[Marxism] New technology used in death row case
cbrown at michiganlegal.org
Tue Mar 9 12:13:59 MST 2004
Wow ! ( rhymes with "low")
New technology used in death row case
United Press International - March 01, 2004
DALLAS, Mar 01, 2004 (United Press International via COMTEX) -- Attorneys
for an Oklahoma death row inmate may try to use a controversial new forensic
tool called brain fingerprinting to overturn their client's conviction in a
1994 double murder.
Jimmy Ray Slaughter was sentenced to death for the slayings of his former
girlfriend, Melody Wuertz, and her 11-month-old daughter, Jessica, in
Edmond, an Oklahoma City suburb.
His defense team brought in Dr. Larry Farwell, the neuroscientist who
pioneered the new technology that measures whether a person's brain has
recorded certain information. Farwell said his tests found Slaughter's brain
lacked essential facts about the crime that the killer would know.
Brain fingerprinting is based on the involuntary split-second blimp of
electronic activity that fires in the brain when it recognizes information,
the so-called P300 wave. Farwell has improved on that basic science with his
own system that he says is 100 percent accurate in some cases.
"What we detect is not guilt or innocence," he said. "What we detect is
information present or information absent. We can tell if a person has
specific information stored in his brain or not."
During testing, the subject is fitted with a headband equipped with sensors
to measure the involuntary brain activity. The examiner then asks a series
of carefully selected questions to get a response.
Farwell said he examined Slaughter Feb. 9-10 about "salient features" of the
crime, and his brain had no record of elements of the murder case that the
killer would know. He said the confidence level of his findings was 99
"The legal question is if the jury had known then what we know now, that he
did not know those details, would they have found him guilty beyond a
reasonable doubt," the scientist said.
Farwell said particular attention is given to asking questions about
elements of the crime that only the killer would know, not a witness or
someone who might have read or heard around details of the crime through the
The Slaughter case could be the first death penalty appeal to hear evidence
from a brain-fingerprinting test. It was used by Missouri police in 1998
during a murder investigation and considered during a post-conviction
hearing three years ago in an Iowa murder case.
In the Iowa case, the judge accepted the P300 theory, which he said was
based on established scientific research, but not Farwell's more refined
system. The court refused to grant a new trial, saying brain fingerprinting
would not have altered the outcome of the original trial.
Farwell says he now conducts tests based on the P300 test and then with his
patented Murmur system that is even more accurate. "I get the same result
using the Murmur as the P300 but I get a higher statistic of confidence," he
Robert Jackson, a member of Slaughter's defense team, said an appeal is
currently pending before the U.S. Supreme Court, but if it is rejected he
intends to go back to the Oklahoma state courts and get Farwell's tests
accepted as new evidence.
"We would be arguing that the brain fingerprinting is newly discovered
evidence, evidence that could not have been discovered earlier, certainly
not at the time of the trial, and it's also evidence that it is more
consistent with innocence than anything else," he said.
Brain fingerprinting has never been accepted in Oklahoma courts, and Jackson
said courts are often reluctant to accept new technology. He said a trial
court would have to be shown that the new technique meets the criteria for
An execution date will be set in 60 days if the Supreme Court rejects the
Deborah Denno, a professor of law at Fordham University and an expert on the
death penalty, said brain fingerprinting is new to U.S. courtrooms and is
still controversial because it hasn't been widely accepted yet by the
"It's not as definite a kind of process as DNA or something like that, and
it raises issues about how much error are we willing to introduce into these
kinds of cases if the technology has not been refined," she said.
Farwell, who is chairman and chief scientist of Brain Fingerprinting
Laboratories, Inc., in Seattle, said acceptance of his system is growing,
and his studies have been published in scientific journals.
"DNA and fingerprints are only available in about 1 percent of cases, but
the brain is always there planning, executing and recording crimes," he
said. "I believe in the near future whenever there is information that is
known to the perpetrator, one side or the other is going to demand a brain
fingerprinting test and they'll get it," he said.
Copyright 2004 by United Press International.
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R2001 American Psychological Association
Last updated: 03/09/2004 - 07:08 AM
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