Lie detectors and the deception of detectives

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Polygraph ReadingsWritten by Bill Doogue. Partner, Doogue + George Defence Lawyers.

I read an “exclusive” in the Herald Sun yesterday (August 14th, 2013). The news was that a former police officer is the prime suspect in the murder of Melbourne woman Brenda Goudge.

A scoop! A revelation, a breakthrough… What an exclusive usually means, in this context, is that the Police have chosen to leak the allegations to the press to:

a)      try to flush out witnesses or;
b)      to leak material that will ultimately never be allowed before a jury

What it generally means, again in this context, to anyone who has seen this particular theatre enacted so many times before, is that an entire allegation (including the lies or wrong parts) is revealed in the media pre-charging. Charges are then laid. And no-one can subsequently counter those allegations in the press.

I’ll break it down for you. Quoted from the article, I read as follows:

“The ex-cop who was in the force for more than a decade has been formally questioned and is the only suspect in the murder investigation.
He does not have a solid alibi on the night Mrs Goudge, 61, was killed and has twice refused to take a lie-detector test.”

And as I read that brow-raising last statement, I must say, it also raised some particular questions.
Firstly, let’s shoot to the validity/credibility/veracity of the story.

Who/what is the source of this ground-breaking exclusive? Shall we assume assume it is the Police? Yes, let’s.
Secondly, what is the purpose of the story? This exclusive that, for all intents and purposes reads a little like, we have an unsolved case and no one has been charged, well we kind of like the look of this guy for it, but oops, we have no evidence. Is it for the purpose of aforementioned points a) or b)?  Well, I like the look of point b), so I’ll say it’s certainly in part it is for the objective of leaking material that will not be allowed before a jury. Why? Because it references a lie detector and they are not allowed before juries.

Let’s play devil’s advocate too. Maybe, it’s indeed possible, they might have gotten their exclusive from a TV show who approached the suspect, asking him to do a lie detector. But, for the sake of raising an intelligent argument here, we’ll deem that pretty unlikely.

So, in my humble attempt to offset this exclusive article, which is really a highly inflammatory much ado about nothing tale, here is a bit of information that might balance things out a bit. Read carefully, anyone interested in this potential case or interested at all in the entire premise upon which our judicial system is based; the presumption of innocence until proven guilty:

Lie Detectors Do Not Work.

Lie detectors are based on unsound science and the results clearly are inaccurate and simply-put, all over the place. No amount of dressing up in white coats and putting pens in your top pocket makes this real science – the cops know this.

Now, Why Give Reporters An Exclusive With Inadmissible Evidence?

I can only surmise it’s because there are holes in the case and they are trying to fill them with deception.
You, the general public, readers of mainstream media such as the Herald Sun should be aware of these tactics and jurors/potential jurors/people who one day might sit on a jury should reflect on why (we are assuming) the Police would want to cheat in this manner (if it was indeed, the Police, but realistically, who else would this story come from?).

And, I would hope, then view the whole case in light of the tactics being used.

