News and Commentary Archive

Explore recent scientific discoveries and news as well as CLBB events, commentary, and press.

Mission

The speed of technology in neuroscience as it impacts ethical and just decisions in the legal system needs to be understood by lawyers, judges, public policy makers, and the general public. The Massachusetts General Hospital Center for Law, Brain, and Behavior is an academic and professional resource for the education, research, and understanding of neuroscience and the law. Read more

The Dark Side of Interrogation

By Drake Bennett | Bloomberg | February 12, 2015

In August 2003, six months after the U.S. invasion of Iraq and four months into the bloody insurgency that followed, Steve Kleinman, an Air Force lieutenant colonel, arrived in the country as part of a special operations task force based out of Baghdad International Airport. A lean man with an angular face and a faintly Californian cadence, Kleinman had been an intelligence officer for almost two decades. He had questioned high-level prisoners of war during the 1989 invasion of Panama and Iraqi generals during Operation Desert Storm, and he’d run the Air Force Combat Interrogation Course. At the Baghdad airport, however, he witnessed techniques he hadn’t seen in the field. In one of the plywood-walled interrogation rooms he saw a detainee slapped in the face each time he answered a question. Outside another room was a taped-up sheet of paper with the words “1 hour sleep, 3 hrs. awake, ½ hr. on knees, ½ sitting down, 1 hr. standing, ½ hr. knees” written on it. At the bottom it read, “Repeat.”

“This was a year before Abu Ghraib. It was going on in Iraq and Afghanistan, and of course at Guantanamo,” Kleinman says. “Sometimes I got to the point where I had to literally order them to stop. Even then there was surprising blowback. People thought I was coddling terrorists.” Kleinman didn’t think of himself as soft, though, just empirical. In his free time he was an avid consumer of behavioral science research papers, and over the years he’d experimented, in an ad hoc way, with the ideas he found there. Continue reading »

Will Lie Detectors Ever Get Their Day in Court Again?

By Matt Stroud | Bloomberg | February 2, 2015

This article features interview with CLBB Co-Director Judith Edersheim, JD, MD. Dr. Edersheim’s 2014 paper, “A Polygraph Primer: What Litigators Need to Know,” written with Ekaterina Pivovarova, Justin Baker and Bruce Price, about the accuracy of the polygraph test, is cited.

By the beginning of February 1935, defense and prosecution attorneys in the criminal trial of Tony Grignano and Cecil Loniello were at a crossroads. The two men stood accused of attempting to kill a sheriff in Portage, Wis., and all of the evidence was circumstantial—the word of the sheriff against the word of the defendants. But Judge Clayton F. Van Pelt thought he could change that.

The judge had heard about the work of the Scientific Crime Detection Laboratory at Northwestern University’s School of Law, where Professor Leonarde Keeler had spent more than a decade tinkering with a portable device to measure the responses of skin and blood pressure during questioning. In the hands of a trained expert, Keeler said, the device could help identify whether someone was telling the truth. While the Keeler Polygraph had been a showpiece at the 1933 Chicago World’s Fair, it had never been used in a criminal trial. On Feb. 2, 1935—exactly 80 years ago—Keeler used his polygraph test and determined that Grignano and Loniello were likely lying. The professor and his machine ended up persuading the jury. Continue reading »