A brain scan decides a woman is guilty of murder

By Mark O’Neill
Contributing Writer, [GAS]

I’m not sure whether to be fascinated about this or totally horrified.

An Indian court has convicted a woman of murdering her fiancé.    Prosecutors managed to get a conviction on the basis of a brain scan which allegedly showed areas of the brain “lighting up”. This apparently proved that she had “experiential knowledge” about the crime “that only the killer could possess”.

The process started with an Electroencephalogram (EEG). The resulting brain waves were then fed through a program called a “Brain Electrical Oscillations Signature test”, or BEOS.  This was developed by Champadi Raman Mukundan, an Indian neuroscientist.

In this particular case, Aditi Sharma voluntarily took the test (probably thinking she would breeze through it).  Investigators read aloud to her a version of events that they think transpired when the murder took place, reading in the first person (“I bought arsenic;” “I met Udit at McDonald’s”).   It is claimed that during this session, the area of the brain where memories are stored buzzed.    This has led forensic investigators to claim that Sharma has “experiential knowledge” of having committed the murder, rather than just having heard about it.    That immediately earned Sharma a life sentence in prison, despite her protestations that she is innocent of the charges.

I’m sure the appeal will be interesting to listen to (assuming she decides to appeal).

Law enforcement experts worldwide are split over the reliability of the technology.   Some are extremely interested and want to know more about it.    Others have dismissed the work as “shaky at best”.    Those who support the technology say it marks the beginning of the end for people who commit crimes and then try to lie their way out of it.   All a police officer has to do is hook the person up to an EEG and watch for the brain to light up.

Henry Greely, a bioethicist at Stanford Law School, had a warning though : “if brain scans are widely adopted, the legal issues alone are enormous, implicating at least the First, Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, Seventh and 14th Amendments to the U.S. Constitution.”

What do you think?   Is this a bit too draconian and risky for your liking or a step in the right direction for upholding the law?

India’s use of brain scans in courts dismays critics – International Herald Tribune