test should not be admissible in court.

The test should not be used outside of court either as a determinative of probable cause or reasonable suspicion either. Even with Frye being superseded by Daubert, polygraph test do not rest on scientific foundation, because if they did then there would be a general agreement among the scientific community as to their accurateness. Daubert required courts to look more at a case to case basis and see if the evidence that is being admitted is relevant to the case but because of the possible inaccuracy of Polygraph 7 polygraph test, they may be relevant but not reliable. As time progresses, more states may be apt to admit polygraph evidence as technology advances, however that time is not now.

References

“Conviction of Sex Offenders and Polygraph Testing” www. nmsc. state. nm. us Accessed December 1, 2010 Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals, Inc. (1993) Frye v. United States, 54 App. D. C. 46, 293 F. 1013. No. 3968, (1923) Rock v. Arkansas, 483 U. S. 44, 55, Washington v. Texas, 388 U. S. 14, 23, and Chambers v. Mississippi, 410 U. S. 284, 302—303 United States v. Scheffer, (1998)

Cite this Should Polygraphs be used in Court Rooms as Admissible Evidence?

Should Polygraphs be used in Court Rooms as Admissible Evidence?. (2017, Feb 22). Retrieved from https://graduateway.com/should-polygraphs-be-used-in-court-rooms-as-admissible-evidence/

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