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

Death Row Prisoners Have Plenty of Time to Find God, But Few Find Mercy

By Daniel LaChance | The New Republic | November 3, 2015

Strapped to the execution gurney in Huntsville, Texas, Michael Hall told those assembled to watch him die that he was not the same man who had shot a 19-year-old woman to death 13 years earlier.

“The old is gone,” he said. “That person is dead.”

Stories of condemned inmates who find God and goodness while they await execution are nothing new. But in recent decades, they have become a lot more plausible. A century ago, the condemned counted their time on death row in months. Now they count it in years—and sometimes decades. Those executed in 2011, the year Hall was put to death, had spent an average of 16.5 years on death row.

As a historian of the modern American death penalty, I have argued that the extraordinary amount of time that now elapses between sentencing and execution has changed the public’s perception of capital punishment. It has also changed the condemned. Continue reading »

Locking up kids for life?

By Davide Bonazzi for the Boston Globe

Three decades ago, Edward Palmariello, 17, and his 21-year-old friend Bruce Chambers were arrested in the murder of Edward’s mother, Marion. Then a defense attorney, I represented Edward at trial. The jury found both men guilty and the sentence was mandatory — life in prison without any possibility of parole.

In most countries, Edward’s sentence would have been impossible. Juvenile life without parole is prohibited by the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child , a measure that has been ratified by every UN nation except the United States and Somalia (Somalia announced in November that it will ratify). Edward has spent the past 32 years in jail. He had no hope, no future. Perhaps, until now.

Continue reading »