Fox "The Edge" - Wednesday, April 12, 2000
Fox 4/12 Zahn, Darnay, Jeralyn, Martin
Posted by information on Apr-21-00 at 10:18 PM (EST)
LAST EDITED ON Apr-27-00 AT 08:57 AM (EST)
Transcript by LizzieB
The Edge with Paula Zahn
Guests: Darnay Hoffman, Jeralyn Merritt, and Michael Martin (polygrapher)
Video clip of Patsy and John in Carol McKinley's interview to be shown this weekend. They are talking about finding the real killer and being under the umbrella of suspicion.
PZ: And what you've just seen will air in its entirety this weekend on Fox News channel, an exclusive with the Ramseys. We even get to take a tour of the new home they're building in Atlanta. Now John and Patsy Ramsey challenged the Boulder DA to give them a lie detector test under certain conditions. How reliable is the test and might it clear the Ramseys from the three-and-a-half year umbrella of suspicion? Joining me now from Colorado is Denver defense attorney Jeralyn Merritt here in New York attorney Darnay Hoffman, and lie detector expert from Priority Investigations, Michael Martin. Thank you all for being with us tonight. Michael, why would the Ramseys want to put themselves through this?
MM: Well, they either feel that they have a reasonable chance of passing the exam . . .
PZ: And why would they feel that?
MM: Well, they've either done some research or they are in fact innocent of the crime.
PZ: When you say, done some research, what does that mean? You can actually get good at taking lie detector tests? You can take one lie detector test, learn how questions are asked, and fake it?
MM: Well, there are theories as to how to beat a polygraph test, and a good examiner will see through most of that.
PZ: There are theories you say. How often is that tested? I mean, can people, if they practice over a period of time get really good at this?
MM: It's not so much the practice, it's understand the theory and knowing when a person has to react and when they have to not react. It's very difficult to learn to fake a non-reaction on a test. You're going to react to a deceptive question, regardless.
PZ: You are?
PZ: And is there any way you can change your reaction?
MM: You can't change your reaction to the deceptive questions without drugs, but you can change your reactions to the non-relevant questions, and that's where the gray area comes in and can render an inconclusive test.
PZ: It seems to me now the Boulder DA is calling the bluff on the Ramseys because now they're asking for these conditions. They don't want the Boulder DA's office to conduct the test, the want the FBI to conduct the test.
DH: Well actually, there's some question as to whether they even want the FBI to conduct the test. I happened to read Lin Wood's letter that was given to the Boulder police earlier today, and he has four points.
PZ: And he's the man who has represented the Ramseys during the book tour?
DH: Lin Wood is currently representing them with respect to any civil matters, including defamation lawsuits. And apparently one of the conditions is that if this test is successful on the part of the Ramseys, this case be marked "closed" against the Ramseys, meaning that the police and the DA would do no further investigation, and that may turn out to be an unacceptable condition.
PZ: Well Jeralyn, isn't that the most ridiculous thing, if that happens, because the police department has long held that these tests are not admissible in court and are often not reliable.
JM: Well, that's probably why it's sort of fruitless for them to take it in the first place. If you remember, they offered to do this unrepresented by counsel when they were in the middle of a media interview. However, if you remember why the Ramseys have said they wrote this book and went on this media tour, it wasn't to clear their names, but it was to sort of jump start the investigation and get the police investigating the case again. Maybe the believe if they pass the lie detector test police will sort of come off this position that it must have been them and get looking to try to find the real killer of the child.
PZ: Some are saying that the Ramseys, if they decide to go ahead with this, and they take this test and are successful, all they're trying to do is taint a jury pool.
JM: Well, first of all the investigation doesn't appear to be going anywhere right now, anyway. You have a DA who in the last couple of weeks has several times on television said he doesn't believe lie detector tests are reliable. We know they're not admissible into evidence, so really, what's the point? If they pass it, you're going to have a whole host of people who say, "Well, anybody could pass it, because three-and-a-half years have past, even though, of course, that's not true.
PZ: Michael, is it a waste of time, one way or the other? Does it matter at all?
MM: Absolutely not, it is not a waste of time. You need to get these people on the polygraph and get it settled at least to that point. There are things they can do to try to beat it, if that's the case, but they need to get on it. Three years doesn't matter. As long as there's the threat of a loss to them of any kind, the polygraph will work.
PZ: I mean, you really believe this could be fairly conclusive? Is that what I'm hearing you say? I mean, you say it's useful three years after the fact. Even though you could doctor some of your responses, a good interrogator will know?
MM: Three years, ten years, it doesn't matter. I've done tests thirty years after the crime. It doesn't matter.
PZ: And what, you're so good at it that no one's ever tried to stump the system?
MM: They've absolutely tried. I've had doctors, attorneys, lots of people trying to beat the test, medication. It happens. It's not a fool-proof science, but very few sciences are.
JM: It's not a science at all, which is why it's not admissible in the federal courts.
PZ: Walk us through some of the questions, very quickly, you would ask the Ramseys if you could, if you were giving them a lie detector test. I'm sure you would read their book first.
MM: Right. You would have to go into, look for the specific issues. In polygraphs, the fewer questions you ask, the more reliable the test becomes.
PZ: Are they obvious questions like, "Did you kill your daughter?"
MM: "Did you cause her death, in any way?" Absolutely.
PZ: Well, isn't that a question that you could rehearse for month after month after month after month?
MM: It's not the rehearsal. You can rehearse it a million times without the polygraph or even having somebody give you a fake polygraph. It wouldn't matter. Once you're on a polygraph where results are going to be known or made known, the stakes become astronomical at that point, and your reactions will kick in.
PZ: Depending on where this polygraph issue goes, where do you think this case is? We had the forensics expert, Mr. Lee, tell one of our reporters that this investigation is at a dead end.
DH: Without a new prosecutor, the case is dead in the water. It's more than cold, it's dead.
JM: I think the case appears to be at a stand-still. I do not believe it's going anywhere right now, and I'm sorry to say that.
PZ: Do you think a new DA will make this move?
JM: No, this will make no difference whatsoever. The evidence isn't there and four DA's and twelve grand jurors have agreed that it's not there. It just isn't there.
PZ: And even Alex Hunter, if he continues to cooperate the way he says, after he leaves office, that he's not going to give up on this case, you don't think that makes one bit of difference?
JM: Not one bit.
PZ: All right. Jeralyn, Darnay, Michael, thank you for being with us on The Edge.