In my last entry, I discussed the unscientific and unreliable nature of polygraph tests. However, I never went over any specific examples of people whose lives were ruined because of a false positive or negative on a polygraph. So today, I present to you the sad tale of Melvin Foster.
The story begins back in the early 1980s in the state of Washington. A serial killer dubbed the Green River Killer murdered several young women in the Seattle / Tacoma area. He received his name due to the fact that he would leave the bodies around the Green River.
Anyway, a young Melvin Foster became interested in the case. He called the Green River Task Force in order to share information between the two parties and offer his help. Being that this is unusual behavior, the task force suspected Foster of being the killer since the killer would have an incentive to ask about his own case.
Foster was given a polygraph test and failed despite his innocence. The police used this to obtain warrants to search his house. He was convicted of the murders and spent close to two decades in jail. A DNA analysis performed in 2001 exonerated him.
They did eventually convict the real killer, Gary Ridgeway, shortly after. However, Foster lost nearly 20 years of his life due to a false positive on a polygraph test. I guess that was enough to convict him though.
Just say no to junk science!