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Indian Woman Convicted of Murder By Brain Scan 453

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the 1984-came-a-few-years-late dept.
Kaseijin writes "Neuroscientist Champadi Raman Mukundan claims his Brain Electrical Oscillations Signature test is so accurate, it can tell whether a person committed or only witnessed an act. In June, an Indian judge agreed, using BEOS to find a woman guilty of killing her former fiancé. Scientific experts are calling the decision 'ridiculous' and 'unconscionable,' protesting that Mukundan's work has not even been peer reviewed. How reliable should a test have to be, when eyewitnesses are notoriously fallible? Does a person have a right to privacy over their own memories, or should society's interest in holding criminals accountable come first?"
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Indian Woman Convicted of Murder By Brain Scan

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  • by jez9999 (618189) on Monday September 15, 2008 @08:59AM (#25008557) Homepage Journal

    ... they can reliably read someone's mind to determine whether they committed a crime?

    That is mental.

    • Re:They think... (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Z00L00K (682162) on Monday September 15, 2008 @09:11AM (#25008747) Homepage

      It is possible to do a brain scan to detect that a statement is untrue or unsettling in some way, but that doesn't mean that the person is guilty of a specific crime.

      It takes a long time of interrogation to be able to measure what's normal and what's not. And even if you get an abnormal reading it may not be caused by guilt - it may be because the subject is unsettling.

    • by Brian Ribbon (986353) on Monday September 15, 2008 @09:51AM (#25009289) Journal

      " Man sexually attracted to children, court told [abc.net.au] "

      "A Canberra court has heard an O'Connor man who has been charged with downloading child pornography from the internet finds young children sexually attractive."

      So he must have done it! Police never try to set up unpopular members of society.

      Presumably he'll get a longer sentence as a result of admitting that he's attracted to children.

    • Re:They think... (Score:4, Insightful)

      by TheSpoom (715771) <slashdot@Nospam.uberm00.net> on Monday September 15, 2008 @09:55AM (#25009343) Homepage Journal

      What's mental is that a jury (or worse, a judge) accepted the result of a new, questionable, unproven technology as proof beyond a reasonable doubt that the suspect was guilty. (I assume here that the Indian justice system has the same burden of proof as most others.)

      What's mental is that this will probably set precedent.

      What's mental is that this may be used from now on without question even when we did the same thing with polygraphs, only to realize later that they are notoriously inaccurate.

      What. The. Fuck.

  • 5th (Score:5, Insightful)

    by DoofusOfDeath (636671) on Monday September 15, 2008 @09:00AM (#25008571)

    Does a person have a right to privacy over their own memories

    In the U.S. I would say yes, because we have the 5th Amendment to the Constitution. In Indian law, I have no idea.

    At first blush this sounds like a high-tech form of seeing if the witch can float.

    • Re:5th (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Nuclear Elephant (700938) on Monday September 15, 2008 @09:04AM (#25008637) Homepage
      Just to play devil's advocate, the courts could argue here in the US that brain scans are evidentiary, and not testimony (hence witness against one's self). My guess is they would argue that brain scans are of the same family of evidence as DNA; e.g. it doesn't "testify against you", but is rather physically relevant to the case. I would hope that this would cause outrage, but judging by the number of other things the government has desensitized us to, it wouldn't surprise me.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by BadAnalogyGuy (945258)

        The key to passing a lie detector test is to bring yourself to believe the lies you are telling. If you could train yourself through meditation to believe anything, then how close are we to the situation in Minority Report where the third psychic's testimony is the only thing that sees through the re-enactment of a crime so that the second act looks just like the first one and thus makes the whole thing seem innocuous?

