Technology and science may be getting more advance in our society, but the use of truth serum in court proceedings is still something of sci-fi fanfare. The use of sodium amobarbital, also known as “truth serum” is being considered to use on James Holmes, the shooter from Aurora, CO who open fire and killed 12, and injured dozens during the midnight release of The Dark Knight Rises. Those in favor are claiming this drug will allow experts to determine whether Mr. Holmes has a true psychiatric disorder to back up his insanity plea.
In theory it might be interesting to consider the implications of a truth drug in the judicial system. No doubt there may be ramifications of forced use on a person’s individual rights, but we can work out legal once we actually create a viable option. Sodium amobarbital looks like a great drug in movies, a small injection and people begin to spill their deepest secrets in a slurring and comedic way. In reality, a person who has the drug will demonstrate many of the “drunk like” behaviors, but are still able to lie. And what’s more concerning is that those under the influence are at an increased risk of manipulation, being very prone to suggestions.
Sodium amobarbital can work for different therapeutic interventions, but is not always reliable, and certainly not a way to definitively prove guilt. It seems to me, although I hold no education in legal proceedings, that the use of such a drug might be an opening for a case to be thrown out or overturned, allowing for a greater loophole. The search for truth should not open up the door for more falsehoods.
Written by Courtney Kidd, LMSW, SJS Staff Writer