Appeals court reverses suppression of polygraph in molestation case

September 9, 2014

A panel of the Indiana Court of Appeals Tuesday reversed a trial court order suppressing results of a polygraph test against a man who later was charged with child molestation.

Prosecutors in Perry County dropped a charge of Class C felony child molesting after the Circuit Court suppressed evidence from a polygraph test administered to Jacob A. Wroe. He signed an agreement to take the test after police in Tell City began investigating allegations in 2013 that he had inappropriately touched a niece who was 3 years old at the time.

“Although we acknowledge the concerns raised by Wroe regarding the agreement that he signed, and have significant reservations about the reliability of polygraph examinations and their admissibility in court, we are compelled by precedent to reverse the trial court’s order,” Judge John Baker wrote for the panel in State of Indiana v. Jacob A. Wroe, 62A01-1403-CR-116.

The appeals panel found that Wroe had been apprised and consented to a stipulation with the state before taking the polygraph, meeting a prong of the prerequisites under Sanchez v. State, 675 N.E.2d 306, 308 (Ind. 1996).

The panel found that at the time Wroe agreed to the stipulation, he wasn’t entitled to an attorney because he had not been charged or taken into custody. The panel also ruled the stipulation was not ambiguous. Judges also rejected arguments that the stipulation was unconscionable because Wroe had only an eighth-grade education and that signing the agreement waived multiple constitutional rights, hindered his defense and allowed unreliable evidence to be admitted against him.

“We share the concerns raised by Wroe. However, it is clear that our Supreme Court has found agreements such as the one herein to be valid, inasmuch as the Court has said that the only way in which polygraph examinations are ever admissible in a criminal case is when such an agreement is reached," Baker wrote for the panel.

"It is always the case that there will be unequal bargaining power between an individual and the State, it will frequently be the case that the individual has not had all of the educational opportunities afforded the attorneys and police officers he is dealing with, and it is necessarily the case that these stipulations involve the waiver of constitutional rights, the hindering of defense counsel at trial, and the agreement to allow unreliable evidence to be admitted at trial,” Baker wrote.

“Notwithstanding these concerns, our Supreme Court has held that agreements such as these are valid absent other problems that have not been raised in this case. As a result, we are compelled to find that the Stipulation is not invalid based on unconscionability.”  




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