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Truthiness? No Lie MRI Hits the Legal System

In what appears to be a first, defense attorneys are offering fMRI-based lie detection as evidence of their client's innocence in a legal case in southern California. The Stanford Center for Law & the Biosciences has the story:

The case is a child protection hearing being conducted in the juvenile court. In brief, and because the details of the case are sealed and of a sensitive nature, the issue is whether a minor has suffered sexual abuse at the hands of a custodial parent and should remain removed from the home.

fMRI scans performed by No Lie MRI, a company that offers brain-scan lie detection services, apparently found that the parent was telling the truth when he denied molesting the child.

The company claims its proprietary software can identify deception by analyzing fMRI scans of brain activity collected as a subject responds to questions posed by a technician.

No Lie MRI President Joel Huizenga would neither confirm nor deny the company's involvement in this or any other case. Huizenga also declined to say whether there have been previous attempts to introduce evidence generated by No Lie MRI in a legal case, saying only that "it has never been accepted nor denied in court."

Stanford's Emily Murphy says the case came to her attention when the prosecuting attorney contacted Stanford seeking information on the scientific validity of fMRI-based lie detection. Many neuroscientists have serious doubts that the technology is ready for real-world legal cases, and Murphy says she and her colleagues are helping the prosecution find suitable expert witnesses to testify on its limitations during the evidentiary hearing, which has not yet been scheduled. "We really think there's a lot of people out there in the community who think this would be a really dangerous precedent if it were admitted," she says.