Facts on Forensic Hypnosis
On July 25, 1976 three young men kidnapped 26 summer school children and their bus driver. You may have heard of the Chowchilla California kidnapping case. The children and driver were forced into a buried cargo container while the kidnappers demanded ransom. Fortunately the children and driver escaped from this would be grave and were reunited with their loved ones. Frank Edward Ray, the 55-year-old bus driver, underwent hypnosis to refresh his memory of the kidnapping. While under hypnosis he was able to provide 5 of the 6 numbers on the license plate of the van used by the kidnappers. All three were caught and sentenced to long term jail sentences. This sensational case documents the possibilities in using hypnosis for memory recall. Other cases in which hypnosis was used to provide details include the Boston Strangler, Ted Bundy, Sam Sheppard (the Fugitive) and thousands of lesser crimes.
The book Forensic Hypnosis by Hibbard and Worring defines forensic hypnosis as the application and management of the science of hypnosis in criminal and civil investigations. The primary purpose of this investigative tool is to use hypnosis to enhance the memory and recall of willing witnesses and victims of crimes. In recent years the use of forensic hypnosis by defendants has been increasing as well. While the book discusses the use of forensic hypnosis in criminal and civil cases there are many other applications for memory recall within the general public. Have you ever hidden something valuable in a place so that no one would ever find it only to discover you can’t remember the location either? What about the name of that person you were so fond on in elementary or high school? Or, the telephone number of that person you met in the airport or on vacation that seemed like such a promising customer? Forensic hypnosis is the right tool for these memory recall situations.
While the use of forensic hypnosis can aid in memory recall care must be taken in several aspects, especially if the hypnotically recalled events may be used in a criminal or civil trial. In some states including New York and Connecticut the prosecution can use only pre-hypnosis testimony. The US SupremeCourt has ruled in Rock v. Arkansas (1986) that defendants are able to use hypnotically recalled testimony in their defense. Other precautions are that from start to finish the session must be recorded so the court can be assured that proper procedures were followed. False memory (confabulation) is avoided by using a specifically trained forensic hypnotist that understands how to avoid leading questions. Finally, the information gained from the hypnosis session must be corroborated with other evidence just like statements that are received out of conscious memory. A person does not lose control when in hypnosis and can lie while in hypnosis if they choose to do so. A trained forensic hypnotist understands the pit falls that may prevent hypnotically recalled information from being used in a court of law.
Hypnotically refreshed memory comes from accessing long-term memories. Since we take time to process short term memory into long term memory it is best to wait until several days after the incident. There does not appear to be a limit to the length of time a stored memory can be recalled. People in hypnosis have successfully recalled specific and minute details of events that happened more than twenty or thirty years ago. The perpetrator of a crime may lose conscious memory over time to the specific details leading police and others to doubt their claims of guilt. Hypnotically refreshed recall could be used to discover if in fact the person knows those details that prove they were involved.
I hope most of your questions about Forensic hypnosis have been answered, if you should have any other questions, please feel free to call or e-mail.