[Deathpenalty]death penalty news----TEXAS, FLA., VA., ARK., USA
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Tue Nov 2 15:25:57 CST 2004
Killer's confession brings back old wounds
Robert Brice Morrow confessed to killing Elisabeth 'Lisa' Allison days
before his scheduled execution.
A Liberty man's confession just days before his scheduled execution
Thursday for killing 21-year-old Myra Elisabeth "Lisa" Allison in 1996 has
done little to ease her family's suffering.
Susan Allison, 58, a Liberty teacher and the victim's mother, said Robert
Brice Morrow's confession last week did little more than draw attention
away from her daughter.
"My husband and I were talking last night, and he said, 'You know, after a
certain point, the story is not about her anymore at all.' And it's not
right," Allison said Monday in a telephone interview.
Morrow, 47, who initially claimed another man committed the murder, told
Liberty radio station KSHN on Oct. 22 that he had killed the college
Lisa Allison, who would have turned 30 on Sept. 12, crossed paths with
Morrow on April 3, 1996.
She was visiting her parents' Liberty home over spring break and then
disappeared after taking her father's 1988 Oldsmobile to a car wash. She
planned to drive to Houston the next day to have lunch with a young man
she knew from high school.
A fisherman found Allison's body, clad in shorts, a blouse and tennis
shoes, in the Trinity River the following day. Her throat was cut, but
autopsy results determined her death was caused by severe head injuries.
Investigators believe her killer's motive was the theft of her father's
car, which was later found abandoned in Ames. Morrow's blood and hair,
found in the car, connected him to the crime. A witness also saw him push
Allison into the car.
3 months later, Houston police arrested Morrow, a New Orleans native who
worked as an oilfield roughneck.
Morrow has claimed that Allison went with him willingly to smoke crack
Morrow, in an interview published Monday in the Houston Chronicle, said he
and Lisa Allison had gotten into a fight after a car tire went flat and he
wasn't quick enough to fix it. The fight escalated, he claimed.
"I knew who her family was," Morrow said. "I was a convicted felon that
had been to the pen 3 times. I didn't have a snowball's chance in hell. I
did what I had to do."
Morrow claimed that because Allison was with him willingly, he did not
commit another crime along with the murder and therefore should not
qualify for the death penalty under state law.
Susan Allison, who will be present with four other family members for
Thursday's execution, said her daughter never would have done such a
"She was home for Easter vacation, and she was just having fun," she said.
"Lisa was very bright, an honor student. She was really into dance - she'd
been dancing all her life. She was on student council and drill team."
Liberty County District Attorney Mick Little said an autopsy found no
drugs in Allison's system. He added that Morrow has changed his story a
number of times over the years.
"It's hard to understand the reasoning of a sociopath, but I see it as a
last-ditch effort to minimize what he'd done," Little said in a telephone
interview from Liberty. " ... I guess he just had to get one more shot
Susan Allison described her daughter as an energetic, high-spirited young
woman who took a lively, affectionate interest in her fellow human beings.
Lisa Allison, a junior studying hotel management at the University of
Nevada-Las Vegas, had already faced death once.
When she was 17, she was diagnosed with thyroid cancer. She underwent
surgery and radiation therapy.
"Lisa had a wonderful outlook," Susan Allison said. "She didn't let it get
her down at all. She kept on dancing. She tap-danced through it!"
Her last full battery of thyroid tests came not long before her death.
"She was free and clear," Susan Allison said. "That was it. 'Go home and
have a happy life.' It was three months later she was killed."
Allison's parents said death is an appropriate punishment for Morrow, who
showed no remorse for his acts.
"The pain he has inflicted on our family has gone on and on and on," Susan
Her husband, Michael Allison, a certified public accountant, added, "This
animal needs to get to God Almighty so he can be judged by him."
Morrow's mother, Mary Morrow, refused to talk when contacted by telephone
for an interview.
"I don't want to talk to nobody. My family told me not to talk to nobody,"
she said before abruptly hanging up.
(source: The Beaumont Enterprise )
Taking stand on real issues, like football, wussification
With no Bushes left in town, the Texas Capitol was easily conquered Sunday
by the mystery writer who vows to return as "the next governor of the
great state of Texas."
