San Marcos Mercury | Local News from San Marcos and Hays County, Texas

May 20th, 2009
Hays County Sheriff’s Office hires hypnotist

News Reporter

The Hays County Sheriff’s Office (HCSO) will soon have the option of using hypnosis to probe the minds of witnesses and victims of crimes.

Sheriff Tommy Ratliff hired forensic hypnotist Kevin Ficke to replace Chris Bartsch as the Criminal Investigation Division Lieutenant. Ficke started on Monday.

One of Ficke’s first tasks will be to update the department’s written policies and procedures with guidelines describing the proper use of hypnosis in criminal investigations.

“(Hypnosis is) a very good tool — it’s another tool in law enforcement that we use, whenever you have somebody that might have seen a license plate or seen a partial license plate or seen somebody, and maybe it’s not real clear in their head,” Ratliff told Hays County commissioners during their April 27 meeting.

Law enforcement agencies are generally free to use hypnosis as an investigative tool, though some state supreme courts have outlawed hypnotically-influenced testimony.

Texas courts allow hypnotically-influenced testimony in civil cases and criminal cases by both the prosecution and defense only if a hypnotic procedure has not been found to be tainted by hypersuggestibility, loss of critical judgment, confabulation, and memory cementing.

Texas State University Professor Randall Osborne, who teaches forensic psychology, said there are “very legitimate reasons” to be wary of using hypnotically-refreshed memories as evidence in court.

“People that recall details while they’re hypnotized … tend to be very confident in their memory, even though there’s no data to suggest that they actually have recalled it more accurately,” Osborne said. “In other words, it increases their confidence, even though it might not actually increase the quality of the memories. And there’s some pretty good research that shows that jurors find confident testimony very convincing. And so anything that enhances the confidence but doesn’t enhance the accuracy, I think we should use very, very wisely. Jurors will, more often than not, confuse confidence with accuracy.”

Osborne said a witness’ desire to be helpful, in conjunction with subtle bias present in the questions of an interviewer using hypnosis, can lead to a witness supplying a false recollection.

“Fortunately, the people who are trained to do hypnosis are also trained in the appropriate interviewing techniques to use, so that they’re not more likely to get that biased report,” Osborne said.

Despite his reservations, Osborne said the benefits of using hypnosis as an investigative tool in law enforcement outweigh the risks.

“Anxiety interferes with our ability to remember,” Osborne said. “And so, (for) a witness who is traumatized or a witnesses who is anxious or nervous, (hypnosis) may be a very effective way to bring them down to a level of calmness and cooperation that allows them to be more effective as a witness.”

Texas was the first state to require mandatory training, testing and certification of police officers who use hypnotic interviewing techniques. Texas law enforcement officers must take a course approved by the Commission on Law Enforcement Officer Standards and Education and pass a 100-question multiple choice test before qualifying for an investigative hypnosis proficiency certificate.

“Most research shows that, compared with people who have not been hypnotized, people under hypnosis tend to recall more detail about an event,” states an article in the 2004 edition of the International Encyclopedia of the Social & Behavioral Sciences. “They also usually feel confident that their recollections are correct. However, their stories contain a great deal of inaccurate information, even more so than in the case of nonhypnotized subjects. It is generally accepted that forensic hypnosis is seldom more efficient in improving memory than any other standard psychoforensic procedure.”

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0 thoughts on “Hays County Sheriff’s Office hires hypnotist

  1. What a way to cause more problems in Court. Our Das office has enough problems without having to explain to a jury that the witness did not get ideas suggested to them during hypnosis. I am really amazed at this waste of valuable resource. I would rather have another deputy on the street.

    As an attorney I see many ways that this could keep valuable states witnesses off the stand because like it or not, hypnosis implies suggestion. Memory research has indicated that eye witness memory is one of the worst tools that Law Enforcement actually have . Look at what is happening around the country with many WRONGFULLY CONVICTED individuals who were convicted based on eye witness identification being cleared by DNA, not some legal loophole.

    Now the Sheriff wants to contaminate already shaky eye witness identification even more? When I as a defense counsel have a states witness that has been under hypnosis there is a good chance that he may not be able to testify because of the chance whether intentional or not that ideas are suggested. Spend the money on another deputy or a raise for the ones we already have.

  2. I think a psychic is already on the payroll in the family violence . These femenazis will do anything to castrate a man. Tibbe brought one along woth her from Austin. I think Peach outed the poor thing.

  3. He was hired as a Supervisor for the Criminal Investigations Division…not as a hypnotist. He is in charge of that division and if you people would pay attention and read a little more you would see that he is very well qualified for the position. Just because someone has been to the class and is trained in it doesn’t mean that it is standard practice.

    Sergi, get off your high horse and stop your little back alley BS games so you can get your buddies into elected office. Any smart person can read into your comments. YOUR JUST A DEFENSE ATTORNEY and not a great one at that…Get a life.

    Oh yeah…I’m glad Peach left she wasn’t worth anything anyway.

  4. Wow this is a excellent use of hypnosis , and shows you the real power. You have to be very careful when using hypnosis in getting information from a witness as it is very easy to input a suggestion that they did not even see. I hear that they done this in china a arrested a guy on a 10 year old murder charge. Great post keep them coming love to hear about the uses of hypnosis without and the wrong doings.

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