Texas Finally Stops Hypnotizing Witnesses

Department of Public Safety
Department of Public Safety

Texas Rangers Stop Using Forensic Hypnosis

(TX) – Several questionable forensic techniques seem to have come out of Texas, but of those hypnosis is the most unreliable. “21 states now ban hypnotic evidence in court entirely and “nearly all” states have imposed restrictions on it.” Yet that hadn’t stopped the Department of Public Safety (DPS) from allowing the Texas Rangers to continue to use the questionable practice. Not only have Texas police from agencies all over Texas used this practice, but people have been put in prison on death penalty cases based on evidence obtained through hypnosis.  However, in January of this year, the Department of Public Safety announced they would cease to use the practice.

Forensic Hypnosis is a Poor Investigative Tool

Several tools law enforcement has used have come into question such as blood spatter analysis, bite mark identification and even arson investigation. Blood spatter analysis seems to be getting a makeover by scientist that will save it from becoming junk science. Bite mark evidence is extremely limited in its effectiveness unless you have a clear bite into a semi-solid like cheese. Arson investigators are taught to look for arson which leads to a bias. It is not uncommon for arson investigators to determine arson when a fire was accidentally started by weather, wiring or other conditions. This is why scientist say it needs to be a fire investigator who determines how a fire started since they are trained to study fires. But forensic hypnosis is on even shakier ground than those three.

People, especially when under duress, focus on specifics during an event and don’t necessarily see other things (see video below). Our minds will fill in the blanks to make sense of a scene even though you never knew those blank areas to begin with. Once a person “remembers” under hypnosis they have a tendency to become positive that is what happened. They think they remembered something when the reality is the mind filled in a gap they never had information for. This is referred to as memory cementation.

Wrongful Convictions Poor Investigative Tool

Texas has been using evidence obtained by hypnosis for 40 years. It has produced many wrongful convictions that have been overturned with some still being contested, and no doubt more to come. It’s not surprising that hypnosis turned out to be unreliable. There’s very little ability to verify the evidence. For an officer to become a forensic hypnotist, he only has to take a one week course and pass a test. From there, officers have come up with their own techniques on what they ask people to envision, quite often being way off the mark in how the brain works.

Fortunately, “several state legislators have introduced bills to ban the use of hypnosis by police,” to stop those who won’t stop voluntarily.

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