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Read the complete transcript of this episode, which aired on May 4th, 2004.

Episode 8: Brain Fingerprinting

Watch any murder mystery on television, read any crime story in the papers, and there's bound to be a mention of a lie detector test. Today, most of us think of the polygraph's spikes and drops as a classic (but flawed) indicator of truth and deception. But a revolutionary technology called "Brain Fingerprinting" may be about to change our perceptions. This episode takes viewers onto Oklahoma's death row, where convicted murderer Jimmie Ray Slaughter is awaiting execution. In a last-ditch attempt to get the case back into court, Slaughter's attorneys have called upon Dr. Lawrence Farwell, the neuroscientist who developed this controversial new test.

"Brain Fingerprinting" is a portrait of a technology at the tipping point -- only time will tell whether it is all its inventor claims it to be, or a tool that has been caught up in its own hype.
While conventional lie detectors rely on fluctuations in respiration, perspiration and blood pressure, "Brain Fingerprinting" is based on a sub-set of brain waves that register as brief electrical patterns when a person recognizes familiar stimuli. Imagine, for instance, that a murder suspect maintains his innocence. While in custody, he is read certain words related to the crime in question. A computer measures the brain's response to these stimuli, yielding results that suggest whether or not the suspect's memory holds information about the crime that only the perpetrator could know. But is this emerging technology ready for public acceptance?

After performing the test on Jimmie Ray Slaughter, Farwell has announced that the inmate did not know certain key facts about the crime. Slaughter, who claims he is innocent, hopes his lawyers will be able to use the test to get him a stay of execution. But others, including the Oklahoma District Attorney, claim the "Brain Fingerprinting" test is severely flawed. Dr. Farwell's former mentor Dr. Emanuel Donchin, also weighs in with his viewpoints about applying the brainwave science outside of a laboratory environment.

"Brain Fingerprinting" is a portrait of a technology at the tipping point -- only time will tell whether it is all its inventor claims it to be, or a tool that has been caught up in its own hype. Is it a powerful forensic tool that will far surpass the accuracy of the polygraph test and permanently change the way suspects are convicted or freed?

With a first ever death-row interview from Jimmie Ray Slaughter, and detailed explanations about how the "Brain Fingerprinting" process works, this film follows the real-life introduction of this controversial new technology, and follows what could be the last battle of a man condemned to die.

Jimmie Ray Slaughter Executed
Claiming the results of his brain fingerprint test and additional DNA testing on a hair found at the crime scene were new evidence not presented at the original trial, Jimmie Ray Slaughter petitioned the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals for a new evidentiary hearing in March 2004. The judges found brain fingerprinting to have insufficient scientific documentation to be admitted as evidence and denied Slaughterıs request in January 2005 and again on March 10, 2005. The U.S. 10th Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the lower courtıs decision and denied the appeal, at which point a date for his execution was set. The U.S. Supreme Court denied his application for a stay of execution, and with all his appeal options exhausted, Jimmie Ray Slaughter was executed by lethal injection on March 15, 2005 in Oklahoma.

Producer/Director: Michael Epstein
Producer: Caroline Suh
Producer: Maro Chermayeff

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