« An ugly (and fitting?) end to the capital year | Main | Shouldn't express statutory text trump perceived policy? »

December 14, 2006

This is your brain, ... this is your brain after Roper

This newspaper article discusses new brain research to ask "Should teenage brain be a factor in sentencing?" Here are snippets from an interesting article:

Scientists are now seeing beyond the skull into an emerging debate over whether the differences between the brain of an adolescent and an adult should have different implications for each in the criminal justice system....  "We are interested in the broader question of whether juveniles should be punished to the same extent as adults who have committed comparable crimes," said psychologist Laurence Steinberg in his 2003 article, "Less Guilty by Reason of Adolescence."

Steinberg and others advocate that [an important] discrepancy in brain function should be taken into consideration when deciding to seek juvenile or adult sanctions. Childhood abuse and neglect further hampers normal brain development, researchers say.... 

A U.S. Supreme Court decision last year now prohibits sentencing a juvenile to death, a decision that took into consideration the incomplete brain development in juveniles. Court observers say that decision could have striking implications in cases where adult sanctions are being sought for juvenile offenders.

No one is saying, however, that an immature brain is an excuse for committing crime — nor does it exonerate a juvenile from the consequences of breaking the law. It "does not excuse violent criminal behavior, but it's an important factor for courts to consider," according to a statement from the American Psychiatric Association.

Some related items:

December 14, 2006 at 07:56 AM | Permalink


TrackBack URL for this entry:

Listed below are links to weblogs that reference This is your brain, ... this is your brain after Roper:


Minority Report, anyone?

It may be a mitigating factor now, but it will soon condemn.

On their 18th birthday, if their brain scan is still "defective" and proof of a "feebleminded" brain, off to civil commitment. As bad as leaving a fingerprint at the scene of the crime.

All the elements are already in place: civil commitment and sentencing based on statistical probability. The only thing lacking is the statistics for "expert" testimony. We can bet "they" are doing the studies now and will have those numbers before long.

Posted by: George | Dec 14, 2006 2:48:34 PM

The science science of the brain is certainly more complex than the law allows for. It's likely that as science outpaces the law the law will try to catch up to the science. Brain science will be taking huge leaps in the next 5-10 years, it's likely that the law will only take baby steps and remain well behind for a very long time.

Posted by: Brain Science Law | Apr 12, 2008 10:57:29 PM

Post a comment

In the body of your email, please indicate if you are a professor, student, prosecutor, defense attorney, etc. so I can gain a sense of who is reading my blog. Thank you, DAB