The U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear an appeal from a Texas death row inmate who argued that hypnosis helped convict him of murder, reports the Dallas Morning News. The decision was a blow to inmate Charles Don Flores, who was sentenced to death for the murder of Farmers Branch resident Elizabeth “Betty” Black in 1998. It was also a setback for critics of the use of hypnosis by Texas law enforcement officers, who had hoped the Supreme Court would rule that investigative hypnosis is junk science that has no place in U.S. courts.
Investigative hypnosis is a technique used by police attempting to guide witnesses or victims into a trance so they might better recall details of a crime. Texas has become the country’s premier destination for police hypnosis — both in training and practice — even though the scientific consensus is that the practice can warp memories. While many other states ban the testimony of people who have been hypnotized, or bar the introduction of evidence elicited during hypnosis sessions, law enforcement officers in Texas have used hypnosis to investigate hundreds of crimes over the years, sending dozens to prison — and some to their deaths.