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.

19-year-old Denied Resentencing in light of Miller

Citation: State v. Jones, 2020 WL 3055646 (N.J. Super. Ct. App. Div. May 12, 2020)

Summary: In 1995, Rashon Jones (19-years-old at the time of offense), was convicted of murder and aggravated assault in connection to the death of a former girlfriend. Jones was convicted on these charges for beating his girlfriend to death and was sentenced to life in prison with a 30-year period of parole ineligibility, and a concurrent 10-year sentence (with 5 years of parole ineligibility) on the aggravated assault charges.  Jones argued on appeal that his sentence should be vacated and he should be granted a resentencing in light of the neuroscience that underpins Miller, the landmark 2012 Supreme Court case that established special sentencing protections for juveniles. Jones argued that the brain of a 19-year-old was not functionally distinct from that of younger adolescents and as such, the relevant science should be applied in his case. In an unpublished opinion, the court rejected Jones’s argument ruling that Miller facially does not apply to those over the age of 18.  Additionally, the court held the age cutoff aside, Jones’s 35-year minimum sentence was not the functional equivalent of life without the possibility of parole. The appellate court affirmed the decision of the lower court to deny resentencing.

Key words: New Jersey, sentencing, LWOP, Miller v. Alabama, adolescent brain science

Summer Learning Series: Justice and the Developing Brain

In summer 2020, CLBB is excited to partner with More Than Words, Suffolk County District Attorney Rachael Rollins, and the Committee for Public Counsel Services (the Public Defender Agency of Massachusetts) to present a new online learning series led by Dr. Robert Kinscherff, JD, PhD.

You can click here to register and for more information.

Description: Emerging adults are more likely to be arrested, be incarcerated, and to recidivate after release. Join the Suffolk County District Attorney’s Office, the brain-science experts at the MGH Center for Law, Brain & Behavior, and the staff and youth at More Than Words to learn why and discuss how we can reverse this trend.

23 year old proffers brain science to challenge his life sentence

Citation: People v. Suggs, 2020 IL App (2d) 170632

Summary: Defendant Montago E. Suggs was sentenced to 110 years in prison in 2007 after being found guilty of first degree murder, attempted murder, and attempted armed robbery in the state of Illinois. Suggs was 23 years old at the time he committed his crimes. The defendant filed for post-conviction relief in the trial court on the grounds his sentence violated the 8th amendment of the U.S. Constitution. In a 2012 court case, Miller v Alabama, the Supreme Court ruled that even juveniles convicted of homicide cannot be automatically sentenced to life without the possibility of parole. Suggs argued that because emerging brain science suggests that the brain continues developing until someone’s mid twenties, Miller should also be applied to Suggs’ case. The trial court denied his application, and on this appeal, the Illinois Appellate Court affirmed the denial, holding that Suggs did not “exhibit signature qualities of youth that require juveniles to be treated differently from adults” and, therefore, upheld Sugg’s sentence.

Key words: Eighth Amendment, Miller v. Alabama, adolescent brain science, emerging adults, Illinois

Detecting Dementia: Technology, Aging Brains, and the Law

April 1, 2020 12:00 PM at Harvard Law School


Advances in neuroimaging, genetics, and mobile health apps are creating unprecedented opportunities to detect subtle brain changes that may predict the onset of Alzheimer’s disease and other types of dementia. But how much trust should we have in these new technologies, who will have access to them, and how should the law respond when litigants proffer novel evidence of their brain states? This panel will explore technological innovations in dementia detection, and their ethical, social, and legal implications.


