Failed Polygraph Test Places Haggard Accusations in Different Light

By Scott Harrison
KRDO [Colorado]
November 4, 2006

If Mike Jones is telling the truth about his accusations against Colorado Springs pastor Ted Haggard, why did Jones fail a lie detector test Friday?

Jones explains his flunking the polygraph test on being tired. However, a local expert says that's possible, but unlikely. James Earle of the JHE Consultant Group has 43 years of experience as a polygraph examiner. "Part of our job is to determine are they okay to test?" he says.

Earle says illegal drugs, alcohol and mental illness can affect the results of a lie detector test, but most examiners usually do not test people who have those factors. He also says an examiner who is inexperienced and not well-trained can be confused by some test subjects. "Maybe I'm moving around and I don't see you moving. You're doing something very subtle (that) I don't see."

A polygraph test involves measuring physiological responses to questions. An examiner monitors blood pressure, heart rate, breathing and skin temperature. The subject answers relevant and irrelevant questions. An examiner looks for significant differences in responses. The results of a lie detector test are between 85% to 93% reliable.

Among those undergoing tests are convicted sex offenders, legal clients, employees suspected of workplace theft, and relatives involved in family disputes or with missing children. Only about 4,000 examiners in the U.S. are qualified to conduct tests.

Earle wants to correct the movie perception of tests--in which a person is tested while a room full of people watch, and results are supposedly inadmissible in court. "Only the examiner and the subject are present, and some courts do allow results to be presented as scientific evidence--though it happens more often in federal courts, than in state courts."

Earle spent 26 years as a federal examiner before starting his own firm in 1989. "I've tested in just about any kind of case you can imagine--espionage, to murder, to white-collar crime, to sex offender."

Earle says he wouldn't comment on the Jones case without seeing the polygraph results himself.


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