The case examines the admission of polygraph evidence in criminal and civil cases. Banks pled guilty to first-degree manslaughter and prior to his sentencing hearing sought to introduce polygraph analysis as evidence to prove that he was not the shooter. The Circuit Court decided to preclude the polygraph examination from the evidence, which subsequently led to Bank’s appeal, where he pursued the issue of whether the Circuit Court erred in excluding the polygraph evidence in its sentencing consideration. This case basically examines the Court’s stance in examining the use of and admission of polygraph evidence.
On 26th February 2020, Casey Bonhorst succumbed to his death from a gunshot wound, when he was out delivering a pizza to a home in Sioux Falls. Raymond Banks and Jahennessy Bryant were charged as co-defendants on August 12, 2020, in a five-count superseding indictment that included two counts of first-degree murder, one count of second-degree murder, one count of first-degree manslaughter, and one count of attempted first-degree robbery based on the subsequent investigation by the law enforcement.
Both Raymond Banks and Jahennessy Bryant stuck to varied accounts of the events leading to Bonhorst’s death throughout the proceedings. Byrant claimed that he was on the lookout and Banks was the shooter, whereas Banks made opposite claims in his version of events. During the change of plea hearing of Banks, the State demonstrated its support for Bryant’s version of events while describing the factual basis for the plea and held Banks to be the shooter. The factual basis for the plea provided by the Court was initially contested by Banks, but he eventually agreed to aiding and abetting the situation after the Court interrogated him.
Banks’s guilty plea was accepted by the Circuit Court before sentencing Banks to eighty years in prison, with twenty years suspended. When Banks urged the Circuit Court to admit the results of the polygraph examination, the Circuit Court refused, and the Appellate Court upheld the Circuit Court’s refusal.
Discussion by the court
Banks appealed against the ruling of the Circuit Court regarding the admission of polygraph evidence. The Appellate Court held that Banks failed to demonstrate error on the Circuit Court’s part when it precluded the results from the polygraph examination as evidence. Before going through with the sentencing hearing, Banks established the results of a polygraph examination as evidence from an examiner named Mike Webb (W. Michael Webb). Webb was a trained and licensed polygraph examiner with over 25 years of investigation and interview experience.
The polygraph result showed that there was “no significant reaction that indicates deception” when he answered “no” to questions regarding whether he had shot Bonhorst on the date in question. However, the State was opposed to admitting any testimony regarding the polygraph examination as evidence, stating that polygraph examination results cannot be admitted in the absence of an agreement between both parties, citing State of South Dakota V. Janice Stevenson.
The Circuit Court upheld the State’s argument because of reliability concerns which were exacerbated in the absence of an agreement between both parties and because the polygraph here was commissioned by Banks alone and the State did not find out about it until after it had been administered. The Circuit Court cited significant state and federal Appellate Court decisions which refused to weigh in polygraph evidence because of reliability concerns associated with the accuracy of polygraph examinations. Moreover, Banks has failed to show how the Circuit Court’s ruling would be “clearly against reason and evidence,” or “outside the range of permissible choices.” Based on these grounds that the Appellate Court affirmed the decision of the Circuit Court.
The Appellate Court affirmed the Circuit Court’s ruling. It was held that the Circuit Court did not abuse its discretion by excluding the polygraph examination.
This case debated the grounds for the Court to preclude the admission of the results of a polygraph examination.
Banks was tried for and subsequently pleaded guilty to first-degree manslaughter. Prior to his sentencing hearing, Banks insisted on admitting the results of a polygraph examination as evidence from an examiner named W. Michael Webb regarding his role in the crime. Despite the Court admitting to having relied on police reports, prior testimony, forensic evidence reports, and the additional information contained in the presentence investigation reports due to the lack factual clarity regarding the events of the case, the Court noted the absence of an agreement or stipulation between the parties as to the use of polygraph evidence to be a part of its admissibility criteria.
Moreover, considering the polygraph here was commissioned by Banks alone and the State did not find out about it until after it had been administered, the Court cited precedent setting cases to state that polygraph evidence have not been admitted by the Courts especially if the reliability is called into question before precluding the results of the polygraph examination.
The Court sentenced Banks to eighty years in the penitentiary with twenty years suspended and the Appellate court held that the Circuit Court did not commit an error by precluding the admission of the results of the polygraph examination before affirming the Circuit Court’s sentence.
Despite W. Michael Webb’s investigation and interview experience of over 25 years, had there been an agreement or stipulation between the parties as to the use of polygraph evidence, the Court would have been likelier to consider the results of the polygraph examination and if it confirmed anything substantial about Banks’ version of events, he might have been awarded a reduced sentence.
|Case||State v. Banks|
|Court||Supreme Court of South Dakota|
|Judgment Date||July 26, 2023|