Speaking to a packed Capitol auditorium to end the Texas Book Festival,
singing cowboy-turned-candidate Kinky Friedman said that he'll run in 2006
to challenge the "career politicians" and "ribbon cutters" and that he
wants to "make the Lone Star shine again."
In a brazen show of political daring only 4 floors below Gov. Rick Perry's
office, Friedman vowed to fight the "wussification of Texas." To cheers,
he waved his new campaign bumper stickers: "Kinky for Governor -- Why the
At least, for Kinky.
He's been saying for months now that he'll run as an independent
candidate, but only "if Willie Nelson and Lance Armstrong stay out of the
Friedman, 60, of Medina, will announce his candidacy in January, he said.
To qualify for the ballot, he'd need signatures from 45,539 Texans.
Heck, he could get that in a couple of good Saturday nights at the Broken
Spoke dance hall.
Friedman was there to read from his new book, 'Scuse Me While I Whip This
Out: Reflections on Country Singers, Presidents, and Other Troublemakers.
But in a year when the festival was accused of downplaying political books
-- although the lineup still included everyone from columnist Molly Ivins
to another potential gubernatorial candidate, U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey
Hutchison -- Friedman didn't downplay his campaign.
He said he has both Democratic and Republican friends, including George W.
and Laura Bush, who had him over to the Governor's Mansion so often that
George once asked Laura if Kinky spent the night.
Bush has offered to be a "one-man focus group" for his campaign, Friedman
But for a singing cowboy who used to lead a band named the Texas Jewboys,
Friedman sounded mighty serious when he said he's running as an
independent "in the party of George Washington, the party of Theodore
Roosevelt, the party of Sam Houston, the party of Davy Crockett."
"I'm not running as a joke," he said from beneath his trademark black
cowboy hat. "I'm not running to 'make people think.' I'm not running to
have fun, although it will be fun."
He said he wants Texas to "bring back the glory."
In a serious moment, a woman in the Kinky-friendly audience of Texas
Monthly readers asked whether he really believes in the death penalty.
"I'm not against the death penalty," he said to sighs from the crowd. "I'm
against the wrong man getting executed."
He said his fans already want him to "come out against the death penalty,
come out against hunting, come out against football -- and come out
against 'coming out.'"
He said that he wants to legalize casino gambling in Texas "and pay for
education with that."
He has said all along that he's "not pro-life and not pro-choice -- I'm
Now, he says that one of his campaign planks will be to bring back the
Southwest Conference, a Texas major college football league that broke up
a decade ago because the state's largest universities, Texas and Texas
A&M, wanted to play other schools.
"That's a political football," he said.
His other campaign sticker slogans include "He Ain't Kinky, He's My
Governor," a Texas flag design with a Star of David and "My Governor is a
To prove that his appeal crosses religious lines, he is also promoting an
olive oil coendorsed by Houston friend Farouk Shami, a
Palestinian-American who owns a food and beauty products company. Their
oil is called Farouk & Friedman's.
Friedman acknowledges that he has no political experience beyond a failed
1986 campaign for Kerr County justice of the peace.
"I really think it's be good for Texas to have an amateur in there," he
said. "The professionals gave us the Titanic. The amateurs gave us the
He made one apparent reference to Perry.
"The other guy has all the experience," Friedman said.
"That's why I'm running."
A cheer went up in the Capitol.
(source: Fort Worth Star-Telegram)
Supreme Court considers attorney standards in death penalty case
The Supreme Court considered on Tuesday whether a lawyer was wrong to
concede a death row inmate's guilt without his consent, and many justices
seemed unwilling to second-guess a trial strategy aimed at saving the
On Election Day, the high court appeared ready to set aside a Florida
Supreme Court decision to grant a new trial for Joe Elton Nixon. He was
convicted in the 1984 murder of a woman he met at a Tallahassee mall.
Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist, who revealed Monday that he is
undergoing chemotherapy for thyroid cancer, did not participate in
consideration of oral arguments for a 2nd day.
At issue is the court-appointed attorney's decision to admit at trial that
Nixon was responsible for the victim's "horrible, horrible death" in hopes
that his candor would persuade the jury not to impose the death penalty.
