Saturday, May 26, 2007

A Not So Esoteric Saturday

Guess I'm back to weekly rituals. Today's reference to hypnosis is not so fun, but just something that has nagged me for a few days.

The headline reads:

Murder retrial hinges on whether witness was hypnotized

To get the real gist of this, you may want to read it yourself (it is short), but to synopsize:

A murder may be retried because a key witness may have been hypnotized before the trial. Basically, the witness may have been hypnotized by his mother to help him sleep and accept the fact that he wasn't responsible for the death involved in the case. If any of the testimony resulted from this "session" it could be inadmissible.
It seems pretty interesting, though I'm not sure what I think about it. I understand that hypnosis is far from being a truth serum (remind me to tell you about a call I got several months ago from someone who wanted me to use hypnosis on them to prove to their ex-spouse that they were innocent of abusing their children - I didn't do it, by the way). What I wonder in this case is what sort of hypnosis the witness's mother used. Perhaps it was regression to just release the issue? I guess I don't really understand why it would be inadmissible, unless the courts believe that false memories were implanted, etc.? Any thoughts?


Anonymous said...

The key here, I think, lies in the statement that the witness's mother "asked him questions about the killing".

I don't pretend for a moment to be an expert in forensic hypnosis -- for that you should talk to Marx Howell -- but I do know that most states are very, very touchy about witnesses who have been questioned using hypnosis. Those that do allow it require strict controls so that the whole issue of leading questions can be resolved cleanly. By asking her son about the crime while he was in hypnosis, the mother has created the possibility that some of his statements were influenced, even if not deliberately, by those questions. Think of it as a mild version of the infamous 'false memory syndrome' issue.

Aside from the technical issue, though, courts are still run by judges and judges are still people. A few of them are pretty backward thinking people, too. I had a nasty personal experience with one such judge a few years ago.

-Michael Raugh, C.Ht.

The Transparent Hypnotist said...

Thanks Michael!

That really makes sense about the leading questions.

Did your personal experience with a judge involve hypnosis?