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Using Truth Serum To Confirm Insanity 308

Posted by Soulskill
from the i-swear-to-take-the-truth-pill,-the-whole-pill,-and-nothing-but-the-pill dept.
xclr8r writes "James Holmes representation did not enter a plea today in with regards to the Aurora, Co. Movie theater shooting so the Judge entered a plea of not guilty for James that could be changed at a later date by Holmes' attorney. The judge entered an advisory that if the plea was changed to Not Guilty by insanity that Holmes would be subject to a 'narcoanalytic interview' with the possibility of medically appropriate substances could be used e.g. so called truth serums. Holmes defense looks to have initially objected to this but as the previous article seems to infer that some compromises are being worked out. This certainly raises legal questions on how this is being played out 5th, 14th amendments. The legal expert in the second article states this is legal under Co. law but admits there's not a huge amount of cases regarding this. I was only able to find Harper v State where a defendant willingly underwent truth serum and wanted to submit the interview on his behalf but was rejected due to the judge not recognizing sufficient scientific basis to admit the evidence."
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Using Truth Serum To Confirm Insanity

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 13, 2013 @04:23AM (#43157373)

    If he's willing to submit to drug-enhanced interrogation, he's certified crazy!

    • by Alranor (472986) on Wednesday March 13, 2013 @05:17AM (#43157567)

      There's somebody called Yossarian on the phone, I think he wants to talk to you ...

    • by ByOhTek (1181381)

      *Shrug*

      Probably, because if he were sane, he would be likely to fail, and it'd be useless.

      I don't see how saying "take the test or that plea won't be acceptable" violates the 5th or 14th though. The right to not incriminate yourself, or the right to liberty (except when denied by due process) is not violated by such an option. The mispercieved "right to be believed in what you say" and possible "get away with it" are violated, but we aren't given those rights. All this is, is an attempt by the court, to est

      • by artfulshrapnel (1893096) on Wednesday March 13, 2013 @08:05AM (#43158467)

        I guess my biggest complaint would be: How good is truth serum at verifying the type of insanity claimed, and what qualification does the judge have to diagnose the suspect's mental condition? The human brain and psychoactive drugs are a horribly complex nest of interconnected issues, and even trained professionals can't always predict the effect they'll have on abnormal brains or in abnormal combinations

        For example:
        Let's say he really is insane, but the truth serum they use temporarily stabilizes him by suppressing an overactive region in his brain. Now during the test he'll be perfectly sane and normal, but as soon as the drug wears off he goes back to crazytown.

        • by X0563511 (793323)

          Well then it's a good thing the judge would not be administering the test itself!

          (I hope he wouldn't be)

        • The serum is to verify EVENTS not sanity. Once he declares "insane" he goes to being a ward of the state and he cannot be CONVICTED of crimes.

          As a ward of the state he can be physically compelled to give evidence or have test done to ensure truthiness. That evidence WILL be used to show he methodically planned and hid his actions... So it will keep him locked up ... Forever. But that's not CRIMINAL evidence, that is phychiatric evidence used for the CIVIL determination he is unsafe.

          Also, this wil allow th

        • by Kreigaffe (765218) on Wednesday March 13, 2013 @10:55AM (#43160169)

          Truth serum does not fucking work, period, at all. This has been known for many decades now. If it worked, we would've been using it against Bad Guys in Secret Prisons, and we're not. We're not because it doesn't fucking work and everyone knows that.

          Except apparently the people in this court room.

          • by Mitreya (579078)

            Truth serum does not fucking work, period, at all. This has been known for many decades now. If it worked, we would've been using it against Bad Guys in Secret Prisons, and we're not.

            Torture also does not work (well, not for the purposes of getting reliable information ) and that has been known for a while too. Didn't stop our administration(s) from using it.

          • Scopolamine (Score:4, Informative)

            by almechist (1366403) on Wednesday March 13, 2013 @02:49PM (#43162775)

            Truth serum does not fucking work, period, at all. This has been known for many decades now. If it worked, we would've been using it against Bad Guys in Secret Prisons, and we're not. We're not because it doesn't fucking work and everyone knows that.

            Except apparently the people in this court room.

            Actually, there is one compound that might be considered effective as a "truth serum", and that's scopolamine. Read up on the way it has been used by criminals, for instance this link:

            http://digitaljournal.com/article/324779 [digitaljournal.com] or this one: http://rense.com/general38/frug.htm [rense.com] or just google it.

