293 F. 1013 (D.D.C. 1923), 3968, Frye v. United States

Docket Nº:3968.
Citation:293 F. 1013
Case Date:December 03, 1923
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit

Page 1013

293 F. 1013 (D.D.C. 1923)




No. 3968.

United States Court of Appeals, District of Columbia.

December 3, 1923

Submitted November 7, 1923.

Appeal from the Supreme Court of the District of Columbia.

Richard V. Mattingly and Foster Wood, both of Washington, D.C., for appellant.

Peyton Gordon and J. H. Bilbrey, both of Washington, D.C., for the United States.

Before SMYTH, Chief Justice, VAN ORSDEL, Associate Justice, and MARTIN, presiding Judge of the United States Court of Customs Appeals.

VAN ORSDEL, Associate Justice.

Appellant, defendant below, was convicted of the crime of murder in the second degree, and from the judgment prosecutes this appeal.

A single assignment of error is presented for our consideration. In the course of the trial counsel for defendant offered an expert witness to testify to the result of a deception test made upon defendant. The test is described as the systolic blood pressure deception test. It is asserted that blood pressure is influenced by change in the emotions of the witness, and that the systolic blood pressure rises are brought about by nervous impulses sent to the sympathetic branch of the autonomic nervous system. Scientific experiments, it is claimed, have demonstrated that fear, rage, and pain always produce a rise of systolic blood pressure, and that conscious deception or falsehood, concealment of facts, or guilt of crime, accompanied by fear of detection when the person is under examination, raises the systolic blood pressure in a curve, which corresponds exactly to the struggle going on in the subject's mind, between fear and attempted control of that fear, as the examination

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touches the vital points in respect of which he is attempting to deceive the examiner.

In other words, the theory seems to be that truth is spontaneous, and comes without conscious effort, while the utterance of a falsehood requires a conscious effort, which is reflected in the blood pressure. The rise thus produced is easily detected and distinguished from the rise produced by mere fear of the examination itself. In the former instance, the pressure rises higher than in the latter, and is more pronounced as the examination proceeds, while in the latter case, if the subject is telling the truth, the pressure registers highest at the beginning of the examination, and gradually...

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