Polygraph Clears Defendant
Polygraph Clears Defendant of Two Death by Auto Charges By Jerry A. Lewis New Jersey State Police (retired)
On October 30, 2010 four teens left a party in a car driven by 17 year old (TM). That vehicle, a Chevrolet Cavalier, owned by TM’s mother, was later involved in a one car accident. The black box revealed that it was travelling over 90 MPH when it left the roadway and struck a tree. Two of the vehicle’s occupants were killed. TM and the other survivor, (GB), fled the scene and were not located until the next morning. Immediately upon being found by police, TM admitted that he was driving the vehicle at the time of the accident. He later gave two additional statements (to an ambulance paramedic and subsequently to a medi-vac flight medic) admitting to being the driver of the vehicle at the time of the accident. Further, he was positively identified by an eye witness as operating the motor vehicle when the four teens left the party. He was charged with two counts of Death by Auto and two counts of Leaving the Scene of an accident involving death. Each charge carried a five to ten year state prison sentence for an adult.
Upon further deliberation and now with the benefit of the presence of his parents, TM attempted to recant his previous confessions when later interviewed by the police at the hospital. The defendant stated that he was in fact not driving the vehicle at the time of the accident. He stated that the surviving passenger GB intimidated him into letting him drive his mother’s car after they left the party. TM claimed that the four teens actually made a stop after leaving the party, at which time GB began operating the motor vehicle. He added that after the accident, while they were eluding capture, GB kept telling him (TM) to say that he was driving. He agreed to say that he was driving due to intimidation and because GB would loan him his jacket to wear as he was extremely cold. GB emphatically denied operating the motor vehicle at any time and none of the evidence supported TM’s claims.
Despite the overwhelming evidence against his client, TM’s defence counsel requested a polygraph examination of his client to add credibility to his claims. The prosecution had a virtually air tight case against TM. It was TM’s car, he was seen driving it leaving the party and he gave three confessions admitting that he was driving at the time of the accident. On June 15, 2011, I tested the client using an event-specific, single-issue polygraph examination at Mr. Russo’s office. I used a three relevant question Utah Comparison Question test format and a Stoelting Computerised Polygraph System.
The charts were rough. TM was shrugging his shoulders and was emotional as he answered the test questions. In an attempt to alleviate these issues, I conducted Silent Answer Tests. After three charts I had an Inconclusive result. As recommended in the Utah format to resolve Inconclusive results, I conducted two additional tests with the same questions. I evaluated the polygraph test data with the Empirical Scoring System utilising the Kircher features. My score for the five charts was +5. This is statistically significant for a Truthful conclusion when the client (TM) answered the relevant questions, Polygraph Clears Defendant.
After receiving my report, the Prosecutor’s Office sent previously untested blood evidence from the steering wheel of the vehicle to the lab for DNA analysis. The test results revealed that the blood on the steering wheel did not belong to the defendant but rather was a direct match for GB. The Prosecutor’s Office subsequently re interviewed GB and he admitted that he was in fact driving the car at the time of the accident. He was arrested and later agreed to a plea deal to serve four years in New Jersey State Prison.
Credit for the successful resolution of this case goes to the defence counsel who believed in his client and utilised the polygraph to assist in his defence, Polygraph Clears Defendant. In addition, the Prosecutor’s Office, even though it had a solid case, made decisions to ensure that they were prosecuting the person responsible. This was a tragic accident that cost two young people their lives but the polygraph was essential in clearing an innocent defendant from almost certain jail time and seeing that justice was done.
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