            I have personal experience with this drug, having been involuntarily dosed with it once, and it's effects were scary indeed, in a way no other substance has ever come close to matching. Essentially it wipes out your short-term memory completely, and I do mean completely. You start to say something but by the end of the sentence you literally can't remember what it was you were trying to say. You have no idea where you are or how you got there, and you tend to believe whatever you're told if there's someone there to "helpfully" fill in the blanks. People empty their bank account to strangers, give up passwords and PIN numbers, it's crazy. The thing is, it's only short-term memory that's affected, everything else is still there. So I don't see any reason why you couldn't be questioned about past criminal behavior as easily as your financial secrets. Having experienced this stuff first hand, I have no doubt it could be used as a truth drug, given the right setting and an experienced interrogator. That said, I'm absolutely against the whole idea and believe this is a treacherous road for the legal system to be going down. Voluntarily or otherwise, chemical interrogation has no place in American courtrooms.

      • I don't see how saying "take the test or that plea won't be acceptable" violates the 5th or 14th though. The right to not incriminate yourself, or the right to liberty (except when denied by due process) is not violated by such an option.

        It could be; what if they said "testify against yourself or else we will reject your not-guilty plea"?

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 13, 2013 @04:28AM (#43157385)
    Neddy: "You're mad, mad I tell you!"
    Bluebottle: "Little does he know that I'm as sane as the next man."
    Eccles: "Little does HE know that I'm the next man!"
  • Scientific basis (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Dunbal (464142) * on Wednesday March 13, 2013 @04:52AM (#43157465)
    Sure it's a pretty well known fact that the more I depress your CNS the less you are going to be capable of rationalization and higher thought to answer a question "creatively". However such an undertaking is not reliable or scientific at all, because there is a point at which I can get you to agree with and pretty much answer anything I want you to. Sigh. Americans and their obsession with torture. After all this is just torture in another guise, instead of using pain to interrogate, I am shutting down part of your brain. Either way you are being forced to confess and give testimony against yourself. Whatever happened to I dunno, finding EVIDENCE?
    • Wait, truth serum is torture now? I mean putting panties on heads was a stretch, but now this? You sure you're just not an America-hater looking for any hook to hang a cutting remark?
      • by Sique (173459)
        Truth serum has basicly the same ability to uncover evidence than torture: none. It will do nothing more than reinforce the prejudices of the applier.
    • evidence is there (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      12 dead bodies. Plenty of witnesses. His home is full of weapons.
      This fucker is guilty, but the defense is preempting very early to result in an insanity outcome. They're trying to shape the degree of guiltiness. It's extremely hard to get an insanity defense in the US, only because so many people have tried it.

      The only testimony they want is to determine if he's genuinely insane or just pretending. Either way, he's going to be locked up in prison or in a mental institution and I bet he's hoping for the lat

      • The only testimony they want is to determine if he's genuinely insane or just pretending.

        Just ask him whether he loves his mother. Either answer proves he's insane.

      • by RDW (41497)

        The only testimony they want is to determine if he's genuinely insane or just pretending. Either way, he's going to be locked up in prison or in a mental institution and I bet he's hoping for the latter in order to continue his "Joker" character fantasy.

        The article notes: 'In an advisory that Holmes would have to sign if he enters an insanity plea, Sylvester didn't specify what type of drugs would be used but said the examination could include "medically appropriate" ones.'

        Reports that a new, experimental aerosolized drug will be administered by court-appointed psychiatrist Dr. Jonathan Crane remained uncomfirmed at this time.

    • Whatever happened to I dunno, finding EVIDENCE?

      For what? I don't think someone doubts that Holmes went into the cinema shooting people.

      • by moeinvt (851793)

        You think we should just convict him? No trial? No evidence?

        I sort of like the idea of due process and AFAIK, it's still the law (at least on paper). The prosecution must gather and present evidence. The accused has the right to examine that evidence, to confront witnesses and to present evidence and witnesses of their own. Then, it is up to a judge and/or jury to address the question of "doubt".

        • No of course not. I just wanted to say that there probably is enough evidence on the side of prosecution, so I don't doubt that during the trial judge and jury will agree on the course of the events on that night. Eye witnesses, guns, shells, and wasn't he even arrested on site? So there is probably no need for finding EVEN MORE evidence.

          The question here is his claim of being insane. It's his claim, so he should bring evidence for it.

        • This isn't about assessing guilt or innocence of the crime. That will of course be established by the use of evidence in a court of law.