Asserting a "complete breakdown in the adversarial process," attorney
Edward H. Tillinghast contended that Nixon was unfairly sentenced to death
because his trial lawyer didn't try to prove his innocence.
Tillinghast was met with a barrage of skeptical questioning by justices
wondering why they should second-guess Nixon's attorney. Nixon had several
opportunities to object when his lawyer told him of the strategy but
didn't, they said.
"You said his lawyer acted without consent, ... but he said nothing," said
Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, one of the court's more liberal members.
"Where a client doesn't say yes and doesn't say no, mustn't a lawyer do
what he thinks is best to do? Mustn't a lawyer exercise his best
Conservative Justice Antonin Scalia agreed. "According to the lower
courts, (conceding guilt) was a good strategy. I don't know why you want
counsel, when a client doesn't answer, to take a course that gets him
Florida prosecutors say Nixon tied Jeanne Bickner, a 38-year-old state
worker, to trees with jumper cables and set her on fire. Facing
substantial evidence against him, Nixon's lawyer offered unsuccessfully to
plea-bargain for life imprisonment before deciding to concede the man's
guilt at the beginning of trial.
After he was sentenced to death, Nixon charged he was denied a Sixth
Amendment right to counsel because his attorney had not argued his defense
vigorously. Prosecutors countered that Nixon did not object to the
strategy - ultimately unsuccessful - to build jury sympathy.
The case hinges on a pair of Supreme Court decisions handed down in 1984
amid misgivings among some justices that punishments were sometimes
imposed arbitrarily due to poor attorney representation.
38 states currently allow the death penalty, and about 3,500 murderers are
on death row.
The 1984 rulings limit inmates' ability to claim a Sixth Amendment
violation if their attorneys made a strategic choice not to pursue certain
defenses at trial. The rulings provide exceptions, however, when counsel
utterly fails to challenge the prosecution with "meaningful adversarial
In a 5-2 decision last year, the Florida Supreme Court ordered a new trial
after finding the lawyer did not effectively represent Nixon nor did the
defendant agree to the lawyer's strategy.
George S. Lemieux, Florida's deputy attorney general, told justices
Tuesday that lawyers should be able to decide the best trial defense when
a defendant isn't communicative.
"Our position is this is not a plea of guilty. This is a tactical retreat
to save the man's life," said Lemieux, noting that Nixon's attorney
conducted 52 depositions and investigated Nixon's life history as a part
of a vigorous defense.
"He did everything he could," Lemieux said.
The case is Florida v. Nixon, 03-931.
(source: Associated Press)
Muhammad death sentence challenged
The degree of influence of John Allen Muhammad over Lee Boyd Malvo
appeared to be the key issue in arguments before the Virginia Supreme
Court this morning on the validity of the death penalty imposed on
Muhammad in Prince William County Circuit Court.
Muhammad was sentenced to death for the murder of Dean Harold Meyers at a
gasoline station near Manassas on Oct. 9, 2002. Meyers was 1 of 10 people
killed and three wounded by a sniper between Richmond and the Washington
suburbs in October 2002.
Senior Assistant Attorneys General Katherine P. Baldwin and Robert Q.
Harris acknowledged that prosecutors had not proved that Muhammad was the
one who fired the rifle.
But they contended that didnt matter because the evidence showed that the
43-year-old Muhammad and Malvo, who was 17 at the time, worked so closely
together that both could be convicted of capital murder.
Not so, defense attorneys Peter D. Greenspun and Jonathan Shapiro
insisted. They contended that state law generally permits a capital murder
conviction of the one who actually killed the victim, the so-called
triggerman rule. In the cases in which more than 1 person was convicted of
capital murder, both defendants participated in the physical act of the
killing, jointly crushing a victim with a 69-pound rock in 1 case and
jointly stabbing a victim in another, Greenspun said.
"It would really be a sea change by the court" to allow the death penalty
for Muhammad to stand, he argued.
Baldwin responded that she wasn't asking for the law to "be stretched or
changed. There's no sea change here."