  • Jonathan Jackson, PhD, is the founding director of the Community Access, Recruitment, and Engagement (CARE) Research Center at Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School, which investigates the impact of diversity and inclusion on the quality of human subjects research and leverages deep community entrenchment to build trust and overcome barriers to clinical trial participation. His research focuses on midlife and late-life health disparities in clinical settings that affect Black populations. Dr. Jackson also works as a cognitive neuroscientist, investigating the early detection of Alzheimer’s disease (AD), particularly in the absence of overt memory problems. He serves on Massachusetts General Hospital’s Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center (ADRC) and MGH’s Cancer Center Equity Program, specializing in identifying and overcoming barriers to clinical research for people and communities of color. He has become a well-known MGH representative to communities of color and dozens of affiliated organizations, particularly regarding clinical research. Dr. Jackson serves on the leadership team of several organizations focused on community health, as well as local, statewide, and national advisory groups for research recruitment, Alzheimer’s disease, and community engagement
  • Bruce H. Price, MD, is Co-Founder and Co-Director of the Massachusetts General Hospital Center for Law, Brain and Behavior. Dr. Price graduated from Harvard University cum laude, and attended the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine. In 1994, he was appointed Chief of the Department of Neurology at McLean Hospital. He is an Associate in Neurology at Massachusetts General Hospital and Associate Professor of Neurology at Harvard Medical School. In 1996, he co-founded the Neuropsychology Fellowship Training Program at McLean Hospital. In 1999, he founded the Behavioral Neurology/Neuropsychiatry Fellowship Training Program at McLean Hospital. He is the Co-Founder and Co-Director of the Neuropsychiatry Fellowship at Massachusetts General Hospital, and the Co-Founder and Associate Director of the Fronto-Temporal Dementia Fellowship at Massachusetts General Hospital. In 2006, the Bruce H. Price, M.D. Award for Clinical and Academic Excellence in Neuropsychiatry and Behavioral Neurology was established in his honor. He supervises approximately 20 psychiatry, neuropsychology, and neurology residents and fellows per year. An internationally recognized leader in the integration of neurology, psychiatry, neurosurgery, and neuropsychology, his research interests include the cognitive and behavioral consequences of neurologic and psychiatric diseases, brain dysfunction in violent and criminal behavior, frontal lobe functions including insight, judgment, empathy, self-awareness, social adaptation, and decision-making, memory disorders, and dementias, complex decision-making, fraud, and undue influence. His fascination with the intersections between medicine, law, and ethics is longstanding.
  • Ipsit Vahia, MD, is a geriatric psychiatrist, clinician, and researcher. He is medical director of the Geriatric Psychiatry Outpatient Services at McLean Hospital and the McLean Institute for Technology in Psychiatry. His research focuses on the use of technology and informatics in the assessment and management of older adults and currently, he oversees a clinical and research program on aging, behavior, and technology. He has published extensively in major international journals and textbooks. Dr. Vahia serves on the American Psychiatric Association (APA) Council on Geriatric Psychiatry and the Geriatric Psychiatry Committee of the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology. He has served on the board of directors of the American Association for Geriatric Psychiatry (AAGP) and on the editorial boards of five journals including his current role as social media editor of the American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry. He is a recipient of several prestigious awards including the 2016 AAGP Barry Lebowitz Award and the 2014 APA Hartford Jeste Award.

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.

WATCH: The Next Frontier of Neuroscience and Juvenile Justice

February 26, 2020 12:00 PM at Harvard Law School


In the fifteen years since the United States Supreme Court referred to developmental science in ruling the death penalty unconstitutional for juveniles in Roper v. Simmons, state and federal courts have seen a wave of neuroscience-informed juvenile justice litigation. Advocates have come to see neuroscience as a powerful tool, and the Supreme Court has cited to neuroscience research in subsequent cases further restricting harsh punishments for juveniles in Graham v. Florida and Miller v. Alabama.

But the full potential of neuroscience in juvenile justice has yet to be reached. Advances in neuroscientific understanding of the developing brain, including development in emerging adulthood from ages 18 to 25, are only beginning to enter legal cases. Moreover, advocates are recognizing that to make a more direct and profound impact, group-averaged neuroscience evidence must be complemented by individualized clinical assessments. This panel will discuss scientific and legal developments, and the new innovations they suggest at the intersection of neuroscience and juvenile justice.

VIDEO: The Next Frontier of Neuroscience and Juvenile Justice


  • Robert Kinscherff, Faculty, Doctoral Program in Clinical Psychology and Associate Vice President for Community Engagement, William James College; Associate Managing Director, Center for Law, Brain, and Behavior, Massachusetts General Hospital
  • Marsha Levick, Chief Legal Officer and co-founder of Juvenile Law Center
  • Leah SomervilleProfessor of Psychology and Director of Graduate Studies in Psychology, Harvard University and faculty, Center for Brain Science

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.