News and Commentary Archive

Explore recent scientific discoveries and news as well as CLBB events, commentary, and press.

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

A wrongful conviction robbed William Lopez of his freedom, and then his life

By Liliana Segura | The Intercept | October 8, 2014

On a snowy evening in late March, just over a year after walking out of prison, where he had spent 23 years for a crime he didn’t commit, William Lopez entered a CVS in the Bronx and did something inexplicable. After paying for a prescription at the pharmacy counter, he paused to grab some other things—two sticks of Old Spice deodorant and some allergy medicine. Then, without paying, and in full view of a security guard, he walked out. Police were called and Lopez was arrested.

Lopez told his lawyer he had been preoccupied and took the items by accident. This actually made sense; navigating his new-found freedom posed a daily challenge for the 55-year-old Lopez, and he was often distracted. “His mind was not all there,” his lawyer recalls. “He was anxious about a lot of things.” But Jeff Deskovic, Lopez’s closest friend, heard a different explanation, one that disturbed him. To him, Lopez confessed, “he committed a petty theft to get reincarcerated.” Continue reading »

End Mass Incarceration Now

Editorial Board | The New York Times | May 24, 2014

For more than a decade, researchers across multiple disciplines have been issuing reports on the widespread societal and economic damage caused by America’s now-40-year experiment in locking up vast numbers of its citizens. If there is any remaining disagreement about the destructiveness of this experiment, it mirrors the so-called debate over climate change.

In both cases, overwhelming evidence shows a crisis that threatens society as a whole. In both cases, those who study the problem have called for immediate correction.

Several recent reports provide some of the most comprehensive and compelling proof yet that the United States “has gone past the point where the numbers of people in prison can be justified by social benefits,” and that mass incarceration itself is “a source of injustice.” Continue reading »

After Horton case, Massachusetts fell behind on criminal justice

By Nancy Gertner | The Boston Globe | May 18, 2014

Anyone of a certain age remembers Willie Horton. Furloughed in 1986 from a life sentence for murder, Horton, who is black, raped a white woman and assaulted her fiancé. But Horton’s legacy extends beyond the horrific crime he committed.

Many have blamed Governor Michael Dukakis’s failed presidential bid that year on publicity surrounding the case. Less often discussed is how far Horton’s crime set back criminal justice reform in Massachusetts — and still does to this day.

We like to think of Massachusetts as a progressive state, and it was on crime, too — until Horton. Indeed, except for our prohibition of the death penalty, there is little to set us apart from the Southern states that many in the Commonwealth consider overly punitive. Mississippi, Texas, Arkansas, Georgia, and South Carolina have all gone farther to reduce prison populations than Massachusetts. Horton’s shadow persists, silencing politicians who would be smart on crime rather than mindlessly tough. Continue reading »