The television show “Lie to Me” starring Tim Roth tells a story about a “human lie detector” who, by reading facial cues and reactions, can tell whether any individual is telling the truth or not. There are no shortage of people out there, Judges among them, who are convinced they have some special ability to tell when a person is lying or not simply by watching them testify. In fact, California Evidence Code 780 mentions specifically such things as “demeanor”. What is the truth about detecting lies? One researcher named Paul Ekman has performed research in which he has allegedly discovered that some small amount of people are “wizards” at detecting lies, by examining “microexpressions”, that is, tiny facial movements.
Here is a passage from an article written by Robert T. Gonzalez
Boise State University psychologist Charles Honts, a former DoD polygrapher who was trained by Ekman and now specializes in the study of deception, claims that every one of his attempts to replicate Ekman’s experiments have failed. “There’s not a lot of science to back up Ekman’s claims,” said Jay Nunamaker, head computer engineer of the digital lie-detecting Embodied Avatar project, in an interview with WIRED published earlier this year. “Applying them to deception detection is a reach.”
This is as I suspected. Although we all like to believe we live in this magical world where liars can be uncovered, the reality is that we live in a world where we, and all of us, are regularly fooled by each other. As Bill Eddy of the High Conflict Institute has consistently argued persuasively, the ONLY real way to tell if someone is lying is with documentation. If someone says their business was shut down, and you have bank statements showing two hundred thousand dollars in deposits, you don’t need a human lie detector. You need a lawyer who can present that evidence, and a Judge willing to listen, and if the Judge isn’t willing to listen then a lawyer who has preserved the record well enough to win an appeal.
Santa Rosa, Sonoma, Marin, Contra Costa, San Francisco, Concord, Walnut Creek, Napa, Ukiah, Mendocino, Lake County attorney