News and Commentary Archive

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


The Center for Law, Brain & Behavior puts the most accurate and actionable neuroscience in the hands of judges, lawyers, policymakers and journalists—people who shape the standards and practices of our legal system and affect its impact on people’s lives. We work to make the legal system more effective and more just for all those affected by the law.

10 year-old murder defendant shows failure of US juvenile justice system

By Christopher Moraff | The Daily Beast | October 18, 2014

If Pennsylvania had set out to intentionally highlight the glaring defects in the U.S. juvenile justice system, it couldn’t have picked a better case than one initiated this week in rural Wayne County.

On Monday, prosecutors there charged a ten-year old boy as an adult for the murder of an elderly woman under the care of his grandfather—making him one of the youngest Americans ever to face a criminal homicide conviction. Continue reading »

Under the hood of the adolescent brain

By Ellen Barlow | October 17, 2014

This article, covering the Harvard Catalyst Child Health Program‘s daylong symposium, “Mental Health and the Developing Brain in the Second Decade of Life,” at Harvard Medical School on October 6, was originally posted in the Harvard Medical School News.

Image: iStock

Image: iStock

At a symposium spotlighting brain development in the second decade of life, former gang member Joe Sierra vividly illustrated the vulnerabilities of teenagers, yet opportunities for solutions. From age 12, when he was expelled from school, until two years ago, when he last left prison at age 23, Sierra’s world revolved around prison, gang fights, drug dealing, shooting and dodging bullets. Continue reading »

In interrogations, teenagers are too young to know better

By Jan Hoffman | The New York Times | October 13, 2014

Even when police interrogators left the room, cameras kept recording the teenage suspects. Some paced. Several curled up and slept. One sobbed loudly, hitting his head against the wall, berating himself. Two boys, left alone together, discussed their offense, joking.

What none did, however, was exercise his constitutional rights. It was not clear whether the youths even understood them.

Therefore none had a lawyer at his side. None left, though all were free to do so, and none remained silent. Some 37 percent made full confessions, and 31 percent made incriminating statements. Continue reading »

Harvard Catalyst announces pilot funding for adolescent mental health

The Harvard Catalyst Child Health Committee fosters collaboration across Harvard and its affiliated institutions, and supports innovative and collaborative child health-related clinical and translational research. Now, the Harvard Catalyst is inviting applications for pilot grants to foster and enable collaborative research on mental health and the developing brain in the second decade of life across the T1-T4 translational spectrum. Read the RFA announcement here. Continue reading »

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 »