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2 Responses

  1. Lawrence says:

    With due respect and honourable intentions…
    How would the ‘general public’, as potential Jurors, ever be able to appreciate the gravity of these serious, accurate (understandably understated) assertions..?
    The general public, are bombarded almost daily with ‘shock bias’ horror stories that rarely include any complexities of criminal events.
    In my experience it is not as simple as the police alone, “cheat in this manner”. The entire justice department/system in Victoria condones, in one way or another the use of such tactics.. From simply ignoring them, to down rite covering them with disinterest to intent..
    The entire system is pressured to “obtain/achieve convictions”.. It is (arguably) every departments KPI.. Its certainly that of the police.. And there ‘results based KPI’s and Statistics’ may make them an obvious (but not only) supporter of such tactics..
    Numerous departments (creating spin & firewall opportunities) are used to prepare various cases. These ‘enable leaks’ or muddy the water, as to ‘Who May have leaked’ case sensitive, appropriate information to Help Achieve a Conviction..
    Overseeing Department Heads can then decide to Push these tactics or Veto (slow?) particular cases depending on the politics of the day, or individuals involved in the matter..
    The general public don’t realise and/or Can Not Appreciate that our Justice System / Process.. Is ‘Not Based On Looking For The Truth’ in a criminal case. Many (most) Cannot appreciate that being convicted is based purely on proving a case (convincing a Jury) to a ‘certain level of believable likelihood’ (coloq) that the accused is guilty.
    R v Griffis(1996) 67SASR 170;91A Crim R 203 (CCA) Cox J with others agreed that “A trial is not an inquiry into the truth of an issue, but is concerned simply with the narrower question of whether the Crown has proved its case against the accused beyond reasonable doubt”
    If other legal professionals concur with the basic premiss of the ‘Lie Detectors and the Deception Of Detectives’ blog and have ‘seen this particular type of theatre enacted so many times before..’
    Why Not prepare an agreement/arrangement.. To expose and oppose these common, shoddy, tactics with a United Vigour.. (it should not be left to the general public to, ‘reflect on why the police should want to cheat this way..’.)
    Prep and roster other, more senior council, to assist with Clear united submissions, relevant to ‘obvious cases’ and thrash out some of these blatant, common breaches within trial..? (or in Voir dire hearing).. Invite Law lecturers and ethics professors along to comment on proceedings..
    Trial judges routinely ‘bat away’ submissions of concern during trial, they assure defence, (the accused) that they will ‘Appropriately and fully Direct The Jury to Ignore All Elephants’ that they see, or have seen, or may see, in local streets’ And they Must Refrain From Looking for Any of these Elephants.. And if they should run into or hear of any local Elephants, they Must Shield their eyes and cover their ears.. And should one of these Elephants ……etc
    Yeh Rite..
    A Few blown trials is a small price to pay to (try) stamp out some obvious crap
    i think The Police Media Unit currently has 250 odd members.. A shoddy experience i witnessed was that they are not only used to flush out witness’ or leak material that wont get before the Jury.. They also (without a peep from judiciary) release lies, spin and evidentiary docs, to assist to prop up or Plug Holes in a Case..
    eg. At the end of a murder committal hearing in march 2009, the magistrate committed the accused for trial..
    Tho there had been some gruesome if/but/maybe, allegations made by 2 witness’. The contradictions and lack of certainty of either, left the prosecution case looking very shaky..
    Enter homicide media expert and police media unit..
    The following day (the right leaning) Major Regional newspaper Headline read -WITNESS ALLEGES SHE SAW… “DEF NAME” ‘CUT UP BODY’. Lie!
    That evidence was Never Given.. It was a blatant combination of contradictory accounts..
    The rest of the story was a well woven concoction of conflicting versions of the 2 two key witness .. The article was attributed to Karen M. however Any regular reader of this paper could tell that this article ‘was Very Different to Karens Normal Writing Style..
    The article cleverly combined (and miss represented) the graphic gruesome detail (of unseen assertions) of two conflicting accounts..
    The article left readers with ‘Little to No Doubt’ that the accused was responsible.. Only the detail needed clarification..
    Then to help current witness’ remember some ‘detail that they may have confused’.. Simple.. At the Bottom Of The Article they placed a Coloured Banner that read –
    Several requests to have this information/statement, removed from newspaper site failed.. Until the morning of the trial, when Justice King sent word that it “should Not Be There”! it was gone within minutes.. And Surprise surprise, ‘the very contradictory witness’ (tho on the witness List from the very beginning) .. and booked in, to give evidence (via video link) from trials very first day.. was at the very Last Minute excused from giving evidence by Justice King.. At the prosecutions request.. As “she saw No Reason why the prosecution should have to call her”.. And as she was not on the defence witness list.. refused defence request to call her later..
    Fortunately, the defendant had bad guilty verdict overturned at appeal..
    Unfortunately, clear (clever) tactics by the police/prosecution have ensured they will Again be able to use the local news, to assist them, in a ‘lessor charge’… Round Two..

  2. Had no idea about lie detector test. But got basic ideas from your post. Thanks for sharing!!