• “Truth Serum” represents various chemical tests, including the administration of sodium amytal and sodium pentathol, to obtain “true” statements from witnesses.
Robert L. Miller, Jr., Indiana Practice Series: Indiana Motions in Limine § 5:22 (2015)
Effect on the voluntariness of confessions: In general
• If an individual's ‘will was overborne’ or if his confession was not ‘the product of a rational intellect and a free will,’ his confession is inadmissible because coerced. These standards are applicable whether a confession is the product of physical intimidation or psychological pressure and, of course, are equally applicable to a drug-induced statement.
Chowning v. State, 297 N.E.2d 487, 489 (Ind. Ct. App. 1973)(quoting Townsend v. Sain, 372 U.S. 293, 307 (1963), overruled on other grounds by Keeney v. Tamayo-Reyes, 504 U.S. 1, 5 (1992))(footnotes omitted))
• It is difficult to imagine a situation in which a confession would be less the product of a free intellect, less voluntary, than when brought about by a drug having the effect of a ‘truth serum.’ It is not significant that the drug may have been administered and the questions asked by persons unfamiliar with hyoscine's properties as a ‘truth serum,’ if these properties exist. Any questioning by police officers which in fact produces a confession which is not the product of a free intellect renders that confession inadmissible.
Chowning v. State, 297 N.E.2d 487, 489 (Ind. Ct. App. 1973)(quoting Townsend v. Sain, 372 U.S. 293, 30-087 (1963), overruled on other grounds by Keeney v. Tamayo-Reyes, 504 U.S. 1, 5 (1992))(footnote omitted))
• For more information about the voluntariness of confessions, please review Voluntariness.
Effect on the voluntariness of confessions: Other drugs differentiated from “truth serum”
• The defendant asserts that the statement was rendered involuntary due to the pain killing drugs he had been administered following surgery. . . . As support for the proposition that the statement was involuntary, the defendant directs the attention of this Court to Townsend. The facts surrounding that particular opinion were of such a peculiar nature to render it inapplicable to the case now before this Court. [The defendant in Townsend] had been given a drug which would have produced a result similar to “truth serum.” The holding of that opinion is not that any confession obtained from a suspect, while that suspect was receiving medication, is rendered inadmissible per se.
• Defendant argues that his confessions were not made voluntarily, under all of the circumstances. This is based upon Defendant's contention that the fifty miligrams of Listeral which had been injected at the hospital deprived him of his free will. . . . [T]he defendant testified at the suppression hearing and at trial, and he never asserted that the injection affected his thinking or his will. A registered nurse testified at the suppression hearing that fifty miligrams of Listeral would have no effect upon a person's mind, and that Listeral was generally used to abate nausea. All of the police officers who testified concerning the defendant stated that he appeared to be normal. The evidence clearly sustains the trial court's ruling that Defendant's confession was voluntary.
Ordering the administration of “truth serum”
• It is also asserted that the [defendant][,] through his attorneys, offered to allow the State to administer to him sodium pentothal or ‘any other truth serum’ and to question him prior to trial. The [defendant] was permitted to testify to this effect at trial. We find no merit to the argument that the trial court should have ordered such a procedure.