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L.A. Co. gets cutting edge lie detector

December 12, 2008 12:00:00 AM PST
There is a new innovation for law enforcement to get to the truth. The science of lie detectors has advanced.Traditional lie detectors, or polygraphs, measure your breathing, your heart rate and even how much you sweat. But, this latest innovation is checking for lies exactly where they start: with the human voice. While nothing is foolproof, its inventors say this is about as close as it gets.

The movie "Blade Runner" is set in a futuristic Los Angeles, where detectives use computers and mathematical equations to measure emotional reactions. In the movie, it's part of a test to detect deception.

What was once science fiction has become the latest tool in law enforcement.

"Think of a polygraph as a black-and-white picture. This is a color picture," says Lynn Robbins, Voice Analysis Technologies.

Robbins is talking about Layered Voice Analysis, which goes far beyond the methods employed in traditional lie detector tests.

"This measures the frequency of the human voice, as somebody is speaking in real time ... using conversation. It doesn't matter what language they speak," says Robbins.

Robbins is the president of the Wisconsin-based company that is marketing the technology to law enforcement agencies around the world; including the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department.

"Without this technology, the investigator may decide to drop that line of questioning and go another direction. Yet, this tool may say, 'Hey, you know what? There's some deception here. Maybe I need to do a little more probing over here,'" says Sgt. Brian Muller, Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department.

Unlike a polygraph test, which measures stress levels, Layered Voice Analysis measures the frequencies in a person's voice; even those inaudible to the human ear.

"The way the frontal lobe of the brain communicates with the vocal chords of the human voice ... there's a wide spectrum that covers the entire human voice," says Robbins.

Eyewitness News Reporter Robert Holguin put the tool to the test. ABC7 used footage from one of the most infamous presidential speeches ever made: the moment former President Bill Clinton said, "I did not have sexual relations with that woman." Clinton was referring to allegations that he had a relationship with then-White House intern-turned-employee Monica Lewinsky.

"When you see a 'False Statement' with an 'S.O.S', you have something that his very wrong," says Robbins. Those two indicators popped up on the computer screen when Clinton's tape was played.

Even in real time, the machine caught Holguin's attempts at deception and honesty.

In clinical trials, Robbins says the technology has a 95 percent success rate. It is currently being used on a trial basis with the L.A. County Sheriff's Department's Crime Lab.

It's another option for interrogators and officers who say this technology could be used in conjunction with polygraphs.

Robbins says the software has applications outside of traditional law enforcement. Some European countries are using it at airports to screen for falsified passports and terror suspects.


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