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Fire department gets lie detecting device

The Columbus Division of Fire has a new tool it will be using to help solve arsons. The machine, similar to a lie detector test, will help investigators determine who was involved in an arson.

The Columbus Division of Fire Investigations Unit has a new device they hope will help them solve and prevent arsons. It's called a Computer Voice Stress Analyzer or CVSA. It looks like a lap top computer, and measures human voice waves. During an interview the person's answers are displayed as waves on the screen, and show the involuntary fluctuations of the voice when someone lies. Columbus Fire and Bomb Investigator Mike DeFrancisco.

"We can do this at the scene, we can do it at an interview setting. It can be done overtly or covertly. And it can actually be done at a later date off a pre-recorded tape. It should be a very effective an efficient tool for us to use," DeFrancisco said.

Attorney Michael Miller, who once served as Franklin County's chief prosecutor, said the CVSA will not have a big impact in court because, like a Polygraph, it is inadmissible.

"Things like DNA, fingerprints, blood alcohol, and all those things, they allow them in because they are convinced that scientifically they are accurate. It's up to the party on the other side to try and effectively destroy that through cross-examination and so forth. But they're just saying that this thing is so inexact and in the court's judgment that until steps are made to ensure its accuracy they're just not going to let it in," Miller said.

DeFrancisco recognizes that CVSA results will not be allowed in court, but he said the device will still be useful for the fire department.

"How I see this machine working is to encourage us to continue pursuing the person that we are finding is not telling us the truth to a different end," DeFrancisco said.

Miller said investigators use these lie detecting devices because they sometimes can generate a confession.

"If a person says no, they won't take it, then a lot of times the officer says they think they must be hiding something. And in many times they get in, and in the process of the lie detector test the person will break down and admit his guilt," Miller said.

Miller said CVSA devices have been around for about ten years. They cost about $10,000 a unit. The Columbus Fire Department received a $10,000 check from Nationwide to cover the cost of the machine.