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

WATCH – “From Troubled Teens to Tsarnaev: Promises and Perils of Adolescent Neuroscience and Law”

Click to enlarge poster.

Click to enlarge poster.

The neuroscience of adolescent brain development has had increasing impact on American jurisprudence. The U.S. Supreme Court relied on this neuroscience in Roper v. Simmons (2005) in barring execution for capital crimes committed as a juvenile and in Miller v. Alabama (2012) in holding that mandatory life without possibility of parole for juveniles is also unconstitutional.

On Monday, September 28, 2015, CLBB and the Petrie-Flom Center assembled a panel of developmental scientists, clinicians, and legal scholars for a panel discussion examining the implications of developmental neuroscience for law in specific domains including death penalty mitigation for young adults over age 18 such as the Tsarnaev case, a developmentally informed view of Miranda and Competence to Stand Trial for juveniles, trial of youth as adults, and conditions of confinement in juvenile and adult incarceration.

The panel discussed the promises and perils for constitutional jurisprudence, legal and public policy reform, and trial practice of relying upon a complex body of science as it emerges. Scroll down to view complete video from the event.

This event is part of the Project on Law and Applied Neuroscience, a collaboration between the Center for Law, Brain & Behavior at Massachusetts General Hospital and the Petrie-Flom Center for Health Law Policy, Biotechnology, and Bioethics at Harvard Law School. 

Continue reading »

Dzokhar Tsarnaev: Adolescent or Adult?

By Laurence Steinberg | The Boston Globe | March 30, 2015

As the trial of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, the accused Boston Marathon bomber, moves into its defense phase, his attorneys likely will lean heavily on the science of adolescent development to argue that their client should be spared the death penalty. Judy Clarke, Tsarnaev’s lead defense attorney, has already made several references about Tsarnaev’s youthfulness and susceptibility to the influence of his older brother.

Technically, the proceeding is about determining the appropriate punishment for Tsarnaev, who has admitted his involvement in the attack. But the trial is also a referendum on how we view and define adolescence. Continue reading »

Listen: Dr. Edersheim on WBUR on Brain Science in the Tsarnaev Trial

As jury selection for the long-anticipated trial of the Boston Marathon bomber is underway, there is much speculation about how brain science will be used by the defense team of Dzokhar Tsarnaev, who was 19 years old when he committed the alleged bombing. CLBB Co-Director Judith Edersheim, a forensic psychiatrist and Assistant Professor of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, discussed the use of brain science in the Tsarnaev trial with WBUR’s Lisa Mullins and adolescence expert and Professor of Psychology at Temple University Laurence Steinberg on Radio Boston on Monday, January 12.

Listen to the discussion below, or on Radio Boston.

Also, read Dr. Edersheim’s commentary on the Tsarnaev trial on WBUR’s CommonHealth.

Could Tsarnaev Argue, ‘My Immature, Pot-Impaired Brain Made Me Do It’?

Judith Edersheim, JD, MD | WBUR CommonHealth | January 9, 2015

As the jury selection for the long-anticipated trial of the alleged Boston Marathon bomber begins, CLBB’s Co-Director and forensic psychiatrist Judith Edersheim comments on the potential use of neuroscientific evidence in Dzokhar Tsarnaev’s trial. Originally published on WBUR’s CommonHealth.

Dr. Edersheim also appeared on Radio Boston to discuss brain science in the Tsarnaev trial on Monday, January 12. Listen here.

This week marked the start of what promises to be a four-month public reckoning: the trial of alleged Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. If the press reports about the evidence against him are accurate, most of the trial will not be about guilt or innocence; it will be about sentencing. Not a who-done-it, but a why-done-it.

If Tsarnaev is found guilty, the death penalty will be on the table, and the proceedings will turn to a grave question, part jurisprudence and part moral philosophy: Is this defendant the most evil and culpable of all? A human being who deserves the most severe of all punishments?

One thing, I believe, is certain: If this case proceeds to the sentencing phase, the black box everyone will be talking about will be the cranium, and how the brain drives behavior will be the central story. Continue reading »