Tag Archives | courts

“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.

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Were the Salem witches actually guilty?

We’ve all been told that the Salem witch trials – in which twenty people were put to death – were the low point in the judicial history of North America. Now a former Maryland prosecutor has reexamined the famous trials to conclude that – while the condemned may not have possessed supernatural powers – an evaluation of the evidence presented in court does indicate that at least some were, indeed, guilty of witchcraft.

In his new book, William Cooke “separates the morality of criminalizing witchcraft from the job of the colonial courts.” Though he believes outlawing witchcraft is an infringement of freedom of religion, it should be the colonial legislative – not judicial – authorities that are the subject of contemporary ire.

In an interview with Parapolitical, Cooke also explains how the witch trials at Salem helped evolve the legal system we have today.

PARAPOLITICAL: One interesting case in the Salem trials involves Giles Corey who was pressed to death for refusing to enter a plea on a charge of being a warlock.

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U.S. Justice System Rampant With ‘Bad Science’

44794518-30152305-300225 Every year, convictions for serious crimes occur based on debunked pseudo-science such as forensic dentistry and arson science. Add in poor usage of police lineups and fingerprinting, and the potential for finding innocent people guilty is immense. All in all, our courts are scientifically impaired to a degree that’s a menace to justice. Via Yahoo News:

The story of an American man cleared of a rape and robbery conviction by DNA evidence after spending 30 years in jail made headlines across the world on Tuesday.

But despite advances in science and technology, such exonerations are rare, and experts say the US criminal justice system remains riddled with problems that arise from outdated practices and, quite simply, bad science.

Perhaps the worst offender is the police lineup. Research shows that 75 percent of all wrongful convictions that are later cleared by DNA evidence start with eyewitness mistakes.

That was the case for Cornelius Dupree, who was fingered in 1979 by a rape victim who incorrectly picked him out of a photo array.

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