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ETHICAL ISSUES RAISED BY NEUROSCIENCE IN LAW By Walter Sinnott-Armstrong Philosophy Department and Kenan Institute for Ethics at Duke, Uehiro Centre for.

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Presentation on theme: "ETHICAL ISSUES RAISED BY NEUROSCIENCE IN LAW By Walter Sinnott-Armstrong Philosophy Department and Kenan Institute for Ethics at Duke, Uehiro Centre for."— Presentation transcript:

1 ETHICAL ISSUES RAISED BY NEUROSCIENCE IN LAW By Walter Sinnott-Armstrong Philosophy Department and Kenan Institute for Ethics at Duke, Uehiro Centre for Practical Ethics at Oxford, MacArthur Law & Neuroscience Project

2 Law and neuroscience (or neurolaw) studies legal issues raised by recent neuroscience and many ways that neuroscience should and should not be used within the legal system. Law and neuroscience (or neurolaw) studies legal issues raised by recent neuroscience and many ways that neuroscience should and should not be used within the legal system. The legal system includes courts, legislatures, prisons, parole boards, and police stations. The legal system includes courts, legislatures, prisons, parole boards, and police stations. What is Law and Neuroscience?

3 Brain scans could be used in legal trials to detect current mental states: 1.Lies by witnesses 2.Memories of witnesses (and jurors?) 3.Bias in jurors (and judges?) 4.Pain in plaintiffs seeking tort damages 5.Consciousness in cases of euthanasia Uses of Neuroscience in Trials

4 Brain scans could also be used in legal trials to assess mental abilities affecting: 1.Responsibility of adolescents and defendants with brain damage, addiction, mental illness, psychopathy,... 2.Competence to stand trial or to make life decisions Uses of Neuroscience in Trials

5 Neuroscience could be used in legal trials to predict future behavior relevant to: SentencingSentencing ParoleParole Involuntary commitment or detentionInvoluntary commitment or detention

6 Neuroscience could be used in legal trials to enhance memory, attention, and other cognitive abilities in: WitnessesJurors Uses of Neuroscience in Trials

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8 Case #1  Imagine being accused of robbery.  You know that you are innocent.  A witness says that he saw you do it.  You have no alibi or other counterevidence.  Your lawyer tells you that a new method of lie detection is accurate 95% of the time.  Your defense attorney asks the judge to let him test the witness and you.

9 Case #2  Imagine being robbed.  You identify the defendant.  His friend testifies that they were elsewhere during the robbery.  The prosecutor knows about accurate neural lie detection.  The prosecutor asks the judge to allow him to test the friend and you.

10 What is a Lie?  People lie when they say something they know is false with the intention to deceive and usually to induce reliance.  To show someone is lying, a method needs to detect knowledge and intent.  There’s no way to do show this directly. All tools use indirect accompaniments.

11  Torture, drowning, and meatballs  Cross-examination Pre-scientific Lie Detection

12  Skin conductance response (SCR)  Systolic blood pressure (possibly in conjunction with drugs, such as amobarbitol) Polygraphs

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15  1 – periorbital thermography  2 – micro-facial expressions  3 – near-infrared lasar spectroscopy  4 – electroencephalography (EEG)  5 – fMRI More Scientific Lie Detection

16  EEG (Brain Fingerprinting and BEOS)  fMRI (Cephos and No Lie MRI) Neural Lie Detection

17 Brain Fingerprinting  Uses EEG (electroencephalography)  Developed by Lawrence Farwell  Sold by Brain Fingerprinting Labs (www.brainwavescience.com)

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20 Questions  1 – Is this really lie detection?  2 – How reliable is it? Labs are not realistic circumstances

21 Brain Fingerprinting in Court  On March 5, 2001, Iowa District Court Judge Tim O'Grady ruled that Brain Fingerprinting® testing is admissible in court.  Dr. Farwell conducted a Brain Fingerprinting test on Terry Harrington, who was serving a life sentence in Iowa for a 1977 murder.  The test showed that the record stored in Harrington's brain did not match the crime scene and did match the alibi.  On February 26, 2003, the Iowa Supreme Court reversed Harrington's murder conviction and ordered a new trial.

