Posted by: thescoundrel | September 18, 2008

Judge Convicts Accused Murderer Based on Results From a Brain Scan


In what is a surely a world-wide judicial first, a judge used results from a brain scan as proof of guilt in a murder trial. Advocates of the technology claim that the brain scan is the ultimate in lie-detecting equipment and will soon rival DNA testing as the next big criminal investigation tool. The test is supposedly able to detect brain activity that points to the suspect’s guilt depending on how the individual’s brain reacts when confronted with information about the crime. The technology has been being used in trials in India and was recently used by an Indian judge as explicit proof of guilt in a murder trial. A NY Times article by Anand Giridharadas explained the technological system used as follows:

The software tries to detect whether, when the crime’s details are recited, the brain lights up in specific regions — the areas that, according to the technology’s inventors, show measurable changes when experiences are relived, their smells and sounds summoned back to consciousness. The inventors of the technology claim the system can distinguish between people’s memories of events they witnessed and between deeds they committed.

Personally- It sounds like a long stretch of the imagination to accept the information generated by the process as incontrovertible and valid enough to convict someone of a crime, especially murder. I do not put much faith in trusting a third party to read brain waves in order to tell me what is in someone else’s mind. But then, what evidence and information used in trials can really be claimed as indisputable? One of the biggest conundrums about trials is the importance put on eyewitnesses to crimes, which are also highly unreliable evidence to expose the real facts. I suppose if brain scans were added to other evidence it could help build a preponderance of the evidence of guilt. Still I do not see this catching on here in the USA. I just don’t think the technology as explained could withstand the scrutiny of high-priced defense lawyers or judges afraid of losing guilty verdicts on appeal. I am not sure if I was sitting in a jury box that I could even accept the scans as credible evidence. It has the appearance of a technology more Science Fiction than Science Fact that could easily be abused, either accidentally or intentionally.

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