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A lie detector and a lawyer? It's the truth

The timing couldn't have been more fitting for Joe Episcopo, the defense attorney from the infamous stop sign trial who has taken his case to the court of public opinion.

This week, as the U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments on whether a criminal defendant should be allowed to present evidence of having passed a lie detector test, Episcopo kept on pushing the issue here at home.

Trouble is, the other side just won't bite.

Episcopo's client, Thomas Miller, was convicted of manslaughter along with his two roommates for knocking down a stop sign, causing three traffic deaths.

Episcopo says Miller has passed a post-trial polygraph in Atlanta. The questions included "Did you stop at the intersection at the time the sign was pulled up?"; "Did you pull up that sign?"; and "Were you present when that sign was pulled up?" All Miller's answers of "no" were non-deceptive, according to documents distributed by Episcopo.

In the Supreme Court arguments, justices noted that the government itself routinely uses polygraphs. Locally, Harry Lee Coe _ both as a judge and now as state attorney _ has been a strong proponent of the "lie box" as an investigative device.

In July on CNN's Larry King Live, Episcopo dramatically offered to put his client on a polygraph and said Coe would have to join the defense's appeal if Miller passed.

Coe later said he doesn't consider the tests reliable enough to decide the ultimate question of guilt and that the results would be considered only in cases with marginal evidence.

Episcopo says he has since offered to have Miller take the test with Coe's office. Coe said through his spokeswoman this week that it would be "highly inappropriate" to discuss the matter while the appeal is pending.

As the appeal process lumbers forward, the only thing for sure is that the issues _ and Episcopo _ aren't likely to fade away.

A FATHER'S FATE: Speaking of national cases reflected locally, there is expected to be standing room only in Circuit Judge Dan Perry's courtroom today for the sentencing of Jeffrey Henderson, who has pleaded guilty to the manslaughter of his 11-week-old daughter.

As the Cambridge, Mass., case of the 19-year-old British au pair convicted of murdering a baby in her charge continues to make national news, Tampa attorneys will be focused on their own child abuse death case.

As Henderson prayed in the courtroom with his supporters earlier this year, a jury deadlocked on whether he was guilty of violently shaking his daughter and causing her death. In September, he pleaded guilty to manslaughter, and the prosecutor agreed not to object to any sentence the court might impose.

Like Louise Woodward from Elton, England, Henderson has had a groundswell of hometown support, including thousands of signatures on petitions on his behalf and dozens of letters. His attorney Manuel Machin said he expects upwards of 75 people to pack the courtroom today.

BLIND JUSTICE: When it comes to motive, Hillsborough sheriff's officials think they know why Tarrinson Walker, aka Terrence Jones, crashed into a van and then led deputies on a high-speed chase that ended in a gun battle, leaving both Walker and a deputy wounded.

Seems obvious to them that Walker knew he was wanted in a purse snatching and got scared and careless. But to the victim of that robbery, 22-year-old Renee Rinchuse, there could be a simpler explanation.

She thinks maybe Walker couldn't see.

Earlier, as the bespectacled Walker ran from the gas station where Rinchuse said he had just stolen her purse, she chased him to his car. In the struggle that followed, Rinchuse said she knocked Walker's glasses off his face.

"There's no proof," Rinchuse said. "I think he was hitting cars and running because he didn't have his glasses on."

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