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23 India 2008  Uditi and Pravin meet in McDonald Hotel  Pravin later dies from cyanide.  There was evidence (cyanide on Uditi’s purse), but there was not enough evidence to convict, until she volunteered to take neural lie detection.  BEOS technique based on Farwell’s research  The test came out positive for lying.  Uditi was convicted and sentenced to life in prison.  She was recently given a new trial.  Is this evidence good enough? Finding guilt vs. innocence

24 fMRI Lie Detection  No Lie MRI was started by Joel Huizenga and is located in La Jolla, CA. Its methods are based on work by Daniel Langleben at University of Pennsylvania. See  Cephos is run by Steven Laken and is located in Boston, MA. Its methods are based on research by Andrew Kozel and Mark George at the Medical University of South Carolina. See

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26 The Main Problem Do circumstances in labs where neural lie detection works resemble circumstances of real trials in relevant ways? That depends on what exactly the neural method is detecting. Since this is not clear, we need to guess:

27 Nervousness 1.People get nervous when they lie, so maybe neural methods test when people are nervous, but witnesses get nervous even when they tell the truth in trials.

28 Inhibition 2.People have a natural impulse to tell the truth that they must inhibit when they lie, so neural methods might test when people inhibit such impulses. However, lawyers advise witnesses to suppress their impulse to blurt out answers even when they are telling the truth.

29 Kinds of Memory 3.People who were at the crime have episodic memories of being there rather than just semantic memories that it happened, so maybe neural methods test for episodic memories, but episodic memories can be triggered by pictures, imagined experiences, similar memories, and so on.

30 Conclusions on Lie Detection  No method of neural lie detection so far is reliable enough for courtroom use.  In the future, burden of proof will become crucial: –Criminal prosecution needs to establish defendant’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. –Defense only needs to show reasonable doubt. –Businesses, government agencies, and private people do not need to prove claims beyond reasonable doubt.

31 Are Brain Scans Dangerous? Even if neural lie detection is probative and also somewhat reliable, it still should not be admitted into trials if it is “prejudicial”. A series of studies suggest that brain images are likely to mislead or confuse many jurors.

32 Are Brain Scans Dangerous?  Bright & Goodman-Delahunty (2006)

33 Are Brain Scans Dangerous?  Weisberg, Skolnick, et al. (2008)

34 Are Brain Scans Dangerous? Weisberg, Skolnick, et al. (2008)

35 Are Brain Scans Dangerous? “Watching TV helps with math ability because both activate the temporal lobe.” McCabe and Castel 2007

36 Are Brain Scans Dangerous? “Watching TV helps with math ability because both activate the temporal lobe.” McCabe and Castel 2007

37 Are Brain Scans Dangerous? Gurley & Marcus (2008)

38 Are Brain Scans Dangerous? Gurley & Marcus (2008)

39 Do Brain Scans Inform? Even if brain images change verdicts in juries, how can we tell whether the brain images (1) mislead or confuse instead of (2) helping juries reach more accurate verdicts?

40 What about Real Juries? Unlike lab subjects: Real jurors are not all college students. Real jurors hear more details of each case. Real jurors know real lives are affected. Real jurors hear both sides of argument. Real jurors deliberate and are accountable to other jurors for giving reasons.

41 Would Brain Scans Mislead or Confuse Real Juries? To answer this question, we need to ask (a) people who might be on juries (b) to decide realistic legal cases (c) of various kinds (d) in realistic circumstances (cross examination, group deliberation) (e) with and without brain images.

42 Scientific Conclusions At present, neural lie detection and brain images are only minimally probative (& minimally reliable). At present, we have some reason to suspect that brain images bring dangers of misleading and confusing juries (and maybe also judges).

43 Legal Conclusions If functional brain images are even moderately misleading or confusing, then their dangers substantially outweigh their probative value. If so, they fail the balancing test of US FRE 403. If so, they should not be admitted as evidence. If so, a temporary moratorium on functional brain images in trials would be justified under current law.

44 A Worry: Burden of Proof  In criminal trials, the prosecution usually needs to prove each element of guilt beyond any reasonable doubt.  Even if functional brain images are only minimally probative, if they have not yet been shown to be prejudicial, then maybe courts should give leeway to defense.  This decision is a matter of ethics and, hence, is for law and society, not scientists.

45 That’s all, folks.

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