Visiting speaker argues importance of polygraph tests in law

Hayden Clark

Veteran Polygraph Examiner Brian Morris said in a lecture Tuesday that fewer than 5 percent of criminal cases actually go to trial — a fact he attributed in part to the success of polygraph tests.    

Morris, who allowed a volunteer from the audience to be given a polygraph test, wagered that if the student successfully beat the test he would personally pay for their bar exam review. Ultimately, the student failed the test.

Morris said the polygraph and other tests in criminal investigations cannot always be right — polygraph exams have an 88 percent accuracy rate — but are used to help bring light to the gray areas of investigations.

“There’s no perfect test — even DNA is not 100 percent accurate, [and] finger prints aren’t 100 percent accurate — there’s no scientific test out there that’s 100 percent accurate,” Morris said. “All that any test is going to be able to do is add incremental information that you’re going to have to use to say … ‘Is this beyond reasonable doubt?’”

The Texas Federalist Society, which sponsored the event, aims to bring in experts from all fields in law that are engaging and resourceful to students.

“My goal as president has been to facilitate open discussion of current legal and policy issues through events that present multiple viewpoints and welcome opposing views,” said Rachel Ratcliffe, president of Texas Federalist Society and law student.

Scott Toland, second-year law student and vice president of speakers for the Texas Federalist Society, appreciated the topic and Morris’ unique approach to polygraph examination.

“One thing [Morris] said about [polygraph examining] is it’s a real creative way to use your law degree,” Toland said. “[Polygraph tests] save so much time and money and energy in the legal process.”

Morris said that a main factor that contributes to success for the polygraph is recognizing the correct testing procedures, which ultimately certify the efficiency of polygraph.

“The big thing that is continuing to come with polygraph is the recognition that we have to have validated testing techniques … and every single time we run a study that we get this level of validity tells us that it’s a good, good tool,” Morris said.