My latest book, ‘Lie Detection and the Law: Torture, Technology and Truth’ is out now with Routledge (you can buy it on Routledge, on Amazon and you can preview it and buy the ebook on Google Books). It is part of Routledge’s ‘Law, Science and Society‘ series, which is worth taking a look through.
Chapter 1 outlines an interesting example from the history of the polygraph’s use in criminal investigations, briefly reports on how the device has long suffered from contestation regarding its validity and reliability, before reviewing some key philosophical starting points in understanding lying, and taking some tentative footsteps towards a sociological approach.
Chapter 2 explores the use of torture as a form of lie detection in practices of ‘trial by ordeal’ and in the Elizabethan period before outlining the literature on the emergence of the polygraph machine and the trial by jury in the United States. Together, these threads help describe how conceptualisations of the body and its relation to truth have been invested in lie detection technologies.
Chapter 3 provides an overview of a heuristic often used to explain the legal status of the polygraph machine in US criminal courts, that it is either: inadmissible; admissible with prior-stipulation; or admissible even without prior-stipulation. It then argues that although this is useful, there is a need for greater detail, exploring the tensions and complexity involved in characterising the socio-legal status of the polygraph, which is followed-up in Chapters 4 and 5.
Chapter 4 begins to provide a more detailed picture of how the polygraph machine is challenged and managed within US State Supreme Courts, outlining the ‘exclusionary toolkit’ and how this is used to highlight uncertainties in lie detection research and application.
Chapter 5 extends this analysis by examining how ontological uncertainties in polygraph science and interrogation practices are negotiated in trial settings by reference to broader techno-political currents in the United States. It shows that the ontological connections between body, truth and lying are enacted differently over time in a case study of the Massachusetts State Supreme Court.
Chapter 6 explains how the polygraph machine is used in police interrogations of criminal suspects and witnesses. It describes in detail the deceptive techniques used by polygraph interrogators to manipulate subjects into confession. The chapter evaluates these techniques in light of the tragic case of Peter Reilly, showing how lie detection practices can bring about false confessions.
Chapter 7 explores the use of the polygraph in the socio-legal periphery of the criminal trial, namely in probation and treatment programmes of sex offenders. It describes the emergence of sex offender polygraph testing in USA and UK, setting this against a background of moral panics in both countries, but also linking it to a longer history of socio-technical practices through which certain groups have been made into subjects of suspicion.
Chapter 8 reviews the ways in which uncertainty in lie detection has figured in its techno-legal configurations within socio-legal situations. It explores the implications of this account for developing a sociological approach to lying, drawing on key insights from Georg Simmel and others, and indicates why these need to be revised to reflect today’s biopolitical schemes of social order, and to address the complex struggles over information and truth in contemporary sociotechnical systems and ‘post-truth’ politics.