        Psychics are fake, but brainwaves are real. If we can lend credence to psychics in the mov

        • Or, you train yourself to fake the reactions that are caused by lying answers, and do them when getting the control questions at the start. Tightening the anal sphincter is a good one :p Though to be good at that you have to learn to do it without contracting your butt-cheeks at the same time (saw it being discussed on QI, as one of the official answers of course)

          http://listverse.com/science/top-10-tips-for-beating-a-lie-detector/ [listverse.com]

      • by Chrisq (894406) on Monday September 15, 2008 @09:14AM (#25008795)
        You will be a terrorist supporter and friend to the paedophiles. Don't even think of preventing use of this weapon against perverts and terrorists.

        Think of the Children (but not in that way... we will know).
      • Re:5th (Score:5, Interesting)

        by MoonBuggy (611105) on Monday September 15, 2008 @09:15AM (#25008809) Journal

        My guess is they would argue that brain scans are of the same family of evidence as DNA; e.g. it doesn't "testify against you", but is rather physically relevant to the case.

        I guess it is a grey area (no pun intended!), but really we shouldn't even need to have that conversation. The study hasn't been peer reviewed, it's a new and relatively untested technology, what the hell are they doing admitting it at all, as testimony or as evidence?

        Hell, the last time I saw MRI-based lie detection it was on Mythbusters, and even there it failed outright on one of the three people they tested it on.

        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by dword (735428)

          I guess it is a grey area (no pun intended!), but really we shouldn't even need to have that conversation.

          But we are having this conversation because someone was convicted in a trial where one piece of evidence was a brain scan.

        • It's just a very high-tech polygraph .... ...all it proves (at best) is that you currently think you did it

          Since it has not been peer reviewed I suspect that all it can prove is that Champadi Raman Mukundan is out to make some money ...

      • Re: (Score:2, Troll)

        by Jurily (900488)

        but is rather physically relevant to the case

        How are my thoughts physically relevant to anything, again? Remember, we're talking about the same country that wants to teach Intelligent Design in science class.

    • by epee1221 (873140)
      I think TFS was asking about moral rights, not legal rights.
    • Re:5th (Score:5, Funny)

      by jamesh (87723) on Monday September 15, 2008 @09:14AM (#25008793)

      At first blush this sounds like a high-tech form of seeing if the witch can float.

      Ah. So it's a machine to determine if she's made of wood?

    • by Yvan256 (722131)

      At first blush this sounds like a high-tech form of seeing if the witch can float.

      That's completely insane. First they should test wether they can build a bridge out of her.

  • by DikSeaCup (767041) on Monday September 15, 2008 @09:01AM (#25008581) Homepage
    Did anyone else read that headline and think, "She scanned his brain and it killed him?"
  • I see Phrenology (Score:5, Informative)

    by the_skywise (189793) on Monday September 15, 2008 @09:01AM (#25008589)

    is alive and well...

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      What does the study of the size of Walt's asshole have to do with this? From "Men at Work."
  • Interesting (Score:3, Insightful)

    by thermian (1267986) on Monday September 15, 2008 @09:01AM (#25008595)

    So, a male centric and predominantly misogynistic country used this new and entirely untested technique to find a woman guilty of murder.

    Gosh, what a surprise.

    We are talking about a country where women regularly get murdered by the men in their own family, and no-one is punished, after all.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Monday September 15, 2008 @09:09AM (#25008709)

      That's right. And if you want to stand up for women's rights vote McCain Palin 2008! Palin - Because women are always the victim (tm).

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by ebonum (830686)

      So another arrogant American who has never lived in India and is completely snug in his own perfection looks down on India as a bunch or backwards animals.

      Gosh, what a surprise.

      • Re:Interesting (Score:5, Informative)

        by thermian (1267986) on Monday September 15, 2008 @09:31AM (#25008989)

        Not American, but I AM someone whose worked voluntarily helping set up a shelter for battered Indian/Pakistani wives in the UK.

