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PR Executive's Polygraph Test Barred at Fraud Trial

Judge says former Fleishman-Hillard chief Douglas R. Dowie can take the stand and face cross-examination if he wants to present his side.

October 14, 2005|David Rosenzweig | Times Staff Writer

Former public relations executive Douglas R. Dowie will not be allowed to introduce the results of a privately administered polygraph test at his upcoming trial on charges of padding bills to the Department of Water and Power, a federal judge has ruled.

U.S. District Judge Gary A. Feess said that if Dowie "wants to present his side ... he is free to do so by taking the stand and testifying at trial, at which time he will be subject like all other witnesses to cross-examination."

"His testimony will then be subject to scrutiny under the same standard ... as any of the other witnesses in this case," Feess added in a written opinion made public Wednesday.

Dowie, who once headed the Los Angeles office of public relations giant Fleishman-Hillard, is scheduled to go on trial in November on charges of ordering his staff to fabricate hundreds of thousands of dollars in billings to the DWP.

Defense attorney Thomas Holliday had sought permission to introduce the polygraph test as evidence of Dowie's innocence.

According to defense documents, Dowie was asked twice during the test whether he knew if any of the bills were fraudulent when they were submitted to the DWP. He answered no both times, and the polygraph examiner concluded that Dowie's responses were "not deceptive."

Federal judges have wide discretion in deciding whether to admit polygraph evidence. In rejecting the defense motion, Feess wrote that the results at best reflected Dowie's state of mind when the test was administered rather than at the time the alleged fraud occurred.

Moreover, Feess said that if he allowed the evidence, the prosecution would insist on calling its own polygraph expert, setting in motion a mini-trial on the validity of polygraphs.

"That would divert the jury from those matters on which it should be focused -- what did the defendant do and what was his state of mind when he did it," the judge wrote.

Dowie's defense attorney could not be reached for comment on the ruling.

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