          This is about assessing the truth or falseness of the claim of insanity. Insanity itself is not a crime, and therefore the rules are not the same as for crimes. He will never be convicted (or get off for that matter) for insanity. It would only be used to decide what balance of punishment or treatment should be applied in the case of a guilty verdict.

    • by westlake (615356)

      Either way you are being forced to confess and give testimony against yourself. Whatever happened to I dunno, finding EVIDENCE?

      Insanity comes into play only when the guilt of a defendant is no longer in doubt and the only question remaining is whether he should be held responsible for his actions. The burden of proof is on the defense ---- and there is not a whole lot you can do that is likely to be persuasive.

    • Whatever happened to I dunno, finding EVIDENCE?

      Good question. Just tell us where to find evidence that he's insane...

      • He went into a crowded theatre and shot at 100+ unarmed people...,

        Normal people don't do that every day?

    • by GrumpySteen (1250194) on Wednesday March 13, 2013 @08:14AM (#43158537)

      Stop redefining words. Torture is the use of pain and/or harm on another living being. Period. Making someone feel dopey to get information from them may be immoral, but it is absolutely not torture.

      • by X0563511 (793323)

        Thank you for saying what needed to be said. I'd have modded you up if I had points at the moment.

    • Apparently you missed the point that the judge is merely telling them that if he changes his plea to "Not guilty by reason of insanity" (from "Not Guilty" which is the default plea, since he did not enter a plea) he may need to submit to these drugs in order to support the insanity claim. The courts have consistently ruled that when a defendant claims that they should not be held accountable for crimes they have committed because they were insane at the time (and may still be insane) the burden of proof of
    • by Aaden42 (198257)

      This isn't a matter of trying to gather evidence to establish guilt. My understanding of the case is that there's no shortage of physical evidence and testimony to find him guilty. Any information gathered through this process would be used to determine if the defendant was legally culpable, not whether he actually committed the offense. The intent is to determine mens rea, and whether he was mentally capable of understanding what he was doing. That he committed the act is considered a given (and someth

    • They have him at the scene with a fired weapon arrested by the police. Guilty for one, guilty for them all... If there's anybody else to catch?

      They don't NEED evidence except to justify 55 consecutive life sentences... So that he NEVER gets paroled.

  • Questionable at best (Score:5, Interesting)

    by sjames (1099) on Wednesday March 13, 2013 @04:58AM (#43157489) Homepage

    How can he be meaningfully represented by an attorney when he's too stoned out of his gourd on pentathal to be sure which disembodied voice is the lawyer and which is the interrogator?

    Are they willing to grant blanket immunity to anything else he might confess? Given that the doses of pentathal used make the person compliant, how do they distinguish an inconvenient truth he might tell from a fabrication he tells because it seems like what the interrogator wants to hear? There's a reason it's not actually used anymore. Perhaps the judge takes TV much too seriously!

    I'd claim it undermines my faith in the criminal justice system, but that ship sailed long ago.

    • The lawyer and the "interrogator" will agree on questions prior to the "interrogation", and no deviation from that would be allowed. Anything offered by the subject voluntarily would not be submissable.

      • The lawyer and the "interrogator" will agree on questions prior to the "interrogation", and no deviation from that would be allowed. Anything offered by the subject voluntarily would not be submissable.

        If you stray off topic while under a "truth serum", is that "voluntarily offering" the information?

    • Once you declare "insanity" you are safe from prosecution.... BUT you're a permant ward of the State until they feel you are safe to release. As a "ward" you are treated like a child in that you cannot legally "lie" because you are handicap..., but that doesn't mean the court cannot order therapy to attempt to see through the psychosis.

      I think this is a slightly veiled threat that if he chooses the "insanity" defense he is going to be treated like a dumb, violent animal... Forever. After the judge starts th

      • by demonlapin (527802) on Wednesday March 13, 2013 @06:02AM (#43157761) Homepage Journal
        People who commit murder under the definition of legal insanity are dumb, violent animals; they have been absolved of their culpability for what they do, and thus of their humanity. I've worked at a psychiatric hospital and met them. "Dumb, violent animals" is a pretty accurate description. "Should never leave custody" is another one. They shouldn't be in jail, but they're not fit for society either.
  • by obarthelemy (160321) on Wednesday March 13, 2013 @05:32AM (#43157627)

    There's no possible positive outcome for him. And it shows utter lack of empathy. And it doesn't really achieve any goals. I mean, the 9/11 terrorists at least believed they would be getting heaven (with virgins on top), empathized with people back home, and achieved the goal of getting some kind of message out and terrorizing the US. He achieved nothing remotely close to any of that.

