Stressed to Kill: The Defense of Brainwashing - 2003-11-21
Dick Anthony, a forensic psychologist based near Berkeley, Calif., and co-author of "In Gods We Trust: New Patterns of Religious Pluralism in America," spearheaded the effort to brand brainwashing testimony as bunk. "No reasonable person would question that there are situations where people can be influenced against their best interests," he says, "but those arguments are evaluated on the basis of fact, not bogus expert testimony."
By the 1990 case U.S. v. Fishman, in which the defendant pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity to mail fraud charges, alleging Scientology brainwashed him into committing crimes, the judge dismissed brainwashing testimony outright as unscientific and inadmissible. Brainwashing has been a hard case to crack in court since. But Alan Scheflin, professor of law at Santa Clara University and author of the 1989 book "Trance on Trial," says there's been plenty of research on the power of human susceptibility, group mores and subjection to hypnotism, isolation, sensory deprivation and obedience training -- all elements of brainwashing.