Testimony from a sniper expert showed that the killings could only have
been committed with the active participation of both Muhammad and Malvo,
"I do think that these were signature crimes, highly signature crimes,
probably unlike anything we've had in Virginia," Baldwin said. The Supreme
Court is expected to issue an opinion in the case on Jan. 14.
(source: Richmond Times-Dispatch)
Man condemned for two murders headed to court
The man sentenced to die by lethal injection for the murder of a husband
and wife and attempted murder of their baby will be granted hearings to
determine if lawyers who represented him were competent to defend him.
Ninth Judicial District-West Prosecutor Tom Cooper said three days of
hearings have been scheduled for death row inmate Tim Howard, 35, of
The hearings will be Dec. 20-22 in the Little River County Courthouse in
"The problem will be getting witnesses the week before Christmas. We may
try part of it that week and try the rest of the case after the holidays,"
The hearing will be conducted by Ninth Circuit Court Judge Charles
Cooper said it's the 4th time the hearings have been scheduled.
Through the Public Defenders' Commission, Howard asked for a hearing to
determine if the lawyers representing him during the murder trial in the
Little River County Circuit Court in December 1999 were competent to
The lawyers representing him during his trial were public defender Thad
Bishop of Ashdown and Arkansas Public Defender Commission lawyers Matt
Carter and Latrece Gray.
Howard was sentenced to death Dec. 9, 1999, for the murder of Brian Day
and his wife, Shanon Day.
The murders occurred Dec. 13, 1997.
Howard was also sentenced to 30 years in prison and a $15,000 fine for the
attempted capital murder of the couple's then 7-month-old baby. The baby
survived unharmed despite having a cord tied in a noose around its neck.
Shanon's body was found in the same room with the baby. She was placed in
a closet covered with clothes, linens, a window frame and picture frames.
She was handcuffed behind her back and had a leather strap around her
neck. The cause of death was strangulation.
Brian Day was found nearly 11 miles south of Ashdown near the East Ogden
community. His body was found in the back of a U-Haul truck. He had been
severely beaten and shot in the back of the head.
The prosecutor said Howard hopes during the hearing a judge will determine
the lawyers representing him were incompetent, then he can receive a new
Lawyers requesting the hearing for Howard were granted funds for a DNA
expert to testify, a mental health expert and a mitigation expert for an
estimated cost to taxpayers of $37,500.
Originally the Public Defenders Commission requested 10 experts at a cost
The sheriff's department will have additional expenses since increased
security is required during the three days of hearings.
The additional security at the jail and courthouse is necessary because
Howard is sentenced to die by lethal injection.
Cooper said it will probably take 3 to 4 months before Yeargan will issue
his ruling. In addition to the testimony, the judge will be required to
review the transcripts of the trial.
If the lawyers originally representing Howard are found competent, that
ends his state appeals.
But Howard can then appeal his death sentence through the federal courts
and it could take 10 years in the appeal process, said Cooper.
(source: Texarkana Gazette)
Mind Reader----Larry Farwell thinks he can tell whether you're lying by
peering into your brain. But is "brain fingerprinting" a breakthrough or
In 1997, a mass market potboiler called The Truth Machine by James
Halperin anticipated what would happen if a foolproof method for detecting
lies were developed. Human conflicts would be easily resolved and war
would disappear, as people would be forced to negotiate with absolute
honesty. Violent crime would abate, and no innocent man would ever again
be executed for a murder he didn't commit. Along the way, the technology's
inventor - a brilliant, exercise-driven Harvard graduate - would become
the richest man on the planet.
The only memorable aspect of the novel was its prescience. The inventor in
the book bears an uncanny, and unwitting, resemblance to Larry Farwell, a
brilliant, exercise-driven Harvard graduate who, in 2001, unveiled the
Farwell Truth Detector.
Farwell's invention, which he now calls brain fingerprinting, works like
this: A headband of electrodes is placed on a subject, who watches words
or pictures flash across a computer screen. Some of the images are meant
to stimulate memories, which cause the brain to fire off an electrical
response 300 milliseconds after the stimulus. It is known as the "P300
effect," in which the P stands for positive. The stimuli come in three
categories: "target" stimuli (details of an activity that would be known
to the subject), irrelevant stimuli (which would not be expected to elicit
a response), and "probe" stimuli (phrases or pictures supposedly known
only to a select few, like the perpetrator and investigators of a crime).
