October 22, 2015
The thirteenth day of proceedings was consumed largely by the testimony of Dr. Raskin, one of the preeminent experts in the field of polygraphs in the United States of America. Dr. David Raskin is a leader in the field, professor at University of Utah and has administered lie detector tests for so long that he gave one to Patty Hearst in her high-profile 1976 trial. Raskin is one of a handful of experts testifying in the case who greatly surpass the quality of expert routinely offered in Alaska courts. His testimony, as with the bothers, resoundingly points to the innocence of the Fairbanks Four.
Marvin Roberts, the only one of the four out on parole, was administered a lie detector test and not only passed, but greatly surpassed the scores necessary to establish truthfulness. Roberts scores, he said, were “very strong” and “way beyond the minimal requirement.”
“You have to have a -8 or lower to fail the test; a +8 or higher to pass the test,” Raskin said. “Mr. Roberts produced a score of +47.”
Roberts was asked if he killed John Hartman, if he assaulted John Hartman, if he had been at 9th in Barnette on the night in question, if his co-defendants had been in the car, and so on. Roberts answered “no” to each of these questions and all of the physiological cues we are able to evaluate, Raskin testified, indicated that he was telling the truth.
The state, predictably, objected to the admission of the expert. The state has a standing objection on nearly every witness and piece of evidence presented by the petitioners, and would apparently prefer an evidentiary hearing devoid of evidence, including the testimony of Dr. David Raskin.
Raskin was cross-examined by Bob Linton, one of three prosecutors on the team led by Adrienne Bachman for the State. Linton’s cross-examination was difficult to follow at times but essentially focused
“Do we have to take your word for it?” Linton asked.
Raskin explained that, indeed, that is how science works.
“I’m the expert, I’m the one who’s done this science for 45 years. I am the person who can tell you as an expert what the purpose of this test is and how it’s used,” Raskin replied.
And Raskin continued to explain that the science of polygraphy demonstrates that Marvin Roberts is telling the truth when he says he is an innocent man. The state continued to attack Raskin on cross, with a line of questioning that insinuated that although the results pointed to Marvin Roberts telling the truth, Raskin may have manipulated the test.
“That’s a pretty serious accusation, and I reject it. I find it offensive,” Raskin said.
The admissibility and reliability of lie detector results remains a heated and as of yet unsettled issue in Alaska courts. As the science has progresses polygraph tests are being more frequently admitted into courts. The largest remaining issue with lie detectors is the quality difference between one test and the next and the skill of the administrator, allowing for a high variability in the reliability from once scenario to the next. That said, Raskin is about as reliable as they come.
The State argued four hours against the reliability of lie detector tests. Yet, when William Holmes first came forward and confessed to the killing of John Hartman, the state went to California and administered a lie detector test. Holmes passed. Alaska State Troopers and police officers are administered lie detector tests prior to hire, as are most federal law enforcement officers. So, when it benefits the state, they use polygraphs. In this case, despite two lie detector tests given to a man who says he is innocent of the crime he was convicted of and the man who says he committed the crime both pointing to the same conclusions, administered by different experts on different machines at different times, the state is adamant that the results should not be considered.
Since the State of Alaska is so confident that lie detector results are meaningless, certainly they will be as willing to administer one to Jason Wallace as they were William Holmes – right?
Whatever the ruling on polygraph results, we do not need one. It is not hard to tell who is telling the truth and who is lying inside that courtroom.