Forensic hypnosis is a method of interrogation that became standard practice in the 1980s. In the last decade, Texas lawmakers have proposed getting rid of forensic hypnosis in court with little success. Now, the subject is on the table once more. So, what is forensic hypnosis, and how does it affect a criminal trial?
Forensic Hypnosis Defined
Forensic hypnosis is a method used to help witnesses and suspects remember details from the case. Essentially, a forensic psychologist can put a person into a hypnotic state and ask specific questions about an event or case.
Because hypnosis is inadmissible to court, forensic hypnosis must follow strict rules for the evidence to be admissible in court. For example, all questions must be submitted to a board-certified psychologist/psychiatrist to ensure that they are appropriate for a hypnotic session.
How It Works
Forensic hypnosis works by targeting the different centers of the mind that hold memory. The mind has three recording areas where memories are collected and stored:
- The conscious
- The preconscious
- The subconscious
Hypnosis targets the preconscious and subconscious. The preconscious stores memories that were formerly held in the conscious mind. These memories are stored away but accessible with the proper methods.
The subconscious stores threatening memories, old memories from the preconscious, and stimuli from the five physical senses. In other words, the subconscious gathers information and experiences that the conscious mind rejected or sensations that didn't register in any other part of the brain.
Hypnosis relaxes the mind to remove the barriers to recall. This means that once the mind is in a relaxed state, it can more easily transfer information from one state of consciousness to another, which gives the person the ability to recall memories and answer questions about forgotten events.
Forensic hypnosis is a controversial method of investigation. For starters, people can lie to avoid suspicion or give investigators information they want to hear instead of the truth. For this reason, forensic hypnosis is not allowed in the courtroom, but it may be used when all other methods of investigation have been exhausted.
Texas v. Hypnosis
The Texas legislature introduced a bill to end the forensic hypnosis program in the Texas rangers effectively. Because there is conflicting research to suggest that hypnosis works and produces measurable results, many lawmakers have introduced similar bills over the last few decades.
The bill's sponsors believe hypnosis is unreliable and could lead to wrongful convictions. If evidence isn't used appropriately or accurately in a trial, it can be used to persuade the jury to punish the wrong person. Hypnosis is a persuasive technique with an emotional element.
However, despite this evidence against Hypnosis, Governor Abbott vetoed the bill. According to the Governor, the bill was too broad.
The leading proponent of the bill, Rep. Eddie Lucio III, believes that hypnosis is a gateway to wrongful conviction and that it's junk science.
"The main message of the legislation was that it Hypnosis] was junk science. I can't say it's junk science here, but it's reliable over there. No, it's junk science," said Lucio.
At least four people on death row were convicted thanks to forensic hypnosis. One of the four, Charles Don Flores, has maintained his innocence for over 20 years, and there is no physical evidence linking him to the crime. However, hypnosis was used during the investigation, and based on the findings, the jury issued a guilty verdict, and Flores was sentenced to death.
Removing forensic hypnosis from the prosecution's arsenal wouldn't reverse Flores' sentence, but it would help to set a precedent for future trials. Concrete evidence should be the standard for criminal trials to ensure fair trials and reasonable sentencing.
Ultimately, like many other techniques, forensic hypnosis is one of many options investigators can explore to solve a crime. Convictions should not be made based on evidence from hypnosis alone.
If you have been accused of a crime or are seeking an appeal, contact Shane Phelps Law. today.