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Law and Biosciences Blog

Hot News! 6th Circuit Affirms in US v. Semrau – Says "No" to fMRI Lie Detection

I’ll be back with more on this latter, but I just learned that the Sixth Circuit has affirmed the conviction in U.S. v. Semrau.  The opinion, written by Judge Stranch and joined by Judges White and Farris (CA 9, sitting by designatio) , can be downloaded here.  A major issue, discussed at length in the unanimous opinion, was the trial court’s exclusion of the defendant’s offer of evidence about an fMRI-based lie detection report from Cephos.  The Court of Appeals affirmed the exclusion of the evidence under both Rule 702 (scientific evidence) and Rule 403 (balance of probative value and prejudice).

This seems to me the right decision – at least based on what we know now about fMRI-based lie detection (aided and abetted by some problems with the actual use of the method in the Semrau case).  Congratulations of Marc Raichle and Peter Imrey, who served as expert witnesses against admission during the pretrial hearing, and to Assistant U.S. Attorney Stuart Canale.  And, on a CLB-personal note, the opinion cited by Stanford Law Review article, Through a Scanner Darkly:  Functional Neuroimaging as Evidence of a Criminal Defendant’s Past Mental States, by two of our former fellows, Teneille Brown and Emily Murphy, as well as the article Judy Illes and I wrote on fMRI-based lie detection, Neuroscience-Based Lie Detection:  The Urgent Need for Regulation, in the American Journal of Law and Medicine.

Hank Greely

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