Polygraph doubted

State to contest former Lanesboro police chief's lie-detector test

By John Weiss

PRESTON -- Prosecutors said a polygraph test taken by the former Lanesboro police chief should not be allowed as evidence in the case of arson which destroyed three Lanesboro buildings.

John Tuchek took the polygraph test in an effort to show he did not set the April 7 fire.


During a short hearing Monday in Fillmore District Court, Peter J. Orput, a deputy attorney general, said polygraph tests are unreliable and can be manipulated to show incorrect results. Furthermore, "it (a polygraph test) has never been admitted in court in the United States, and I don't want to be the first," he said. The tests are sometimes used in civil cases.

Tuchek, 34, faces eight counts of first-degree arson. Tuchek previously pleaded not guilty to all counts.

Trial was set to begin with jury selection the week of Oct. 21.

According to a criminal complaint, Tuchek originally said he had seen someone run from the area where the fire started, then later said he had set a small fire, hoping to put it out to impress a former girlfriend who lived in one of the buildings.

Tuchek's attorney, Marc Kurzman of Minneapolis, said after the hearing that Tuchek did light a piece of cardboard on fire behind the stores but never intended to cause the larger fires. He said he had Tuchek take the test Friday to show there was no intent to cause so much damage to the historic buildings. "We want the jury to have as many facts as they can," Kurzman said.

The results proved it, he said, because "there was no accelerant that was used. There was no intention to set fire to any buildings."

At worst, he is guilty of fifth-degree arson, Kurzman said.

What matters is whether Tuchek set the first fire, Orput said. If Tuchek used an accelerant, he said, that makes the crime worse.


Kurzman will submit a brief about introduction of the polygraph by Sept. 6, and Orput will reply by Sept. 13.

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