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Overcoming objections to the admissibility of lie-detection evidence

Mechanical lie-detection evidence, like other science-based evidence such as DNA, should be admissible in court provided it is subjected to robust cross-examination, says Richard Easton

25 January 2013

One day on Mount Olympus, satirist to the gods Momus noticed an important oversight in the making of man: “Why have you forgotten to put in a window so we can see what the humans are thinking?”. A recent case from the USA suggests that functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) of the brain might open an aperture through which our honesty can be peeped at. Will the cortex replace the court? Or is the fMRI a forensic mirage along with polygraphs and truth serums? And why exactly, of all the obscure expert evidence English courts readily admit, is lie-detection verboten?

Late last year, the US Court of Appeals Sixth Circuit in USA v Semrau [2012] WL 3871357 grappled for the first time with the admissibility of fMRI evidence of a defendant’s veracity in criminal proceedings. Semrau was convicted of three counts of fraud by a Tennessee district court after being refused permission to rely on fMRI evidence showing ...

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