TV show denied access to
'Lie Detector' lacked gravity,
Posted: Dec. 29, 2004
Madison - With more and
television shows clamoring for a chance to interview convicts behind
bars, state Department of Corrections officials have found themselves
staring at the blurred line between news and entertainment.
"48 Hour Mystery," hosted by
award-winning reporter Leslie Stahl on CBS, was given access. "Lie
Detector," a show that sought to give polygraph tests to three
Wisconsin inmates maintaining their innocence, wasn't.
That prompted an outcry from
producers of "Lie Detector," the new version of a 1960s show that seeks
to determine whether notorious people are truthful or artful liars.
"It was determined that is
entertainment, rather than news," department spokesman Bill Clausius
said of the decision to deny "Lie Detector" access to inmates.
Ralph Andrews, one of the
producers of "Lie Detector," said department officials had
misunderstood the show.
He described the program as "
'60 Minutes' with a twist" and said it is comparable to offerings on
"None of these prisoners are
sing or dance or do anything remotely connected to entertainment.. . .
Entertainment is 'American Idol' and any dramatic series, but when
you're dealing with real people, real lives, life and death situations,
to call that entertaining is sick," Andrews said.
The department's decision has
some with ties to the show wondering whether Deputy Corrections
Secretary Rick Raemisch has a conflict of interest, because he led two
investigations as Dane County sheriff that "Lie Detector" is interested
Getting at the truth
The latest version of "Lie
will air as a weekly show on Pax TV starting in March. The show has had
many incarnations since the 1960s, most recently in 1998 as a one-hour
special on Fox.
In it, people have their claims
tested by polygraph expert Ed Gelb.
The decision to keep the TV
of the prisons, first reported by Madison weekly newspaper Isthmus, was
made by Raemisch after officials watched a tape of the 1998 special,
On the special, hosted by O.J.
Simpson prosecutor Marcia Clark, the claims of innocence by a Florida
teenager convicted of manslaughter were found to be true, as was Jeff
Gillooly's contention that ex-wife Tonya Harding had a hand in the plot
to attack fellow Olympic skater Nancy Kerrigan.
On that episode, James Nichols,
brother of Oklahoma City bombing conspirator Terry Nichols, failed a
test when he said he knew nothing of that plot.
Recently, the "48 Hours
was allowed to interview Wisconsin inmate John Maloney, a former cop
convicted of killing his wife and who maintains he is innocent. That
program was granted access to the prison because it is connected to the
news division of CBS, Clausius said. "Lie Detector" has no ties to an
established news outlet.
Sheila Berry, an advocate for
imprisoned inmates, said "Lie Detector" was similar to "48 Hours
Mystery" and other prime-time news shows that use
entertainment-programming devices to attract their audiences.
She called Raemisch's role in
the decision-making unfair.
"I think that's a conflict,"
Berry, the director of
Richmond, Va.-based Truth in Justice, helped Andrews identify inmates
who may be wrongly incarcerated.
During his tenure as sheriff
1990 to 1997, Raemisch headed the investigations into two of the people
the producers wanted to test: Penny Brummer, who is serving a life
sentence for killing a friend in 1994; and Audrey Edmunds, who is
serving an 18-year sentence for the 1995 death of an infant in her care.
Raemisch was on vacation
and unavailable for comment. Clausius called his connection to the
cases as a former sheriff "irrelevant" to the decision to bar the TV
The third case "Lie Detector"
wanted to examine was that of Mark Price, who is serving a life
sentence for murder.
Price was prosecuted by
District Attorney Joe Paulus, who has since been convicted of tax
evasion and taking bribes from a defense attorney. Berry, of Truth in
Justice, served as director of Paulus' victim/witness assistance
program from 1988 to 1990.
Denial too harsh
Rep. Mark Pocan (D-Madison)
had no reason to suspect Raemisch was trying to block a look into his
investigations as sheriff. But the public may begin to look for
ulterior reasons for the decision because the department's logic in
denying the show's request does not make sense, said Pocan, who tried
to help the producers get inside the prisons.
"When you deny something
really substantial reasons, it looks like you're trying to hide
something, and that usually raises questions about the cases," he said.
The department has become more
in recent years but on occasion reverts to a "Pentagon-like mentality"
of secrecy, Pocan said.
He was initially told the "Lie
Detector" crew would be disruptive, though the department backed off on
that claim after learning a three-person team was all that was needed.
The department also has raised concerns about how the tests would
affect the victims' families.
While the upcoming season will
not feature the three inmates, it may include a piece on a Wisconsin
Andrews, the producer, said he
to give a polygraph test to Laurie Bembenek, a former Milwaukee police
officer and Playboy bunny convicted of a 1981 murder. Bembenek, who
gained nationwide attention in 1990 for her escape from prison, has
long maintained her innocence.