        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by joe slacker (1036082)
          I'll neither deny the existence of misogyny nor condone the usage of techniques like this in convicting some one with a crime, but to brand the entire judicial system of institutionalized bias based on the actions of one overzealous judge is wide of the mark and reeks of judgmental behaviour. This will not stand up in the high court or the supreme court. There have been instances where high court judges have rebuked the lower court judges for overzealous behaviour like this. The Indian legal system might be
  • There are 4 billion people on earth. 237 are Scanners. They have the most terrifying powers ever created... and they are winning.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by gardyloo (512791)

      Ouch. You know it's from an old(ish) movie when they get the population of the earth too low by over two billion people.

  • by fishthegeek (943099) on Monday September 15, 2008 @09:04AM (#25008641) Journal
    Dang and I thought the DRM in Vista was bad. I had no idea that BEOS [wikipedia.org] could determine if I witnessed a crime.

    I knew that it was ahead of it's time but Geesh! Does anyone know what version he is using?

    Just goes to show, there is no security by obscurity! Hopefully those Haiku guys will get it up and running soon!
  • by multipartmixed (163409) on Monday September 15, 2008 @09:05AM (#25008651) Homepage

    ..BEOS has always been way ahead of the competition!

  • by snarfies (115214) on Monday September 15, 2008 @09:05AM (#25008655) Homepage

    I hear the judge has ordered that she be imprisoned inside a giant NeXTcube.

    • by 4D6963 (933028)
      Argh, you beat us all to it. I'm not surprised BeOS would read our minds though, that would explain why the interface is so reactive, it knows you're gonna click that button before you even do it!
  • Three things. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by apathy maybe (922212) on Monday September 15, 2008 @09:05AM (#25008657) Homepage Journal

    Would a man have been convicted in this case? Or is this just another example of the crap that women still face in most societies around the world?

    This machine has not been peer reviewed, and yet a judge trusts it? Sounds like the judge should be removed from their position. And all convictions related to this judge that might be plausibly shown to have been influenced by this judge's ignorance, should be thrown out.
    I hope this women is able to appeal.

    As to privacy related to memories. Well, I would suggest that this machine isn't capable of reading a person's memories at all. However, I do think that this should be voluntary only. After all, there are many memories not related to the alleged crime that would have to be "read". Not only that (at least in the USA), all information "found" not related to the "crime" should not be able to be used by law enforcement.

    I'm sure you could make a Fifth Amendment type argument here (if you are in the USA).

    • Re:Three things. (Score:5, Informative)

      by will_die (586523) on Monday September 15, 2008 @09:36AM (#25009055) Homepage
      The summary is a little missleading.
      The two states in India that allow it have set up labs were the device was/is being tested, the lack of per review is that the people outside of India do not have full access.

      This is the second case where the judge has mentioned the test, the first was against a man. In the first case the judge said that the test was not used as "concluded proof" but that the tests backed the other evidence. In this case the judge include 9 pages on why he used the test results and defense of the system.
      As for its use, in India to have the test run on you requires that you volunteer. In the US I would guess it usage would have to meet the same requirements that were setup for lie detectors. A quick search shows that their has been no federal ruling, excluding that lie detectors don't work, so you have some locations where the judge can order a person, some where lie detectors were considered no different from taking a persons fingerprints, to others where they said a person could not be forced.
    • As to privacy related to memories. Well, I would suggest that this machine isn't capable of reading a person's memories at all. However, I do think that this should be voluntary only. After all, there are many memories not related to the alleged crime that would have to be "read". Not only that (at least in the USA), all information "found" not related to the "crime" should not be able to be used by law enforcement.

      Great, now on the next round of polygraphs, instead of the 'lifestyle' series of questi
  • With an undocumented feature like that, I'm surprised BeOS isn't still around.

