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State v. Alexander
Alaska Court of Appeals
364 P.3d 458 (2015)
Thomas Alexander (defendant) and James Griffith were charged in separate cases of sexually abusing a minor. Their attorneys both hired Dr. David Raskin to administer polygraphs. Raskin was prepared to testify to a 90-percent likelihood that both had truthfully denied the abuse. The two judges held a consolidated hearing to determine the polygraphs’ admissibility. The state’s expert testified that polygraph results were not as reliable as Raskin claimed. The experts agreed that polygraphs could reliably show some measure of physiological response to lying, but disagreed over the effects of a friendly examiner, how the examiner scored the responses, and the success of techniques to cheat” a polygraph. The experts did agree that a control-question polygraph was more likely to yield false positives than negatives. The judges found it yielded acceptably reliable results and noted generally accepted scientific standards. However, Raskin testified that techniques to reduce physiological responses reduced accuracy by as much as 50 percent, and the judges found evasion techniques could be learned over the internet in a half-hour. The judges concluded those problems went to weight and not reliability, and that courts could still exclude polygraphs if the potential for prejudice outweighed probative value. Last, the judges found the lack of general acceptance in the scientific community not fatal under Daubert. Therefore, the judges agreed to admit the polygraphs under two conditions: the accused had to (1) submit to a second polygraph administered by a state-chosen examiner, and (2) testify at trial subject to cross-examination. Meanwhile, Griffith took (and evidently failed) a state-administered polygraph and pleaded guilty, leaving Alexander the only defendant in the case. Alexander and the prosecution appealed.
Rule of Law
Holding and Reasoning (Mannheimer, J.)
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