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Tuesday, March 27, 2018

"My Brain Made Me Do It" Is Becoming a More Common Criminal Defense

Dina Fine Maron
Scientific American
Originally published March 5, 2018

Here is an excerpt:

But experts looking back at the 2007 case now say Hodges was part of a burgeoning trend: Criminal defense strategies are increasingly relying on neurological evidence—psychological evaluations, behavioral tests or brain scans—to potentially mitigate punishment. Defendants may cite earlier head traumas or brain disorders as underlying reasons for their behavior, hoping this will be factored into a court’s decisions. Such defenses have been employed for decades, mostly in death penalty cases. But as science has evolved in recent years, the practice has become more common in criminal cases ranging from drug offenses to robberies.

“The number of cases in which people try to introduce neurotechnological evidence in the trial or sentencing phase has gone up by leaps and bounds,” says Joshua Sanes, director of the Center for Brain Science at Harvard University. But such attempts may be outpacing the scientific evidence behind the technology, he adds.

“In 2012 alone over 250 judicial opinions—more than double the number in 2007—cited defendants arguing in some form or another that their ‘brains made them do it,’” according to an analysis by Nita Farahany, a law professor and director of Duke University’s Initiative for Science and Society. More recently, she says, that number has climbed to around 420 each year.

The article is here.
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