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Sunday, May 8, 2016

Neuroscience is changing the debate over what role age should play in the courts

By Tim Requarth
Originally posted April 18, 2016

Here is an excerpt:

The Supreme Court has increasingly called upon new findings in neuroscience and psychology in a series of rulings over the past decade (Roper v. Simmons, Graham v. Florida, Miller v. Alabama and Montgomery v. Louisiana) that prohibited harsh punishments—such as the death penalty and mandatory life without parole—for offenders under 18. Due to their immaturity, the argument goes, they are less culpable and so deserve less punishment than those 18 or older. In addition, because their wrongdoing is often the product of immaturity, younger criminals may have a greater potential for reform. Now people are questioning whether the age of 18 has any scientific meaning.

“People are not magically different on their 18th birthday,” says Elizabeth Scott, a professor of law at Columbia University whose work was cited in the seminal Roper case. “Their brains are still maturing, and the criminal justice system should find a way to take that into account.”

The article is here.