    That's not to say he shouldn't be judged though. Killers are killers, all are some kind of insane.

    • by Jah-Wren Ryel (80510) on Wednesday March 13, 2013 @06:23AM (#43157883)

      > He obviously has to be insane

      Legal insanity is a very narrowly defined state. There are all kinds of things the lay person would consider insane that don't automatically qualify as legal insanity.

      I think that is the root of the problem with this case - definition of legal insanity is so technical that enough people in the legal profession in colorado have assumed that it is mechanical -- press a 'button' in his brain and get an aswer, same way every time.

      If any actual psychiatric doctors have signed off for this plan, I would expect them to be far from mainstream in their field.

      • > He obviously has to be insane

        Legal insanity is a very narrowly defined state. There are all kinds of things the lay person would consider insane that don't automatically qualify as legal insanity.

        Yep. Specifically, you need insanity that negates the intentional aspect of your act. As was explained to me by my criminal law professor, if your dog tells you to kill the mailman and you do, you're insane and believing in a talking dog, but you intended to commit murder. If, however, you go to offer your mailman a banana and it goes off and shoots him, you're insane and think a gun is a banana, but you never intended to commit murder.

    • by Nidi62 (1525137)

      That's not to say he shouldn't be judged though. Killers are killers, all are some kind of insane.

      I was always thought that there was an interesting argument in Starship Troopers, when Dillinger is being hung (note that I am not necessarily advocating this, but I will admit that I support capital punishment):

      If Dillinger had understood what he was doing (which seemed incredible) then he got what was coming to him. .. except that it seemed a shame that he hadn’t suffered as much as had little Barbara Anne — he practically hadn’t suffered at all.

      But suppose, as seemed more likely, that he was so crazy that he had never been aware that he was doing anything wrong? What then?...

      I couldn’t see but two possibilities. Either he couldn’t be made well in which case he was better dead for his own sake and for the safety of others—or he could be treated and made sane. In which case (it seemed to me) if he ever became sane enough for civilized society. .. and thought over what he had done while he was “sick”—what could be left for him but suicide? How could he live with himself? And suppose he escaped before he was cured and did the same thing again? And maybe again? How do you explain that to bereaved parents? In view of his record? I couldn’t see but one answer.

      • by bluefoxlucid (723572) on Wednesday March 13, 2013 @08:08AM (#43158491) Journal

        Heinlein makes an interesting point, though I don't like the suicide aspect. The reason we have plea-by-insanity is it's "inhumane" to punish people for being crazy.

        Here's my thing: It's eugenics. It's all eugenics. Criminals? We jail criminals to keep them out of society, not to rehabilitate them. Hopefully they die in there without breeding. Murderers, we execute--remove from society, remove their social influence and hopefully they don't breed either. The insane? Why would we not execute an insane murderer? Do you want to treat him so he can be "normal" and make more genetically brain damaged little children who can murder more normal, sane people and then get treatment too, until they've slowly eroded our society and replaced it with a bunch of insane people?!

        Justifiable homicides: Self defense, defense of others, severe coercion (someone is going to murder you/your family--yeah, sucks, we have all kinds of funny ideals about how you should go to the police, but what then? Your 10 year old daughter gets murdered by having her vagina pulled inside out slowly with fishhooks, while you're duct taped to a chair to watch... no, people fall to psychological pressure; go find the real criminal).

        Unjustifiable homicides: Vengeance, thrill, insurance money (greed), etc.

        I don't care if you're nuts. If you are prone to kill people, we need to get rid of you.

    • by mrbester (200927)

      The virgins are on top? I'm converting right now!

    • Well there are some completely logical and sane reason to kill people, but no real logical reasons to go on shooting sprees unless he planned on and wanted to go to jail or commit suicide.

      I think the legal definition of insane is: insane in a way that we understand well and in particular if we can easily treat it.
      If he looks and acts obviously cookoo and no one would attribute logical thought to him, he is legally insane.
      Also, if he can take this simple drug once a week and be a completely normal person, he

  • In English, please (Score:5, Insightful)

    by wonkey_monkey (2592601) on Wednesday March 13, 2013 @05:38AM (#43157649) Homepage
    Or at least with correct punctuation and grammar.

    James Holmes representation

    Sounds like the name of a law firm. I assume what was meant was "James Holmes's representation."

    did not enter a plea today in with regards to the Aurora, Co. Movie theater shooting

    Whut?