  • Minorty Report (Score:3, Insightful)

    by JackassJedi (1263412) on Monday September 15, 2008 @09:12AM (#25008761)
    If this would take a bad road then in another 10 years we'll be remote-scanned when we walk around outside (or even at home) and convicted when we have only intentions of committing a crime (which is already true in some countries just sans the remote-brain-scan part). Sounds like Precrime to me.
  • by aapold (753705) on Monday September 15, 2008 @09:16AM (#25008811) Homepage Journal
    In Roger Zelazny's classic Hugo award winning novel Lord of Light [wikipedia.org], the Brainscan was a key part of the tech that cemented the power of the faux Hindu Gods on a distant colony planet modeled after India....

    They would use it to review people up for reincarantion (dying, aged, etc) before transferring their consciousness to a new body and life, one assigned based on the results of said brain scan...

    I know this is nowhere near that, just found it ironic such a thing would surface in India. ------- Hey, wonder if it can determine if you saw or committed an act in a past life...
  • Justice Field (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Timberwolf0122 (872207) on Monday September 15, 2008 @09:16AM (#25008817) Journal
    In Red Dwarf Arnold Rimmer has to undergo a mind scan after which he is found guilty of the 1st degree murder of the whole crew of the Red Dwarf. Kryton is able to get Rimmer aquitted by pointing out that the radiation leak was caused by Rimmer being an incompetent half wit anf the mid scan confused the guilt he felt with culpability, in his own mind he tried and convicted himself... How would this mind probe deal this?
    • by Vellmont (569020)


      How would this mind probe deal this?

      Ummm.. This is a guess, but how about Red Dwarf is a television show, and we're talking about reality here?

      Granted, this is some kind of bizarre reality where totally unproven "brain scans" are used as evidence in court, so I can see your confusion with science fiction. But I still wouldn't start with the premise that this technology works exactly like one someone made up for a sci-fi show.

    • Re:Justice Field (Score:4, Interesting)

      by JackassJedi (1263412) on Monday September 15, 2008 @09:55AM (#25009339)
      Good point, brings back also memories of Memento, where it's pointed out by Leonard that memories are much more an interpretation than facts (and is wonderfully depicted in the movie).
  • Bad title (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward

    "Indian Woman Convicted of Murder By Brain Scan"

    My first thought: How do you kill somebody by a brain scan? Maybe they had a piece of metal lodged in their brain that shifted during an MRI.

    Ah, but this is just bad editing. It should read "Indian Woman Convicted by Brain Scan of Murder".

    Slashdot: amateur editors pretending to be professional.

  • by John Pfeiffer (454131) on Monday September 15, 2008 @09:21AM (#25008879) Homepage

    Does a person have a right to privacy over their own memories, or should society's interest in holding criminals accountable come first?

    I honestly think that if someone commits a crime like murder they should be held accountable, period. BUT, there's no way this brain scan thing works. I mean, REALLY. Ask the question again when the thing isn't a bunch of BS.

    Also...
     
    ...the headline made me think she fried someone's brain with an MRI or something. Might want to see to that. :P

  • by merfle (1100821) on Monday September 15, 2008 @09:22AM (#25008881)
    Murder by brain scan?! And they tell us these tests are safe...
  • by jedijoe9 (929235) on Monday September 15, 2008 @09:23AM (#25008897) Journal
    Am I the only one who rad the headline and thought: "Also, I can kill you with my brain."
  • Nigma or Herbert? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by snspdaarf (1314399)
    Ok, so is this guy Edward Nigma, or one of Frank Herbert's characters from Ix? I expect to see this kind of story at the grocery store, next to the reports of aliens eating someone's dog, and sightings of BatBoy.
  • Interesting (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Pedrito (94783) on Monday September 15, 2008 @09:35AM (#25009047) Homepage

    Actually, I would imagine it would be fairly easy to distinguish a lie from the truth by EEG or fMRI. The pathways for recollection as opposed to creativity (lying), cause activity in different parts of the brain.

    'Where were you last Tuesday at 3:00pm?' - If the person tells the truth, they're recalling the events. If they're lying, they're constructing a scenario in their head. The two would be very distinguishable.

