Surprise and concerns about suggestion of “truth serum” for shooting trial

Questions and doubt swirl around this judge’s ruling.

‘Truth Serum’ Draws Skepticism in Case of Accused Aurora Shooter James Holmes – ABC News.

Experts are surprised and skeptical of a Colorado judge’s ruling that Aurora theater shooter James Holmes could be subjected to a “truth serum” if he decides to plead not guilty by reason of insanity.

The term used by Judge William Sylvester earlier this week in his court ruling was that a “narcoanalytic interview” could be employed to determine if Holmes is genuinely insane.

Sylvester’s court order does not specify what drugs could be used on Holmes, but it would likely be a drug like sodium amytal or sodium pentothal.

Here was another piece from New Scientist with various opinions on the ruling.
‘Truth serum’ to be used in Dark Knight shooter trial – life – 13 March 2013 – New Scientist.

MANY issues come up from just reading this story. First, the judge didn’t specify but “truth serum” was assumed (perhaps a fair assumption, I’m not sure) and all the news headlines reflect that. The use of drugs would be to establishing the defendant’s state of mind, not provide evidence in the case. But there is serious questions about that. Does it actually give you results? Are they reliable? Is this ethical? Is it Constitutional? The ruling has caused a stir for all these reasons. It’s important to look carefully at how the results, whatever they are, will be interpreted and perceived. Is this worth it if they will be no good? What are the consequences?

Other articles mention things like lost or repressed memory. Bogus. There is mention of a polygraph test to be used. Bogus.

“It’s an extraordinarily unusual procedure to use,” Dr. Steven Hoge, a clinical professor of psychiatry at Columbia University in New York, told “The fact that they’ve linked it to the use of polygraph makes me concerned that they do believe that it is indeed a ‘truth serum’ and there’s no evidence to support that.”

What the heck is going on here? Please consult the science or you risk harming the person AND the case.

Tip: Ross Balch

  3 comments for “Surprise and concerns about suggestion of “truth serum” for shooting trial

  1. F89
    March 14, 2013 at 3:39 PM

    I can understand if the drugs were being administered to establish his state of mind. But the use of so called “truth serum” for testimony? That would probably be torn apart legally as form of compulsion to self incriminate. And that doesn’t even take into account that “truth serum” just relaxes people into talking-and there’s no telling that what they say is the truth.

    The Scientific American has an interesting article on the subject:

  2. J
    March 14, 2013 at 4:04 PM

    This all seems a bit strange considering the amount of supposed premeditation this guy had about committing his crimes. Why try to rule out insanity if most of the signs already point to a rational presence of mind (according to his beliefs)? Perhaps it’s more for the parents, friends and relatives of the victims, because, as in the Sandy Hook shooting, no explanation could be had from the killer, and some kind of resolution may be necessary for legal purposes.

  3. March 15, 2013 at 1:57 PM

    I agree that this technique will probably give the defense a good amount of ammo to clash with the prosecutions findings after Holmes is “interviewed”.

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