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Polygraph evidence

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September 30, 2003, 13:59
Tim Cole
Polygraph evidence
I think I know the answer to this but can't find case on point. I know the polygraph result is inadmissible but are you allowed to ask the examiner what he does for a living and why the defendant was in his office? Got one of those cases where the defendant confessed after failing polygraph. Jury will be left wondering who this guy is and why he was asking the defendant questions if they are not allowed to hear his occupation. My instincts tell me that I will just have to work around it without mentioning the word polygraph. Anyone have a case that says you can tell the jury what the polygraph operator does and why the defendant was there?
September 30, 2003, 14:10
For the latest word on the subject from CCA, check out:

Landrum v. State,977 SW2d 586 (Tex. Crim. App. 1998).

Generally, it is the result of the polygraph that is not admissible. But, as you guess, appellate courts are mighty nervous about any evidence that encourages the jury to speculate on a result.

I tried a case in which the defendant confessed to the polygraph operator. I just had the operator introduce himself as a criminal justice worker of some sort. We focused on the interview rather than the polygraph.
September 30, 2003, 15:05
I had a similar case awhile back. The Ranger testified that he took the defendant to an interview in Houston with Sgt. ??????? (a polygraph examiner with DPS). After the defendat was interviewed by the nice Sgt. and failing the polygraph, the Ranger did a follow up interview that resulted in the defendant's confession to Capital Murder. We never mentioned that the nice Sgt. was a polygraph examiner, the results of the polygraph, nor did he testify. Only the slowest of Jurors failed to put 2 and 2 together but WE never mention a polygraph nor the Sgt's area of specialization.

NOTE: If the defendant testifys, could the polygraph examiner testify about his opinion of the defendant's truthfulness without stating, on direct, the basis of his opinion?
October 01, 2003, 11:01
Eddy Lewallen
Tim, Mr. Bradley is right. Appellate courts are very nervous about a prosecutor getting anywhere close to mentioning the "P" word before a jury.

In a similar case I had several years ago, a murder defendant confessed after being confronted with his failure of a polygraph test. The suspect was in custody and took the test at his own request. At trial, we got around the occupation of the professional polygraph examiner by having him merely explain that he owned a private consulting firm which offered his services to area law enforcement agencies. Yes, I believe that the jurors could put 2 and 2 together, but we never mentioned the purpose of the defendant's visit to the consultant's office.
October 01, 2003, 17:52
Tim Cole
Yeah, this pretty much agrees with what I was thinking. There's a strong inference from mentioning that he is a polygraph operator to he took a polygraph and we are still here so he must have failed it. I will just stay away from it (although as usual I have instructed my witness to give the defense attorney what he asks for if he happens to be dumb enough to ask why his client had to go see this guy). Thanks for the thoughts.