Did the Polygraph Reference Prejudice the Defendant If a Witness Testified That He Had Refused to Take the Test ?

In Commonwealth v. Sneeringer, 447 Pa. Super. 241, 668 A.2d 1167, 1174 (Pa.Super. 1995), a Commonwealth witness testified that the defendant had refused to take a polygraph test. The defendant moved for a mistrial that was denied by the trial court. Instead, the trial court gave a cautionary instruction to the jury that explained the unreliability of polygraph tests and the impropriety of inferring any guilt from the defendant's refusal to take the polygraph test. Sneeringer, 668 A.2d at 1173. The defendant was not satisfied with this instruction and appealed to the Superior Court. On review, we were satisfied that the polygraph reference did not prejudice the defendant. First, we noted that the Commonwealth did not intentionally elicit the objectionable response from the witness. Id., 668 A.2d at 1174. Second, the polygraph test was not administered and the witness' testimony did not reflect upon the results of the test. Id. Third, we found the trial court's cautionary instruction sufficient to avoid any prejudice to the defendant. Id.