No Bone Unturned: The Adventures of a Top Smithsonian Forensic Scientist and the Legal Battle for America's Oldest Skeletons - Jeff Benedict (2003)

Chapter 29. LIE DETECTOR

“Twenty-five million dollars!”

Benton County coroner Floyd Johnson could not fathom any bones being worth that kind of money. But the FBI had told him that the estimated value of the femurs on the black market was in that range. Besides being the oldest complete skeleton ever discovered in North America, Kennewick Man had received tremendous publicity around the world. His bones were potentially a trophy to ancient fossil collectors. The FBI wanted to talk to Johnson about his handling of the bones prior to turning them over to the Army Corps of Engineers.

Johnson asked Benton County prosecutor Andy Miller for advice. Miller called John Schultz, a sixty-year-old criminal defense lawyer who had practiced in the Tri-Cities area since 1964. Schultz knew Johnson well. He had defended some of the accused criminals whom Johnson had arrested as a police officer, prior to becoming the coroner. He agreed to meet with Johnson.

“Floyd, what are we going to be doing here?” Schultz asked. “What’s this all about?”

Johnson explained what he knew about the case and indicated that he wasn’t afraid to talk to the FBI. “I’ve got nothing to hide,” he said.

After talking with Johnson, Schultz accompanied him to a meeting with the FBI. The interview went smoothly. Johnson openly answered all of their questions.

“I think I’m done now,” one of the FBI agents said, looking directly at Johnson. “But I have one more question. Would you be willing to take a polygraph?”

“Yes, I would,” Johnson snapped.

The agent raised his eyebrows, then glanced at Schultz before looking back at Johnson. “Do you want to talk to your lawyer about this first?”

Johnson looked at Schultz.

“I’ll talk to him about it,” Schultz said.

Moments later, Johnson confirmed that he would submit to a lie detector test.

Days later

Federal Building

Richland, Washington

Seated on a soft cushioned chair in front of a rectangular table, Floyd Johnson faced two FBI agents.

“Lift up your arms, please,” one of them said.

Johnson raised his arms, and the agent wrapped a belt with a tubular rubber monitoring device on it around Johnson’s chest, fastening it together with hooks. He strapped another, similar device around Johnson’s waist.

“Go ahead and have a seat,” the agent said.

Johnson sat down. The agent attached blood-pressure-monitoring devices to his fingers.

“Please sit straight up and place your hands on your hips,” the agent said.

Johnson repositioned himself on the chair.

“State your name, age, and where you were born,” the agent said.

Johnson did.

“Now, select a number from one to ten. I’ll say each number. When I come to the number you’ve selected, say ‘No.’”

As instructed, Johnson lied when the agent called out the number he had selected, giving the agents an opportunity to record his breathing and blood pressure at that moment.

“Now we just want you to answer yes or no to the following questions.”

“OK.”

“Have you ever lied in your testimony in court?”

“No.”

“Have you ever falsified a report to make yourself look better?”

“No.”

The questions continued for nearly three hours.

“Did you take the bones?” the agent finally asked.

“No.”

Johnson stood up and began unhooking the monitoring devices. “That’s enough,” he said.

“We’d like you to answer a few more questions.”

“Nope,” said Johnson, exhausted. “That’s enough.”