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Editor: Colin Miller
Univ. of South Carolina School of Law

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Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Shore Thing: Virginia Beach Judge Deems Polygraph Results Inadmissible in Murder Trial

According to an article in yesterday's Virginian-Pilot,

A Circuit Court judge on Monday ruled that the attorneys for a man accused of shooting an off-duty Norfolk police officer in 2010 won’t be allowed to submit polygraph test results as evidence.

The ruling is in line with a 1998 U.S. Supreme Court decision that upheld bans on polygraph evidence, Judge Stephen C. Mahan said in court. Virginia’s Rules of Evidence do not allow it.

So, where exactly does Virginia stand on polygraph evidence?

In 1958, the Supreme Court of Virginia held in Lee v. Commonwealth, 105 S.E.2d 152 (Va. 1958), that polygraph evidence is inadmissible, even if it helps a criminal defendant. Thereafter, in 1983, that same court concluded in Odum v. Commonwealth, 301 S.E.2d 145 (Va. 1983), that polygraph evidence is inadmissible even if the prosecution and defense stipulate to use of such evidence before the defendant takes the test. Finally, in Turner v. Commonwealth, 685 S.E.2d 665 (Va. 2009), the Virginia Supremes concluded that polygraph evidence is inadmissible even in probation revocation proceedings.

So, why are such bans Constitutionally permissible? This takes us to the Supreme Court's 1998 opinion in United States v. Scheffer, 523 U.S. 303 (1998). There, the Supreme Court found that the per se ban on the admissibility of polygraph evidence does not violate a criminal defendant's right to present a defense. For more about that case, check out this post.

-CM

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