Tag: insanity defense
The debate between the majority and dissent shows how distorted and destructive the stereotypes of madness are as they have passed down through the law. But there are also winds of change coming from tensions inherent in the insanity defense itself, and we should take this opportunity to develop some sensible policies.
Three leading legal scholars speak to Pacific Standard about the nature and history of the insanity defense, as well as its impact on our criminal...
From Scientific American: Criminal defense strategies are increasingly utilizing neurological evidence—psychological evaluations, behavioral tests and brain scans—to potentially mitigate punishment. Last week, a group of scientists met...
“Offenders sentenced to forensic psychiatric care do not consider their mental illness to be the main reason for their crime. Instead, they point to abuse, poverty or anger toward a particular person.”
In “When Phrenology Was Used in Court,” Geoffrey S. Holtzman writes for Slate about the spurious use of brain science in legal cases. In the 1800’s the “science of phrenology” promised to reveal criminal psychological traits by measuring the skull and today defense teams still employ neurogenetic explanations for their client’s violent behavior.
Philip Chism, who at 14-years-old brutally assaulted and murdered his teacher at Danvers high school in Massachusetts, has attempted to mount an insanity defense by producing brain scans that his expert witnesses have connected to schizophrenia. The judge has dismissed this evidence, however. “The inference the jury was asked to draw was that the volumetric value of the brain [is] consistent with schizophrenia is that the defendant has schizophrenia,” he said. “That is simply an impermissible inference for the jury to draw.”
“Genetic explanations for violent crimes may encourage jurors to support an insanity defense, but jurors may also believe the defendant is a persistent threat who will commit more crimes in the future,” Science Daily reports. A study on over 600 participants found that when people read a genetic explanation for a violent murder they attributed less blame to the defendant but recommended a longer sentence.