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.

The Life-or-Death Test

By Maurice Chammah and Dana Goldstein | The Marshall Project | January 29, 2015

Ever since the Supreme Court ruled that prisoners suffering from “mental retardation” — a now outdated term — could not face the death penalty in the 2002 case Atkins v. Virginia, debates about whether a felon qualifies for execution have often revolved around a single number: an IQ score. On Tuesday, Georgia prisoner Warren Hill was executed for the 1990 beating death of a fellow inmate. His attorneys argued unsuccessfully that his IQ of 70 disqualified him for the punishment. This evening, Texas is set to execute Robert Ladd for beating a woman to death with a hammer in 1996. His attorney has pointed out that Ladd’s IQ of 67 would disqualify him from execution in most other states.

Last May, the Supreme Court built on the Atkins decision by ruling that Florida could not exclusively use a simple IQ cut-off when it determined who was fit for execution. “An IQ score is an approxi­mation, not a final and infallible assessment of intellectual functioning,” Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote, demanding a more holistic approach by medical professionals. “Intellectual disability is a condition, not a number.” Continue reading »

Sterling trial spotlights major issue for Baby Boomers

By Josh Peter | USA Today | July 7, 2014

LOS ANGELES — Beyond the high-powered lawyers and public fight over the $2 billion sale of an NBA team, Donald and Shelly Sterling are caught in a struggle that often unfolds when someone reaches an advanced age and difficult questions arise.

Is it safe for him to drive? Does he need a caregiver?

Or, in the case of 80-year-old Donald Sterling, does he have the mental capacity to serve as a co-trustee of the Sterling Family Trust, which owns the Los Angeles Clippers? Continue reading »

Sterling to Face Trial on Mental Capacity

By Noah Gilbert and Scott Cacciola | The New York Times | June 11, 2014

LOS ANGELES — He did not know what season it was. He could not remember two objects after three minutes. He had difficulty drawing a clock.

A Los Angeles doctor described Donald Sterling, the embattled owner of the Los Angeles Clippers, as “unable to reasonably carry out the duties of trustee,” according to legal documents filed Wednesday by Sterling’s estranged wife, Rochelle.

Donald Sterling’s lawyers disputed that characterization, maintaining that “he has all of his capacities about him” and that he should not be stripped of his control of the Clippers. Continue reading »

Psychiatric Tests Raise Question of Pistorius’s Criminal Liability

By Alan Cowell | The New York Times | May 22, 2014

Oscar Pistorius

In more than just miles, it is a long way from Olympic Stadium in London to the Weskoppies Psychiatric Hospital in Pretoria, South Africa, but that is the journey that Oscar Pistorius is about to complete.

Less than two years after he was celebrated at the 2012 Olympic Games as the first disabled athlete to compete against able-bodied runners, Mr. Pistorius on Tuesday was ordered by the judge presiding over his murder trial in Pretoria to present himself as an outpatient at the Weskoppies hospital for up to 30 days of psychiatric assessment.

Starting Monday, a panel of mental health experts will seek to determine whether Mr. Pistorius, in the words of Judge Thokozile Matilda Masipa, was “capable of appreciating the wrongfulness of his act or acting in accordance with appreciation of the wrongfulness of his act” when he opened fire on a locked bathroom door at his home in the early hours of Feb. 14, 2013. Continue reading »

Pair allegedly swindled $450,000 meant for cat

John R. Ellement | The Boston Globe | April 17, 2014

Two Brighton roommates allegedly concocted a brazen scheme to bilk an ailing, elderly neighbor of $450,000 by agreeing to use the money to care for the woman’s beloved cat as long as it lived.

But instead of safeguarding the assets for the pet, a tabby named Puddy Cat, the two women are accused of going on a spending spree, buying a $28,000 Mini Cooper car, an iPad, a Vitamix blender, and a Netflix subscription — all while the 74-year-old woman, who suffers from dementia, was in a nursing home. They also siphoned off tens of thousands of dollars in cash, Suffolk Assistant District Attorney Michele Granda said in Suffolk Superior Court Thursday.