“My Brain Made Me Do It” Neuroscience Defense Increasingly Used In U.S. Criminal Courts

killerCan someone be punished for what their brain made them do? The Guardian on a growing trend in legal defense:

Criminal courts in the United States are facing a surge in the number of defendants arguing that their brains were to blame for their crimes and relying on questionable scans and other controversial, unproven neuroscience, a legal expert who has advised the president has warned.

Nita Farahany, a professor of law who sits on Barack Obama’s bioethics advisory panel, told a Society for Neuroscience meeting in San Diego that those on trial were mounting ever more sophisticated defences that drew on neurological evidence in an effort to show they were not fully responsible for murderous or other criminal actions.

“What is novel is the use by criminal defendants to say, essentially, that my brain made me do it,” Farahany said following an analysis of more than 1,500 judicial opinions from 2005 to 2012.

10 Comments on "“My Brain Made Me Do It” Neuroscience Defense Increasingly Used In U.S. Criminal Courts"

  1. My brain makes me do everything…

  2. bobbiethejean | Nov 11, 2013 at 11:49 am |

    Yeah. There’s a problem with that argument.

  3. Are we our brains? Aren’t we the little man/woman in the chair that sits right behind our eyes and runs the show?

  4. DeepCough | Nov 11, 2013 at 12:33 pm |

    I think, therefore I am guilty.
    I don’t think, therefore, I am acquitted.

  5. Earthstar | Nov 11, 2013 at 12:47 pm |

    Prozac and Effexor made me do a lot of weird things, many I don’t remember. This is pretty common and there are people out there with far darker delusions than me.

  6. The law is stuck, like all of us, in the position of recognizing that
    (1) no, we really aren’t the rational creatures we pretend we are… and
    (2) yes, our brains (or the devil, or our alcoholic daddy etc) made us do it… so
    (3) our behavior is determined to considerable extent by (1 and 2)… but
    (4) if we are totally determined ONLY by (1 and 2) then all concepts and hopes of liberty and a decent society are delusional bullshit… so
    (5) we have to be held accountable for our actions

    For this approach to law and human society to work, we have to be found guilty (responsible) when we we get caught doing the deed… but we can (after the verdict, before the sentence of penalty) include a reasonably merciful understanding of the mitigating circumstances (1 and 2)

  7. Brain surely has a software that runs it. But then this software can be deeply affected, influenced and even triggered by the language one use to think, converse, and understand. The trigger in many cases can be connected to word inputs. Which in turns should bring the focus on the languages that have now entered soft English nations. Languages that have barbarian codes in them can convert placid individuals into beasts, by just making them understand the codes.

  8. Theodore Hoppe | Nov 29, 2013 at 1:46 am |

    What does neuroscience say about the memory of “eye witnesses that help to convict people?

    Scott Fraser: Why eyewitnesses get it wrong
    First of all, we have all the statistical analyses from the Innocence Project work, where we know that we have, what,250, 280 documented cases now where people have been wrongfully convicted and subsequently exonerated, some from death row, on the basis of later DNA analysis, and you know that over three quarters of all of those cases of exoneration involved only eyewitness identification testimony during the trial that convicted them. We know that eyewitness identifications are fallible.


    Under the best of observation conditions, the absolute best, we only detect, encode and store in our brains bits and pieces of the entire experience in front of us, and they’re stored in different parts of the brain. So now, when it’s important for us to be able to recall what it was that we experienced, we have an incomplete, we have a partial store, and what happens? Below awareness, with no requirement for any kind of motivated processing, the brain fills in information that was not there, not originally stored, from inference, from speculation, from sources of information that came to you, as the observer, after the observation. But it happens without awareness such that you don’t, aren’t even cognizant of it occurring. It’s called reconstructed memories.

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