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In 1999, Charles Flores, a Latino man, was convicted of capital murder and sentenced to death in Dallas County. He was accused of the 1998 murder of a Farmers Branch grandmother, Elizabeth Black. Richard Childs, a white man, was also indicted for Mrs. Black’s murder, but was later re-indicted for a lesser offense and ultimately received a plea bargain for a 15-year sentence. Childs is now out on parole. Police detectives investigating the crime faced several obstacles, including a lack of physical evidence and a cohort of unreliable witnesses. No direct evidence linked Flores to the crime scene. His conviction hinged largely on an eyewitness who identified him 13 months after the police had conducted a hypnosis session on her and had shown her Flores’s picture in a highly suggestive photo array. Even then, this witness, who had initially described the perpetrators as two white males with long dirty hair, only identified Flores after she saw him sitting in the courtroom at the defense table during his trial when she came to the courthouse to testify for the State. Flores faced execution in 2016 but was granted a stay by the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, which sent his case back to the trial court to permit him to develop evidence showing how the use of “forensic hypnosis” to obtain his conviction constituted junk science. Today, there is a virtual consensus that hypnosis only enhances the risks of false memory creation, unwarranted confidence in memories, and errors in eyewitness identification. A majority of U.S. jurisdictions (not including Texas) has adopted a per se ban on the admissibility of hypnotically induced testimony, recognizing that the process is inherently unreliable. In 2020, the CCA denied relief to Charles Flores and the U.S. Supreme Court later declined to review his petition in which he challenged the constitutionality of using hypnotically induced testimony to obtain convictions. In 2021, the Texas Legislature passed a bill to prohibit the use of hypnotically induced testimony in a criminal trial, but it was vetoed by Governor Greg Abbott.


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