Forensic hypnosis puts Texas inmates on death row

Опубликованно 12.06.2018 04:27

Forensic hypnosis puts Texas inmates on death row

After picking her up, he went on to rape her and cut off both her arms, leaving her to die in a ravine.

Miraculously she survived, but she couldn’t remember what her attacker looked like — until she was hypnotised. A police sketch was created based on the memories accessed with the help of hypnotism, which in turn led to the arrest and conviction of Lawrence Singleton.

Hypnotism may evoke cliche ideas of swinging pocket watches and swirling spirals, but it has been used by police and investigators for decades. In fact in Texas it can still be the difference between life and death.

However two Texas death row inmates are pushing for the state to ban the practice known as forensic hypnosis in criminal cases. Hypnosis played a critical part in the arrest and conviction of 48-year-old Charles Don Flores and 37-year-old Kosoul Chanthakoummane, reports The Dallas Morning News.

Both men allege their convictions were based on “junk science” and have successfully had their executions delayed.

Flores was convicted for the 1998 killing of Elizabeth “Betty” Black after a neighbour was hypnotised to recall the features of two men she’d seen going into the victim’s home the morning of the murder.

In 2007, Chanthakoummane was convicted of the brutal stabbing death of real estate agent Sarah Walker. He was picked up by police after they released a sketch of the suspect created with the help of a hypnotised witness.

But now the southern US state is being forced to grapple with an uncomfortable question: Is forensic hypnosis quackery that has helped send innocent men to death row, or is it a powerful law enforcement technique that can crack open cold cases?

Lawrence Singleton served eight years in prison for the rape and mutilation of the teenage hitchhiker. Picture: Cliff McBride

Mary Vincent shown being fitted with new prostheses three months after being raped and mutilated. Picture: Modesto Bee

A lawyer who has defended both men, says it’s time to end the use of forensic hypnotism.

“Once you have, at a minimum, serious questions that a technique sent a man to death row, you need to change the way you use that technique,” lawyer Gregory Gardner told the Texas newspaper.

He said the practice of using forensic hypnosis “does so much more harm to innocent people than getting guilty people behind bars”.

Despite conjuring up images of something closer to a magician on stage than a trained psychologist, there is general agreement among the medical community that hypnosis can be used in a scientific setting to achieve real benefits.

Anaesthetists are increasingly turning to hypnosis and other relaxation techniques to help those who have a fear of needles or help relax children ahead of surgery.

Hypnosis has also proved useful in therapy and in the treatment of addiction as well as insomnia.

It has also been relied on by investigators and law enforcement, with the practice peaking in the ’70s and ’80s. The technique has been used in high profile cases in the US including helping to recover 26 California schoolchildren kidnapped in 1978 and in seeking the conviction of infamous serial killer Ted Bundy.

The FBI still requires its sketch artists to learn the technique, however its use among law enforcement in the country has rapidly declined. Evidence or testimony gained from hypnosis is inadmissable in more than half of the states in America.

Charles Don Flores was also caught with the help of forensic hypnosis. Picture: Texas Police

Kosoul Chanthakoummane’s conviction relied, in part, on evidence derived from hypnosis. Picture: Texas Police

The controversy at the heart of the challenge by the Texas inmates centres on whether hypnosis can be used to uncover forgotten memories.

Texas has the most robust forensic hypnosis program in the US. Police officers are trained statewide to sharpen or recall witnesses’ lost memories. The Texas Rangers said they’ve conducted two dozen hypnosis sessions over the past two years.

Those is favour say it’s used as a relaxation tool to get victims and witnesses to remember and recount what they saw.

Texas Department of Public Safety spokesman Tom Vinger said hypnosis is used by trained professionals in only a few cases. Information obtained through hypnosis must then be corroborated with other information or evidence.

The problem is that memories are inherently unreliable. And suppressed and forgotten memories may be even more so.

The Dallas Morning News cited a warning from The Mayo Clinic, an academic medical centre in Minnesota focused on integrated clinical practice, education and research.

“Use special caution before using hypnosis for age regression to help you relive earlier events in your life,” the clinic warned. “It may cause strong emotions and can alter your memories or lead to creation of false memories.”

As for the two Texas inmates challenging their death sentence, they are arguing for new trials saying standards have changed since they were put behind bars with the help of forensic hypnosis.

Mr Flores is waiting to see if a judge grants his wish while Mr Chanthakoummane awaits a July hearing.

— With AP

Категория: Технологии