Sunday, October 23, 2016

Polygraph Evidence: Circuit Court Approaches to Admissibility

By Anthony Kershaw
Anthony Kershaw is a third-year student at Albany Law School. He graduated with honors from Kean University in Union, New Jersey in 2011 with a major in Political Science. He is currently a member of Albany’s Government Law Review and serves on that journal's executive board as the Managing Editor for Research & Writing.
During his second-year at Albany Law, Anthony involved himself in two trial competitions. He served as a defense advocate in a homicide trial. He also served as the plaintiff’s counsel in a negligence lawsuit, where Albany Law placed higher than Harvard Law and many other competitive teams. His active involvement in trial law is what inspired him to write his paper on the admissibility of polygraph evidence in the courtroom.
When he's not in the classroom or engaged in school activities, Anthony works as a Law Clerk for Flink Smith Law in Albany.

Among the many jurisdictions that continue to refuse to admit polygraph evidence, there are a growing number that are finding polygraph testing to be reliable under certain circumstances for purposes other than proving the truth of the results. For example, since the general acceptance test regarding scientific evidence was invalidated in 1993, some federal courts have concluded that a general exclusion of polygraph evidence is invalid and that such evidence may be admitted in particular cases if the evidence meets the requirements of various provisions of the Federal Rules of Evidence.

One particular instance occurred in the District Court of Arizona, where the defendant was indicted for bank robbery and moved for evidentiary hearings as to the reliability and admissibility of polygraph evidence. The court held that polygraph evidence is sufficiently reliable to satisfy requirements of the evidentiary rule governing expert testimony and that a court must consider the rules of evidence, as well as the purposes for which the polygraph evidence should be admitted, and it’s prejudicial effect.

This article aims to take a closer look at polygraph evidence and its admissibility through the eyes of the Circuit Courts. For over forty years, from 1975 to December of 2015, a growing number of Circuit decisions have found polygraph examinations to be reliable in some way, whether the results were used for a limited purpose or whether the evidence was allowed in to rebut an assertion of coercion. Today, trial courts still have vast discretion in deciding issues of evidence, and many would agree, that as long as the evidence has more probative worth than prejudicial effect, it should be admitted.
To read the paper, open HERE.