Shostack + Friends Blog Archive


Brain fingerprint clears prisoner

Wow. An innocent man has been freed based upon his “brain fingerprint”. This happened over a year ago, but hey, I’ve been busy.

The murder conviction of an Iowa man was overturned last year by that state’s highest court on the basis of a new technique called “brain fingerprinting”.
Terry Harrington had served more than two decades for murder, when the court reversed the conviction. Brain fingerprinting convinced the court that the “records” in Harrington’s brain did not match the scene of the crime or the details of the case.
If he had committed the murder, parts of his brain would have emitted an electrical response that showed some recognition of photographs and evidence pertaining to the crime, according to the court.

This via the very cool site, to which I naturally, I was led when Adam objected to the characterization of the Chaos Computer Club as guerilla innovators.
So, the natural next question is whether the same technique can be used to prove that a suspect had memories of an incident that only the perpetrator would have. Kind of a technologically-enhanced version of the old “upon questioning, the suspect revealed an awareness of details which only the murderer would know”. The next next question is whether false memories would cause the same type of brain activity.

2 comments on "Brain fingerprint clears prisoner"

  • Ryan Russell says:

    Hey, if you’re guilty, it sounds like a good reason to have some elective brain damage.

  • John Kelsey says:

    The other interesting question is whether I can plant the right kinds of memories for you to respond. For example, during questioning I show you some pictures of the crime scene during hours of intense questioning.
    I hope that during the next few years, we get some serious scientific evaluation of a lot of these questioning techniques. I gather there are still genuine unanswered questions about how accurate fingerprint identification is in practice, even though we’ve been using that stuff forever!

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