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Wednesday, March 16, 2016

The Brain Gets Its Day in Court

By Greg Miller
The Atlantic
Originally published February 29, 2016

Here is an excerpt:

A handful of cases have made headlines in recent years, as lawyers representing convicted murderers have introduced brain scans and other tests of brain function to try to spare their client the death penalty. It didn’t always work, but Farahany’s analysis suggests that neuroscientific evidence—which she broadly defines as anything from brain scans to neuropsychological exams to bald assertions about the condition of a person’s brain—is being used in a wider variety of cases, and in the service of more diverse legal strategies, than the headlines would suggest. In fact, 60 percent of the cases in her sample involved non-capital offenses, including robbery, fraud, and drug trafficking.

Cases like Detrich’s are one example. Arguing for ineffective assistance of counsel is pretty much a legal Hail Mary. It requires proving two things: that the defense counsel failed to do their job adequately, and (raising the bar even higher) that this failure caused the trial to be unfairly skewed against the defendant. Courts have ruled previously that a defense attorney who slept through substantial parts of a trial still provided effective counsel. Not so, at least in some cases, for attorneys who failed to introduce neuroscience evidence in their client’s defense.

The article is here.