2006-04-02

"Brain-mapping" criminals in India

Thank you for your query. We will get back to you as soon as possible.

Regards,
Mumbai Police


With that, then, I pause my search. Since finding the news via OmniBrain I've been reading more about the rape conviction of Abhishek Kasliwal in India due in part to "brain-mapping" lie detection purported by the government to have 99.99% efficiency. In North America, the UK and elsewhere neuroscience has been applying fMRI neuroimaging to lie detection in experiments but it hasn't faced the courts yet, and controversy abounds.

In India EEG is being applied to a range of high profile criminal cases. It was given to a Bollywood starlet accused of murdering a man who attacked her after offering a major film role and marriage. It's now been used to convict a rapist; Khaliwal apparently failed the test, though I have no test to point at, just a few sentences repeated in English-language Indian newsmedia about how the "brain-mapping" helped convict him.

The case: a 52-year-old woman picked up on the street by a man in a Mercedes and raped in the parking lot of a major carpet business owned by the accused's family - he's a somewhat famous rich kid, a powerful figure in a caste society while she's (possibly) a prostitute - witnessed by five people including his family's own security guard. One witness described bruises on the woman's neck, a broken hand, scratches, difficulty walking. The hospital medical report confirms she was forcibly raped. Whether or not he gave her money at some point is irrelevant. Prostitutes are victimized too. They're a favourite target of serial killers. In this case, the media can't say she's a prostitute, just that she was picked up in a red light district and offered alcohol and she "accepted a ride" but the prosecution is careful not to say she was working. If they did, they'd probably lose the case, looking at public sentiment around the question of whether or not she was a prostitute, so forensics must be strong. They found physical evidence in his car, they had her medical report, and his, which turned up scratches on his arms and hands. They don't mention DNA fingerprinting.

However, with all that plus a positive ID in a police lineup they also conducted EEG and polygraph tests. "Brain-mapping."

Brain mapping more often refers to neuroanatomical studies. In the sense they're using the term in India, it began as an investigative aid using neuroimaging in connection with a terrorist attack some years back and now the Forensic Sciences Laboratories use it often. Unfortunately I haven't found out exactly how, what questions they're using in the interrogations, etc., and P300, EEG and ERP were the only technical terms I found. This article from 2004 is vague. This is the most specific info I found: "[Kasliwal] was attached to 32 electrodes and shown pictures and words associated with the crime. His brain responses were noted down during this brain mapping test."

I do predict that now it's hit the blogosphere, some may be alarmed at this judicious use of a primitive technology (dates back to 1965, which in neuroscience terms is prehistoric) while they're debating much more refined applications. That's really another issue. What I would like to point out here is that the police have compiled a massive amount of evidence against a rapist and used the scan as just one more factor - it wasn't the determinant, and the case shouldn't fall if the technology should fail. Let's not call for the Kasliwal's release when so much points to jail. Should it be used in general? Human rights in India are what's really at stake in this case. If neuroscience helps convinct a criminal in a case in which dozens of people are attacking the victim instead (she deserved it for multiple reasons, according to many of the all-male voices in the Indian media) of the criminal, I'm glad. This is a political battle and if science works in favour of the victim, doubly victimized in a misogynist society, that's positive.

But - what of the rights of the accused? Is there an infringement?

I share what I've found; visit what I've linked in del.icio.us and add your own tagged "kasliwal_case" - I'm looking to find more about EEG in lie detection. Not more comments about how it wasn't really rape because she was a prostitute. If the EEG helps prove it was, as one more piece in a solid array of evidence in an strong case fighting a very biased scenario, then great.

But would I rest a capital case on EEG lie detection? I doubt it, but bring on the evidence. There's data mining to do in India. I look forward to what is found tomorrow.

2 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

But what about misuse of "Brain mapping tool ",Here in India employeers(mostly software companies) are using these tools for thire administration purpose,vendors would be be selling for the same.But some dirty minded people misusing this tool to annoy employees.I was victim of that (Its quit big story),But cant do anything againt him. Its big irony if indian judicery is not using brain mapping.

8/8/08 12:27  
Anonymous varun vinayan said...

could u please give me the citation of the above mentioned case..the AIR or CrLJ citation if u have it???... mail me at varun.vinayan@gmail.com

9/8/08 06:03  

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