    That said, it's not without issues: First of all, if I pre-construct a scenario and run it through my head enough, it becomes a recollection and not a creation, I believe. Also, I'm not entirely sure that there's been enough actual studies of using fMRIs and/or EEGs for detecting lies vs. truth, nor how beatable the system is. Until these things have been studied and documented, they certainly shouldn't be used by courts.

    There are companies in the U.S. trying to get fMRIs used for precisely this purpose. One example is the company, No Lie MRI [noliemri.com].
    If such systems can be proven reliable, then I'm all for using them in courts. Not so much to convict people, so much as to keep the innocent from being convicted, which happens plenty in the U.S.

    • Slight problem (Score:3, Informative)

      by aepervius (535155)
      As far as I can tell, once you already imaginated the lie, and start believe in it then it will be a recollection and indistinguishable from a real memory. Heck, tehre are enough study on memory to show that people make up stuff while recollecting and afterward think what they made up is a real memory.
  • by CrazyJim1 (809850) on Monday September 15, 2008 @09:36AM (#25009053) Journal
    I'm not so sure that it is good to convict someone of a crime, but it is pretty accurate. It is simple to do with a brain scan too.

    1) Hook person up to a brain scanner.
    2) Show the person random images of places they never seen until their brain doesn't care anymore.
    3) Show the person an image of a place they've seen, and it will trigger thoughts.

    It is helpful for interrogation. It is a bit spooky to use for crimes.
  • This device is guaranteed to only give what you judge to be true positives... if you only use it on people you've already decided are guilty.

  • by jimwelch (309748) <jimwelchok@gm[ ].com ['ail' in gap]> on Monday September 15, 2008 @09:55AM (#25009341) Homepage Journal
    H. Beam Piper used a brain scanner (veridicator) to verify truth (lie detector) in courts and making statements. They had strict rules on when it could be used and what could be asked. Gutenberg has Little Fuzzy as free text [gutenberg.org]
  • It Will Never Work (Score:5, Insightful)

    by DynaSoar (714234) on Monday September 15, 2008 @09:55AM (#25009345) Journal

    Eyewitness testimony is fallible for the same reason one's own memory for personal events is fallible: everything we 'remember' is constructed from what is stored and seems related, producing the fastest good enough result. The same research supports both. False memory and memory rejection can happen because memory is never entirely accurate. One can even be fooled into "remembering" something someone else supposedly saw but never occurred, convolving both eyewitness report and personal memory. The foremost researchers in this field are often called to testify in court cases where false and lost memory are involved.

    As such, if this judge had any sense, he'd throw the supposed researcher in jail and recuse himself after throwing out the verdict. There's no way a "brain scan" can tell how accurate a "memory" is unless it can compare what it's measuring with the perception and cognition during the actual event. And if it could do that, the operator would be there to witness the same event.

    The researcher should at very least be investigated for scientific fraud. The same people that would have thrown his work(?) out under peer review would testify against him.

  • If someone calls you a witch there, you get lynched... I'd say a brain-scan is at least a step in the right direction.
  • by kiehlster (844523) on Monday September 15, 2008 @09:59AM (#25009433) Homepage
    That if you want true accuracy, you have to go for the Vulcan mind meld. No one's going to argue about the validity of Vulcan logic.
  • Killer Brain Scan? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by aszaidi (464751)

    Reading the headline, I actually thought that an Indian woman committed murders using a brain scan machine.

  • It kept Hank Pym out of prison...Curse you Egghead!

  • Please don't start the annoying wikipedia habit of including totally generic links, like the "peer reviewed" link in the original article, in articles. It's value subtracting.

  • The proponents of the machine get it accepted by lawyers using shaky, anecdotal claims; they foist it onto a desperate witness in a dramatic case of murder; then when the judge cites the technology as a deciding factor, they use that as evidence the device has "official approval" and therefore works.

    The scientific method it ain't.

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