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Mission

The speed of technology in neuroscience as it impacts ethical and just decisions in the legal system needs to be understood by lawyers, judges, public policy makers, and the general public. The Massachusetts General Hospital Center for Law, Brain, and Behavior is an academic and professional resource for the education, research, and understanding of neuroscience and the law. Read more

Neuroimaging, Diminished Capacity and Litigation

The U.S. Supreme Court’s recent decision in Roper v. Simmons and the amicus briefs
submitted in support of abolishing the death penalty for juveniles suggests that neuroscientific evidence will play an increasingly important role in shaping legal concepts of culpability. Neuroscience is already beginning to play an important role in insanity defense proceedings. In addition, when mental conditions do not meet the stringent standards required for exculpation on insanity grounds, they might still be relevant to culpability, either because they influenced the defendant’s mental state at the time of the offense (diminished capacity) or because they reduce the blameworthiness of the defendant for sentencing purposes (mitigation).

Neuroimaging in these contexts may shed light on the mental state of the accused at the
time of the offense in order to help juries and judges determine the defendant’s quality of
thought or level of culpability. In these instances, neuroimaging evidence is relevant to
the “mens rea” element of the criminal offense.

Source: Neuroimaging in Forensic Psychiatry: From the Clinic to the Courtroom. Edited by Joseph R. Simpson. Forward by Henry Greely. © 2012 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd. Published 2012 by John Wiley & Sons, Ltd. [Read full chapter] [Check out the book]