Two prison inmates housed on death row in the Texas Department of Criminal Justice say that forensic hypnosis resulted in their wrongful convictions.
A lawyer representing both men, Gregory Gardener says that cases like those of his clients are the source of serious questions regarding a technique that has been used to aid both victims and witnesses at remembering details of crimes.
The two inmates, Kosoul Chanthakoummane and Charles Don Flores were convicted and sentenced to death row only after hypnosis was used on witnesses so that they could remember the faces of people they had seen near crime scenes.
The many supporters of forensic hypnosis applaud the technique for its ability to help witnesses and victims recover memories that would have otherwise been lost to them. Conversely, those that oppose the use of forensic hypnosis says that the danger is much too prevalent that witnesses will be given false memories due to leading questions from interviewers.
The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals has made the decision to make Texas one of approximately half the states in the country that allow testimony that has been given through hypnosis to be allowed as evidence. The Texas appeals court did put 10 safeguards in place following a 1988 case known as Zani V. State after a challenge was made to the state’s use of this evidence. The ten procedural safeguards are aptly referred to as “Zani Factors.”
Examples of Zani Factors are requiring that sessions of hypnosis are to be recorded and disallowing an investigator on a given case to also conduct the interview while the witness is hypnotized.
There are two dozen recognized forensic hypnotist working in the state of Texas with the majority being employed by either the Texas Rangers or the Sheriff’s Department of Harris County. It is not immediately clear how often the procedure is used in the state of Texas but the Rangers say that two dozen hypnosis sessions were performed by their hypnotist over the years 2016 and 2017.
Tom Vinger, a spokesman for the Texas Department of Public Safety says that few cases require the procedure to be used and that all information gained through hypnosis must be corroborated by other evidenced acquired during the investigation.