Innocent Man Fails Polygraph And Is Sent To Prison For Murder

Rochester, NY, May 3, 2010 – In what can only be described as one of the worst failures of the polygraph, a killer passed and an innocent man failed the polygraph during the murder investigation of 74-year-old Viola Manville in 1988.  After failing the polygraph administered by the New York State Police, detectives were able to get the innocent man, Frank Sterling, to confess to the murder.  Sterling was then convicted of Manville’s murder and sent to prison while her actual killer, Mark Christie, who passed the polygraph, also conducted by the New York State Police, went on to abduct and murder four-year-old Kali Ann Poulton.  Christie was convicted of her murder and recently confessed to Manville’s murder.   Frank Sterling was released from prison last week.  If the polygraph had accurately identified Christie as the killer, little Kali Ann Poulton would still be alive and Frank Sterling would not have spent 22 years in prison for a crime that he did not commit.  

This horrific case follows on the heels of the March 23, 2010 case where the murder of five Newark, NJ, teens in 1978 was solved by the recent confession of one of the killers, Lee Anthony Evans.  Evans was the main suspect at the time of the initial investigation and took at least one polygraph test, which he passed. With no leads and the main suspect cleared, the case went cold for 32 years. 

These two cases are an example of what the critics of the polygraph call a misplaced reliance on the pseudoscience of polygraph.  They cite the many cases in which criminals passed the polygraph and were later found to be guilty of the crimes.  Cases such as the “Green River Killer.”  In that case, Gary Leon Ridgeway, was a suspect in the killing of four women and was given a polygraph, which he passed.  Ridgeway was dropped as a suspect and went on to kill another 44 women until he was caught and convicted.  The failure of the polygraph cost 44 women their lives. 

Another example of the inaccuracy of the polygraph is the “Angel of Death”, Charles Cullen.  Cullen worked as a nurse and murdered as many as 40 people by giving them lethal injections.  After his first victim died, he was considered a suspect and asked to take a polygraph test.  He passed the polygraph, was dropped as a suspect, and went on to kill at least another 39 people until he was caught and convicted.  In this case, the failure of the polygraph cost 39 people their lives.   

Following many high-level failures of the polygraph at the CIA, many former heads of that agency have recommended that it be limited or discontinued because it is not accurate.  The most prominent failure of the polygraph at the CIA was that of Aldrich Ames.  While working in a very sensitive position at the CIA, Ames betrayed the U.S. and sold the names of CIA operatives working in the Soviet Union to the KGB.  Over the years, even as he betrayed the U.S., Ames took and passed many periodic polygraph examinations.  Eleven CIA operatives that were identified by Ames were executed by the KGB.  This failure of the polygraph cost 11 CIA operatives their lives. 

The critics also cite the many cases in which innocent people fail the polygraph and end up spending many years in prison for crimes that they did not commit.  The guilty person is then free to commit additional crimes.  One such case was that of Jimmy Williams.  Prior to taking a polygraph examination, his attorney was so convinced of his innocence that he stipulated that the results of a polygraph test could be admitted into evidence.  Upon learning that Williams had failed the polygraph, they convicted him of rape.  Williams spent 10 years in prison for a crime that he did not commit.  The accuser, who is now 22-years old, has admitted that the rape never happened.

Among the critics are some very prominent professionals:  “Polygraph screening is completely without any theoretical foundation and has absolutely no validity…the diagnostic value of this type of testing is no more than that of astrology or tea-leaf reading.”  Dr. Drew Richardson, Former Supervisory Special Agent, FBI Laboratory   

“Polygraph testing has been the gold standard, but it’s obviously fool’s gold.”  Prof.Stephen Fienberg, Chairman, Committee to Review the Scientific Evidence on the Polygraph, National Academy of Sciences

“…the use of this highly flawed instrument (polygraph) should be radically curtailed.”  James Woolsey, Former Director of the CIA 

“ The CIA’s reliance on the polygraph is truly insane.”  John Deutch, Former Director of the CIA

Frank Horvath, former President of the American Polygraph Association and Chief Scientific Office for the Department of Defense Polygraph Institute, published research in which polygraphists evaluating charts of examinations had an accuracy rate of less than 60%, about the same as a flip of a coin.

Because of these overwhelming failures of the polygraph that have damaged our national security as well as endangered the safety of our citizens, more than 1,800 law enforcement agencies have switched to the Computer Voice Stress Analyzer, a truth verification system that uses the voice to detect brain stress activity.  According to those agencies, the CVSA has proven to be far more reliable and accurate than the polygraph.

For more information, please contact the National Association of Computer Voice Stress Analysts at, or call 888-358-5025.