If a suspect exhibits a P300 response to a probe stimulus, he is presumed
guilty. If not, he is presumed innocent.
Farwell is convinced that his technique is nearly infallible. He has
offered his services, sometimes pro bono, in several high-profile criminal
trials, and he has assisted numerous police departments. As he tells it,
he has helped exonerate an Alexandria, Va., police officer accused of drug
dealing, confirmed the guilt of a serial killer in Macon County, Mo., and
helped reverse a murder conviction and secure the release of a man who had
served 24 years of a life sentence in Iowa. These days, Farwell is hoping
that his test will exonerate Jimmie Ray Slaughter, a convicted murderer on
death row in Oklahoma, and help position brain fingerprinting as the most
important weapon in the forensic science arsenal. "In every case in the
future when someone is arrested, they're going to say, 'Look, I'm
innocent,' " Farwell predicted. "'Don't tell me anything about the crime.
Give me a brain fingerprint test!'"
Farwell's enthusiasm has been contagious. Television programs like 60
Minutes have devoted segments to brain fingerprinting and newspapers
around the world have written glowingly about the potential applications
of Farwell's method, which range from freeing the innocent to fighting
terrorism, identifying insurance fraud, and providing early diagnoses of
The hype, claim Farwell's critics, has outpaced the science. Many
scientists accuse Farwell of making misleading and exaggerated claims.
They caution that brain fingerprinting is in its infant stage and may
never result in a reliable polygraph. John J. B. Allen, a professor of
psychology and neuroscience at the University of Arizona, replicated
Farwell's research in the past. But in a new study, "Brain Fingerprinting:
Is it Ready for Prime Time?" Allen has answered no. Last year, he
conducted his own experiment using a mock crime scenario, and found that
Farwell's method accurately identified "guilty persons" only 50 percent of
Farwell sweeps aside such objections, insisting that there is too much at
stake to allow the niceties of scientific research to get in his way. He
has more important matters on his mind, such as the backlog of more than
400 cases, many involving defendants on death row, clamoring for a chance
to take the test that could prove their innocence. "Let's take advantage
of the life-saving technology we have," Farwell said. "When I met Jimmie
Ray Slaughter, he had about a 90-day life expectancy. I had to say yes or
no. I couldn't say wait."
JIMMIE RAY SLAUGHTER'S TRIAL FOR MURDER in 1994 lasted 5 months. The
transcript of the trial included more than 60,000 pages filled with
gruesome details about Slaughter's ex-lover, Melody Sue Wuertz, and their
11-month-old daughter, Jessica. They were both shot in the head and found
in Wuertz's house in Edmond, Okla. The mother's abdomen was carved with
occult symbols, her genitalia mutilated. Prosecutors theorized that the
29-year-old Wuertz had been shot in the back and deliberately paralyzed so
that she would be unable to intervene as she was forced to watch the
slaying of her baby.
Slaughter, a psychiatric nurse who served as a captain during the Gulf
War, had an alibi. On the day of the murders in July 1991, he was
stationed 300 miles away from Edmond, in Fort Riley, Kan., where he spent
the day with his wife and two children. But the prosecution countered that
the family was lying to protect Slaughter. He was convicted of 1st-degree
murder and sentenced to death.
Last year, after one of Slaughter's lawyers saw a 60 Minutes episode about
brain fingerprinting, she contacted Farwell, who traveled to Oklahoma
State Penitentiary in February with 6 steamer trunks filled with
equipment. Free of charge, Farwell performed his test on Slaughter, and
Slaughter showed no memory of the crime. A big part of Slaughter's final
appeal, now pending before the state's court of criminal appeals, is
riding on that test.
In Macon County, Mo., Sheriff Robert Dawson learned about the method from
his secretary, who had also seen it featured on television. In 1999,
Dawson ordered a test on J. B. Grinder, accused of raping and murdering a
25-year-old woman. Grinder had admitted and denied the allegations so many
times that, according to Dawson, "We didn't know what to believe anymore."
