"Debate on brain scans as lie detectors highlighted in Maryland murder trial," is the Washington Post report by Michael Laris.
Gary Smith says he didn’t kill his roommate. Montgomery County prosecutors say otherwise.
Can brain scans show whether he’s lying?
Smith is about to go on trial in the 2006 shooting death of fellow Army Ranger Michael McQueen. He has long said that McQueen committed suicide, but now he says he has cutting-edge science to back that up.
While technicians watched his brain during an MRI, Smith answered a series of questions, including: “Did you kill Michael McQueen?”
It may sound like science fiction. But some of the nation’s leading neuroscientists, who are using the same technology to study Alzheimer’s disease and memory, say it also can show — at least in the low-stakes environment of a laboratory — when someone is being deceptive.
Many experts doubt whether the technology is ready for the real world, and judges have kept it out of the courtroom.
Over three days, Montgomery County Circuit Court Judge Eric M. Johnson allowed pretrial testimony about what he called the “absolutely fascinating” issues involved, from the minutiae of brain analysis to the nature of truth and lies. But he decided jurors can’t see Smith’s MRI testing.
“There have been some discoveries that deception may be able to be detected,” Johnson said, but he added that there’s no consensus that the results can be trusted. “These are brilliant people, and they don’t agree.”
Still, researchers and legal experts say they can envision a time when such brain scans are used as lie detectors. Standard polygraphs are generally not admitted in trials because some consider them deeply flawed. During his police interrogation, Smith said he would submit himself to a polygraph, but Johnson said such results would not be allowed as evidence.
Smith’s attorney, Andrew V. Jezic, argued in court that the MRI test should be allowed, and neuroscientists sparred over the credibility and usefulness in a jury trial.