When asked to join F. Lee Bailey’s defense team for Patty Hearst’s bank robbery trial, Dr. David Raskin enthusiastically agreed. An expert in the use of lie detectors, with years of courtroom experience behind him, the 42-year-old Utah psychologist had come to believe strongly in the accuracy of polygraph tests. Along with two other authorities in the field, Raskin interviewed the young heiress on three days in January 1976 during pretrial hearings. Though results on the first two days were inconclusive, Raskin says he is certain Patty told the truth when he questioned her alone during their final session. But Bailey never called Raskin to testify, and Raskin went along with the decision. “I thought it would take a lot of explaining for the jury to understand the complex reasons that caused mixed results in the first two tests,” he says.
Today, however, Raskin thinks the decision could have been a mistake—and he blames Bailey for costing Patty a possible acquittal. “An opportunity to help her was missed,” he says bitterly. During the private examination, Raskin insists, he was able to ask Patty the kind of simple yes-or-no questions that produce definitive polygraph readings. (“Did they threaten to kill you?” “Yes.” “Did they tell you to announce your name during the robbery?” “Yes.”) Her answers, Raskin believes, established clearly that she had been coerced into taking part in the robbery. On the previous two days a Bailey assistant had hovered nearby, suggesting that Patty be asked more ambiguous “state of mind” questions to bolster Bailey’s defense that she had been brainwashed. “Questions like did she willingly go along with the SLA after her life was threatened,” an exasperated Raskin recalls. “Who can interpret those words? It became obvious that she was having difficulty recalling her psychological condition during a very stressful event that occurred two years earlier.”
Raskin was shocked by Patty’s appearance when they first met. “She was so small,” he remembers, “not 105 lbs., but 92 lbs. and frail. She was also apprehensive, reluctant and, to some extent, passive.” Nervously chain-smoking, Hearst told Raskin of an earlier, unpleasant interrogation by a government psychiatrist and said she feared more of the same. “Later,” says Raskin, “she told me she had never smoked before the kidnapping and didn’t like it, but couldn’t break the habit.” By the third day, however, Patty was relaxed enough to discuss several personal matters with Raskin (which he feels honor-bound not to reveal). “She was more psychologically intact and self-confident,” he says admiringly. “She had a lot of personal strength that helped her overcome much of the trauma she had suffered.”
After the trial Raskin returned to his teaching duties at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City. He lives there quietly with wife Marga, 47, an environmental writer, their two children, Frances, 15, and Paul, 12, and his stepdaughter, Victoria, 25. An avid outdoorsman, Raskin jogs four to seven miles a day near the campus and has hiked and canoed throughout Alaska, where he owns property. Recently he earned some personal satisfaction by testifying in an estate case in New Mexico. The opposing lawyer was F. Lee Bailey, who failed to shake Raskin on cross-examination and left town in a huff after an unfavorable verdict. Though he vows never to work for Bailey again, Raskin is still haunted by memories of Patty Hearst. “I don’t think her life will ever be the same,” he says ruefully. “She’ll always have the feeling of being watched by everybody.”