Admissibility of Unreliable Polygraph Evidence In Texas

In Patteson v. State, 633 S.W.2d 549 (Tex. App.-Houston [14th Dist.] 1982, no pet.), the court of appeals recognized that inherently unreliable polygraph evidence should, once it has come into the case, at least be fully and accurately explained to the jury. Patteson, 633 S.W.2d at 550-52. We hold that the trial court's ruling did not do so in this case, leaving the jury with a false or distorted impression of a very favorable piece of the State's evidence. The State further argues that even if the polygraph questions should have been admitted, the error, if any, has to be disregarded because an erroneous ruling on the admission of evidence falls under TEX. R. APP. P. 44.2(b): "Any other [nonconstitutional] error, defect, irregularity, or variance that does not affect substantial rights must be disregarded." A "substantial right" is affected when the error had a substantial and injurious effect or influence in determining the jury's verdict. King v. State, 953 S.W.2d 266, 271 (Tex. Crim. App. 1997); Chisum v. State, 988 S.W.2d 244, 251 (Tex. App.-Texarkana 1998, pet. ref'd). The Court in King v. State relied upon and cited as its authority Kotteakos v. United States, 328 U.S. 750, 776, 66 S. Ct. 1239, 90 L. Ed. 1557 (1946).