Frye and the Defense


Charge: murder. Defense: self-defense. The state's version is that D had his knife in his hand when he approached V. D's version is that he did not draw the knife until V wrapped his belt around his hand with the buckle dangling and approached D. There is a conflict over who struck the first blow. D's credibility is crucial to his defense.

At trial, D offers the testimony of a polygraph examiner to testify that he administered a lie-detector test to D. Tendered questions and answers from the test were to the effect that D did not intend to use his knife when he stopped his car near V, that he did not pull his knife before he got out of the car, that V had his belt in his hand when D pulled his knife, and that V struck the first blow. The polygraph examiner would have testified that D was telling the truth when he gave these answers.

The trial judge finds that the polygraph examiner is trained, experienced, and qualified and that the test was well conducted under controlled circumstances and therefore generally reliable. However, the trial judge sustains the state's objection to the polygraph examiner's testimony on the grounds that polygraphy "has not gained sufficient standing and scientific recognition among physiological and psychological authorities and therefore has not gained general acceptance in the particular field in which it belongs."

D is convicted and sentenced to death. Have his constitutional rights been violated?

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