Imagine that you are a police commander, a judge, or the elected district attorney. You learn that an evidentiary tool that is used by your personnel, or the witnesses who testify before you, is unreliable. What do you do? Do you try to stop the use of that tool? Or are you content to continue to allow it to be used -- perhaps to convict the innocent or equally bad, free the guilty?
McClatchy Newspapers have found that one of the common types of "polygraphs," popularly known as a lie detector, was known to be unreliable for years, but continued to be used. Many in the justice system knew of reliability problems but did nothing about it. Other agencies claim they did not know about the problem.
Despite the scientific skepticism, intelligence and law enforcement agencies see polygraph as useful in obtaining confessions to wrongdoing that wouldn’t otherwise be uncovered. Fifteen federal agencies and many police departments across the country rely on polygraph testing to help make hiring or firing decisions. Sex offenders and other felons often undergo testing to comply with probation or court-ordered psychological treatment. Police detectives and prosecutors rule out criminal suspects who pass and scrutinize those who don’t.
I think the answer to my question, "Is the justice system blase about injustice?" is yes. Who, in the system, has a conviction that the courts will usually and routinely come up with the right answer and a just resolution? I don't think that is widely held. I think most who work in the criminal justice system are inured to injustice. It is kind of like the adage you sometimes hear in government agencies, "Close enough for government work."
One scientist is quoted saying,
“The insidious thing is that this phenomenon biases tests against the innocent, and the government knows that,” said Honts, who’s worked on research for a Lafayette competitor. “This is just another example of science being ignored.”
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