Polygraph results debated at Fairbanks Four hearing

One of the Fairbanks Four passed a polygraph.

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The results of the lie detector test taken by Marvin Roberts last year were shared during day 13 of an evidentiary hearing being held to consider whether Roberts, George Frese, Kevin Pease and Eugene Vent, the men convicted of fatally beating John Hartman in 1997, are in fact innocent.

Polygraph expert David Raskin of Homer administered the test and presented Robert’s answers to key questions like:

“Did you participate in any way in the assault of John Hartman? Answered ‘no,'” Raskin said.

Polygraphs use sensors to measure physical responses indicative of lying and telling the truth, and Raskin says Robert’s responses ranked extremely high on a truthfulness scale.

“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.”

Polygraph results are generally not admissible in court and it’s unclear whether Judge Paul Lyle will consider them in ruling on the Fairbanks Four request for exoneration.

The State attempted to discredit the polygraph results. Attorney Bob Linton took aim at the technology used to test Roberts, Raskin’s wording of questions, and the validity of the science itself, quoting from a 2002 National Research Council funded polygraph study.

“Almost a century of research in scientific psychology and physiology provides little basis for the expectation that a polygraph test could have extremely high accuracy,” Linton said. “The physiological responses measured by the polygraph are not uniquely related to deception.”

Raskin countered that the review did not include any polygraph scientists and that numerous laboratory studies show polygraphs to be 90 percent accurate.

Linton characterized Raskin as a polygraph advocate who profits from the technique.

Dan Bross is a reporter at KUAC in Fairbanks.

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