Confronted with the test results, which seemed to confirm one of Grinder's
many confessions, Grinder pled guilty to the charges and also admitted to
killing three other girls in Arkansas. When another murder investigation
ran into problems earlier this year, Dawson turned again to brain
fingerprinting. He refrained from discussing the details of the case with
the suspect and with the media so that the P300 probes would be valid.
While the suspect denied knowing anything about the case, Farwell's test
His method's biggest breakthrough, according to Farwell, was its role in
freeing convicted murderer Terry Harrington, who had been serving a life
sentence in Iowa State Penitentiary for killing a night watchman in 1977.
In 2001, Harrington requested a new trial on several grounds, including
conflicting testimony in the original trial.
Farwell was faced with an immediate and obvious problem: 24 years had
passed since the trial. Evidence had been presented and transcripts
published long ago; the details of the crime had long since come to light.
What memories of the crime were left to probe? But Farwell combed the
transcripts and came up with obscure details about which to test
Harrington. High weeds that Harrington would have had to run through after
fleeing from the scene of the crime. A ditch. Some parked cars. On the
strength of those prompts, Farwell concluded that Harrington had no
memories of them and was, by inference, innocent of the crime.
Farwell has hailed the case as a landmark victory, noting that it is the
first and only time a court has ruled brain fingerprinting admissible as
evidence. That claim has been repeated in newspapers and magazines and on
TV, but it exaggerates what happened.
The presiding district judge, Timothy O'Grady, did agree to consider brain
fingerprinting as scientific evidence. But he questioned Farwell's methods
and ruled that the test results did not warrant a new trial. By Farwell's
own account, the "probes" intended to jog a suspect's memory should be
"salient details," known only to the perpetrator and investigators of a
crime. The probes that Farwell chose for Harrington did not meet those
standards, the judge found. They were not significant enough to be
remembered 24 years later. In addition, all the details had come up at
trial and had been depicted in photographs that had been passed among the
jury, the prosecution, and the defense. Harrington likely saw the
photographs, heard the evidence, and discussed many of the details with
his lawyers. If he now had no memory of these details, as his brain
fingerprint showed, what did that mean? "Brain fingerprinting is a bunch
of hogwash," said Matt Wilber, the district attorney in the county where
Harrington's case originated.
Harrington was granted a new trial when it was discovered that some of the
original police reports in the case had been missing at his initial trial.
By 2001, however, most of the witnesses against Harrington had either died
or had been discredited. Finally, when a key witness heard that Harrington
had "passed" his brain fingerprinting test, he recanted his testimony and
the prosecution threw up its hands. Harrington was set free.
Among the expert witnesses who testified in that hearing, Emanuel Donchin
was one of the most vociferous in opposing brain fingerprinting. Donchin
was Farwell's dissertation adviser at the University of Illinois from 1984
to 1992. Together, in 1991, they co-authored a seminal study about the
P300 effect, in which they demonstrated that a "guilty" person's brain
produced an electrical charge when presented with an incriminating detail
in a mock trial scenario.
But while Donchin, now at the University of South Florida, stands by the
science of their original paper, he decries what Farwell has done with it.
"Larry has made all kinds of extravagant claims and gross
oversimplifications," he said, criticizing Farwell's claim that his method
was accepted by the Iowa Supreme Court. "The man is a businessman and
therefore what you get are the ethics of business and standards of
BEGINNING IN ELEMENTARY SCHOOL, Larry Farwell wanted to be a physicist
like his father, George, who worked on the Manhattan Project. "Physicists
have to work hard," he scrawled in big block letters on a piece of paper
that his mother saved, "but I don't care."
He graduated from Harvard University in 1973 with a degree in physics and
an interest in transcendental meditation. In his 1999 book How
Consciousness Commands Matter , he claimed that he could move matter by
the power of his mind alone. "My task was to command matter through
consciousness . . . using nothing but the influence of consciousness
alone," he wrote. Those mental efforts, he continued, caused three words
to appear in large blue letters on his computer screen: Anything is
Farwell made similar claims after graduating from Harvard. Before
enrolling in graduate school at the University of Illinois, he hung around
the University of Washington, where his father was a professor and
administrator. Once, during a graduate psychology seminar, he told a group
of professors that he knew how to levitate. When asked to prove it, he
demurred, saying he could do so only in the presence of believers.
