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By Tim Stelloh
A lawyer for Virginia Lt. Guv Justin Fairfax launched the results of a polygraph assessment on Sunday, saying it showed that allegations of sexual attack made earlier this year against Fairfax were “false.”
The release came 6 months after another prominent accusation of sexual assault that included the disclosure of polygraph results: Stanford University teacher Christine Blasey Ford’s declares about Brett Kavanaugh, who is now a United States Supreme Court justice.
A couple of months before that, allegations that adult movie star Stormy Daniels had an affair with President Donald Trump also included the so-called lie detector test.
Like Fairfax, the results of the examinations taken by Blasey Ford and Daniels — whose genuine name is Stephanie Clifford — obviously indicated that they were being genuine in their allegations.
Despite the resurgence of lie detector tests in high-profile cases, the American Psychological Association says there is “little evidence that polygraph tests can precisely find lies.”
“It basically measures how nervous you are,” stated Leonard Saxe, a social psychologist at Brandeis University who has studied the polygraph for years. “It’s a worry detector.”
Fairfax’s attorney, Barry Pollack, stated in an e-mail that even however the tests are not acceptable in court — a 1998 United States Supreme Court decision found there was “simply no agreement that polygraph proof is trustworthy”— law enforcement firms and others consistently usage them to identify “if someone is being genuine.”
Pollack likewise pointed to Blasey Ford’s attorney, Debra Katz, saying that she “recognized the significance of polygraphs, and the specific competence of the polygraph examiner.”
The exact same former agent with the Federal Bureau of Examination who administered a polygraph to Blasey Ford likewise tested Fairfax, Pollack said.
Katz did not respond to requests for remark from NBC N ews, nor did Clifford’s previous lawyer, Michael Avenatti.
Bryan Myers, a forensic psychologist at the University of North Carolina Wilmington, said that while it was true that law enforcement companies have relied on lie detector tests, private investigators have frequently used them as a tool to extract confessions.
“They’ll tell a suspect, ‘If you didn’t do it, take a polygraph,’” Myers said. “Then police say, ‘Now we’ve got polygraph evidence versus you.”
Saxe said the technique has a nickname: “The psychological rubber hose pipe.”
“It’s convincing the person without whipping them to confess,” he stated.
Saxe said that cops would likewise usage polygraphs on females who declared sexual attack in an effort to gauge the veracity of their claims — a practice he called “disgusting.”
“You could think of a female being asked particular concerns about being raped if it was in close proximity to when it happened,” he stated. “There might be so many reasons why she would be nervous.”
This practice wasn’t limited to law enforcement. Representatives for Anita Hill, the Brandeis University teacher who accused Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas of sexual harassment in 1991, announced that she had passed a lie detector test in an effort to “bolster the trustworthiness of her accusations,” as The New York Times put it.
Saxe stated little has changed with the polygraph since he began studying it in the early 1980 s for the Congressional Workplace of Innovation Assessment. Polygraphers ask the test taker a series of questions while measuring specific physiological responses to those questions. Then the polygrapher analyzes those reactions.
“The technology hasn’t altered,” Saxe said. “We figured a brainwave function would be closely identified with deceptiveness. But that hasn’t happened.”
Saxe hypothesized that the prevalence of high-tech forensic proof in the criminal justice system and on popular shows like CSI might have played a function in the current choices by Fairfax and others to publicize their polygraph outcomes.
“People assume there’s a method using science and clinical devices to identify whether someone is genuine,” he stated.
But Myers, who has actually studied understandings of polygraph results, said it wasn’t clear what kind of impact that publicity may have.
Even though Justice Thomas stated in the court’s 1998 choice that polygraphers and their proof might unjustly influence juries — “clothed as they are in scientific know-how,” he composed — Myers ran a series of research studies that checked this conclusion.
His research focused on jurors in a mock trial setting, and in each research study he discovered the very same thing — they tended not to trust the evidence.
“They weren’t distrustful of professionals typically,” he stated. “They were distrustful of polygraph professionals. They didn’t think [the proof] was accurate.”
The factor for that suspect wasn’t based on a sophisticated knowledge of the device or its history, Myers added. “They’re going on their gut.”
Even so, Myers said that the choice by someone like Fairfax to release his polygraph results could still be wise public relations.
“They’re attempting to encourage the public they didn’t do it,” he said. “If you understand someone is willing to submit to a polygraph test, that’s an indication to you that somebody understands they didn’t do it.”