"I will not take a lie detector test," says Carter

Published in The Herald-News, Passaic, N.J., September 1975

Note (February 2000): In this August 1975 interview Jim Lanaras and I ask Rubin Carter to take a lie detector test and Carter vehemently and steadfastly refuses. I went into this interview leaning in Carter's favor, but his refusal to take the lie test was troubling and raised the first real doubts in my mind about his innocence. -- Cal Deal

In this recent interview conducted by Herald-News reporter Jim Lanaras, Rubin "Hurricane" Carter talks about a lie detector test he took hours after a 1966 triple murder at the Lafayette Grill in Paterson.

Carter was convicted of those murders in 1967 and is now seeking a new trial.

The interview took place in Trenton State Prison Aug. 28. At that time, sources had reported that the results of Carter's lie detector test were questionable.

Since then, however, authoritative sources have disclosed that Carter failed the lie detector test. The man who gave Carter the test, John McGuire, an Elizabeth police officer, concluded that Carter "was involved in the crime," the sources said.

Q. You both passed a lie detector test in Paterson that morning?

A. Yes. [See Carter's lie test report. He failed.]

Q. Now would you be willing to take another lie detector test.

A. No. No, of course not. There's no reason to take another lie detector test. We have already taken a lie detector test. Take the information from that test which is closer (to the time of) that crime.

Q. Well, I heard that the outcome of the test was questionable as to whether you actually did pass?

A. Oh sure, they say that nine years later now, but they turned us loose because this man (McGuire) laid these drafts out on the table and explained to Capt. John Goursley and all the rest of the police that this is why these two men could not have murdered these people.

Q. Well if you passed a lie detector test then, then undoubtedly you would pass one now. It certainly would help your case a great deal.

A. Would help? You got all this other evidence.

Q. We're talking about in the court of public opinion.

A. Yes, yes, but we're talking about something else here. We are talking about a fair trail.

Q. Taking another lie detector test and passing it would put an awful lot of pressure on the people in office to give you a new trial.

A. Why would it put a lot pressure on them? Why do you think....

Q. Because of public opinion. You don't think that it would be significant that you passed a lie detector test?

A. No, no absolutely not. You have the lie detector test that I passed. Take that. That is in the police hands.

Q. But if you can't get to that ... if this thing is being suppressed, destroyed, whatever it may be, why not take another test? Why not do it again?

A. Why not look at the evidence?

Q. Why don't you do it again and say to the world, "Here is the proof"?

A. Because I don't think that you, what I think you doin' here is tryin' to, tryin' to uh, what you tryin' to do is solve the crime.

Q. I think what we're trying to say is it would help establish your credibility.

A. It would not establish anything.

Q. At a point now when, as you say, people are lining up in your corner, it would certainly buttress your case.

A. Well, you see, people are not lining up in my corner because of innocence or guilt.

Q. They think you were framed.

A. Yes. Yes, that's what they're lining up in the corner about, that a man is in jail and he did not receive a fair trial. Bello and Bradley were the only two people that says John Artis and I had anything to do with this crime. In 1966 you willingly, readily took their testimony as being valid. Today Bello and Bradley say Rubin Carter and John Artis did not do that, that they lied. If their testimony ought to be enough to get Rubin Carter and John Artis out of jail.

But at any rate, you mention a lie detector test. They brought this, Mr. McGuire. And he came up here to Paterson Police Headquarters, he set his machines up and he told me that if he found anything in this thing here that is indicative of my guilt, that he would help put my black ass underneath the electric chair.

I will not take another lie detector test. I refuse to do it by the same token that I refuse to wear prison clothes, as I refuse to be treated as a criminal. I refuse to take a lie detector test now under any circumstances, from anybody and for any reason because you have evidence right here that you can deal with.

(At this point Carter is informed that The Herald-News would be willing to arrange and finance another lie detector test.)

CARTER: Yeah, well if The Herald-News wants to take a lie detector test they can take a lie detector test all they want to, but they will not bring no lie detector down here for Rubin Carter to take.

Q. You would refuse to take a lie detector test if one of us arranged...

A. From anybody, from anybody. If you tell me that you would give me that lie detector test and if I passed that lie detector test and if I passed that lie detector test I would walk out that door, I'll take it.

Q. The only thing we can guarantee is that if you agree to take a lie detector test the results of that test, good, bad or indifferent, would be in the paper. It would be there, as you say, in the court of public opinion.

A. (laughs) You feel that way see, but, uh, I don't feel that and therefore I will not take it for any reason, for anybody, for any circumstances.

Q. You know, we're talking about something that, you know, it's dramatic. People would say, "Look at that!".

A. I understand exactly what you say. I have went through these mental gyrations before in terms of lie detector tests. I had thought about that many times.

Q. The purpose of something like this would be to pressure the system.

A. Yes, I understand. Listen, I understand exactly what you saying, but again, that's my decision to make.

Q. What if we gave a lie detector test to Bello or Bradley and they passed?

A. That's what I been trying to do, being that I took one, I said, okay, I took a lie detector test, now give Bello and Bradley a lie detector test, that's all. And they said no we won't do it.

Q. What has become of the original test?

A. How would I know. I had no control over these things. As far as I know it exists.

Q. Well, what would you say if Bello and Bradley took a lie detector test and they passed and you refused to take a lie detector test? Wouldn't that look awful bad?

A. If they took a test and passed it, I would take a test. I would do that. If they took a test and they passed it from an objective observer I would take a test.

Q. What would you call an objective observer?

A. Nobody from New Jersey. No law enforcements from New Jersey. No law enforcements period.

Q. That's the only stipulation?

A. That's the only way.[RELATED STORY -- Carter got just such a "no-lose" offer: Pass a lie test and go free (He rejected the deal.) See Prosecutor's letter. Eyewitness Al Bello took two lie tests and was found to be telling the truth regarding his identification of Carter as one of the killers. Both examiners were from outside of New Jersey. Eyewitness Dexter Bradley, who also identified Carter as one of the killers, refused to take a lie test before the second trial and was not called to testify.]

Q. We have contacted two people. If we were to get a person who...

A. (angry) Let me put this to rest. Let me put this rest. I will not take a lie detector test under any circumstances. Let me put that to rest.

Q. Are you retracting what you said before about....?

A. What I don't want you to do is to try and do my thinkin for me. I do not need that. We have enough evidence here. Let's deal with this. What you looking at here is for your own personal edification, that this guy is not guilty. That is not the issue here.

Q. The issue is not whether you're guilty or innocent, it's whether you got a fair trial?

A. That's right. And, that is the only issue we're dealing with here. When I say I am innocent, it has no bearing on people. And the only thing that will have a bearing on people is a verdict of not guilty by a jury.

Q. Once the issue as to whether or not you got a fair trial is decided, and if they do decide to have another trial, that will settle that argument. Then the issue will be again, when you're in the court, are you guilty or innocent and, at that point, would not a lie detector test be to your advantage?

A. At that point, one the issue is decided that Rubin Carter and John Artis did not get a fair trial and a retrial is mandated, at that point it would be intelligent.

Q. If the judge rules in favor of a retrial, would you then at that point agree to a lie detector test?

A. Well, let's take that when it comes. At that point a lie detector test would certainly be valid. I would take a lie detector test at that point if the judge say, "You are entitled to a new trial and, if you take a lie detector test and that test proves favorable, then you don't have to go to court, I'll take it.

Q. I don't foresee him saying that.

A. No, I don't foresee him saying that either, but it is at that point in which a lie detector test would become valid. What we're talking about is the law of the land. The constitutional law, the state law. That's what I want. And that's what is violated. And that's what we're talking about here.

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