As a graduate student, Farwell began working with Donchin, a nationally
respected psychologist. They designed an early brain-computer program to
allow severely paralyzed patients to communicate by linking their thought
mechanism to a computer. The prototype was based on the same P300 effect
that is involved in brain fingerprinting, which Farwell often worked on
late at night. With electrodes glued to his scalp, Farwell would dash back
and forth between the subject's chair and his computer, measuring his own
Farwell recognized the potential right awayand so, initially, did the CIA.
In the early 1990s, it gave Farwell $1 million to research and develop his
invention. He designed one study that sought to find unidentified U.S.
Navy medics within a group of people, and then he repeated that study with
FBI agents. (The CIA didn't want to use their own agents for security
reasons.) In both situations, he tested for information that only the
operatives would recognize; both studies, he said, achieved 100 %
The CIA ultimately concluded that brain fingerprinting was not worth
further investment. The agency was looking for a general tool to screen
current and prospective employees, one that didn't require such a detailed
level of prior information. In October 2001, a General Accounting Office
report on brain fingerprinting found that both the CIA and FBI believed
the technology had "limited applicability and usefulness." Each cited
Farwell's reluctance to provide algorithmic information about how his test
works, on the grounds that his technique was proprietary. "One of the
problems you have with new scientific techniques is that the developer
often is not the best investigator of the validity of that technique,"
said David Faigman, author of Legal Alchemy: The Use and Misuse of Science
in the Law. "They tend to be true believers and tend to interpret data as
supporting their hypotheses when there is so much at stake."
Memory is at the heart of Farwell's work, and it defies easy analysis.
Despite a widespread perception of the brain as the ultimate video tape
player, memory is far more complicated. According to Daniel Schacter,
chair of the psychology department at Harvard, memories are constantly
recreated and reconstructed rather than retrieved from a mental data bank.
Despite abundant research about memory, as well as ongoing testing for
drugs to enhance and erase it, huge gaps in understanding remain. For
example, how does a heightened state of arousal affect the memory process?
If a man kills his girlfriend in a rage, will he remember that she was
wearing a chartreuse blouse? What if he was high on drugs or alcohol at
the time of the crime? "We don't know enough of how memories are formed
during crimes," said William Iacono, a professor of psychology at
University of Minnesota who testified on Farwell's behalf in the
Iacono believes that a positive result on the test is almost always
accurate - how else to explain a result showing that someone has a stored
memory of an event that is not a matter of general knowledge? Much harder
to explain is the absence of the P300 when other evidence indicates it
should appear, which is why, he said, it would be easy to get a false
negative. A guilty person might pass a brain fingerprinting test without
difficulty, either because he no longer remembers the details or because
he didn't notice them in the first place.
"There are many reasons why a person may not have memory of a crime, apart
from just not remembering," he explained. "If you're committing a crime,
you're thinking about how to cover your tracks, how you're going to get
out of there without being seen or leaving evidence behind. It's not clear
what you're going to remember."
THOUGH THE BRAIN FINGERPRINTING MAY NEED TINKERING, most scientists
believe we will one day be able to read minds - or at least expose lies.
At the University of Pennsylvania, Dr. Daniel Langleben is using
functional magnetic-resonance imaging, a kind of brain scanning, to
identify distinct patterns of brain activity that occur when people lie.
He tests his subjects by asking them to pick a card from a deck, and then
lie to him about what it is. If they are able to convince the computer
that they're telling the truth, he pays them $20. Langleben has found that
specific parts of the brain show increased activity when a person lies.
Britton Chance, who also works at the University of Pennsylvania, has
developed a cognosensor, a device that measures brain patterns using
infrared light. His research shows that the brain reflects more light when
a person lies. As Jonathan Moreno, director of the Center for Biomedical
Ethics at the University of Virginia, put it, "Science is catching up with
fiction and challenging our ability to deal with it."
The novelist who anticipated Farwell's method dismisses such concerns. By
2040, James Halperin predicts, "truth machines" will become so routine
that people will wear them on their lapels. Earlier this year, he invested
in Farwell's company.
(source: Legal Affairs)
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