    The judge entered an advisory that if the plea was changed to Not Guilty by insanity that Holmes would be subject to a 'narcoanalytic interview'

    Too many "that"s.

    with the possibility of medically appropriate substances could be used

    Either "with the possibility that..." or "...being used."

    Holmes defense

    "Holmes's defense"

    but as the previous article seems to infer that some compromises are being worked out.

    This one's hard to parse. Is it "but as the previous article seems to infer, some compromises are being worked out."? Also, which "previous" article? I wouldn't be surprised if you've got "infer" and "imply" mixed up as well, but as I can't work out which article is being referred to, I can't check this.

    This certainly raises legal questions on how this is being played out 5th, 14th amendments.

    Err, yes, it does. Wait, what?

    Slashdot. Unreadable news to annoy nerds.

    • by OzPeter (195038) on Wednesday March 13, 2013 @06:03AM (#43157771)

      Or at least with correct punctuation and grammar.

      You must be new here. Pointing out that the editors are clueless idiots and then having them ignore any valid criticism is just a part of "charm" of the site.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 13, 2013 @06:10AM (#43157811)

    So the next time they find a body lodged underneath a house with 600 bullets in it, we can use this on the police officers involved? "Sorry guys, we were on patrol and found a kid who backtalked us. We chased him and shot him hundreds of times, then planted a weapon on his remains."

    Or is this only for use on non-cops, non-government and non-ruling-class?

  • One danger is that they may give him too much and he starts saying weird things about frogs...(Apologies to DNA)

  • If they judge him insane, then he can claim that he was incapable of making the decision to allow the truth serum

    If they judge him sane, then he can claim that any information gathered under truth serum is tainted; since he was already sane, the truth serum can only make him less sane.

  • This is a little off topic but I've had a somewhat relevant thought over the years: I think every death row inmate should be required to take a polygraph (with or without any drugs and blood tests you like) before they can be executed. If the inmate passes the exam, there should be an automatic indefinite delay in execution, and the case should be re-opened. There are dozens of documented cases of wrongful executions, the people on death row usually (yes, I read "usually" somewhere) get public defenders
    • by Dcnjoe60 (682885)

      This is a little off topic but I've had a somewhat relevant thought over the years: I think every death row inmate should be required to take a polygraph (with or without any drugs and blood tests you like) before they can be executed.

      If the inmate passes the exam, there should be an automatic indefinite delay in execution, and the case should be re-opened. There are dozens of documented cases of wrongful executions, the people on death row usually (yes, I read "usually" somewhere) get public defenders who have been or will be disbarred, many are unable to help themselves intelligently, and some are intimidated into confessions. I'm not keen on execution to begin with, but if we're going to have it, a redundant test of guilt would be a very good thing.

      Polygraphs are about as accurate at determining the truth as IQ tests are at determining intelligence. It is all very subjective and open to the interpretation of the polygrapher.

    • by afeeney (719690)

      It's quite true that many people on death row are innocent; we've seen enough cases where later DNA evidence exonerated them. In many of these cases, the inmates even pleaded guilty, either because they believed that a guilty plea might help their case, they were coerced, or were mentally incapable of understanding the situation.

      However, a polygraph is about as scientifically valid as a palm reading. They measure stress levels, which can be affected by existing mental illness, PTSD, fear, emotional stress

    • So you'd grant an indefinite delay in execution to all psychopaths, pathological liars and people who have been trained to cheat polygraphs?

  • There's actually no scientific reason to believe that so-called "truth serum" makes someone tell the truth. As suggested in the original article, what these drugs really do is lower inhibitions, which may, in some cases, cause a suspect to drop their guard and say things they otherwise wouldn't. Of course, you could just get them drunk and the results would be about the same, since alcohol also lowers inhibitions. As the ancients said – in vino, veritas.

  • Just sayin'.

  • by gurps_npc (621217) on Wednesday March 13, 2013 @09:28AM (#43159225) Homepage
    No one and I mean NO ONE ever fakes permanent insanity to get out of a murder charge.

    Why? Because once they lock you up for being insane, they treat you FAR worse than being a mere criminal prisoner. Also, (unlike Batman's world) it is generally much harder to get of the insane asylum than it is to get parole.

    What criminals typically try to plead is 'temporary insanity', where you claim you were insane, but aren't anymore. But Judges and Juries typically only grant that when they think the victim deserved it - as in "When that drug dealer raped and killed my 12 year old daughter I went temporarily insane and shot him in the head 14 times. But I'm feeling much better now."

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