Bad to the brain: Neuroscience, criminal law and responsibility /

Saved in:
Bibliographic Details
Author / Creator:Martinez-Martin, Nicole Angela, author.
Ann Arbor : ProQuest Dissertations & Theses, 2015
Description:1 electronic resource (151 pages)
Format: E-Resource Dissertations
Local Note:School code: 0330
URL for this record:
Hidden Bibliographic Details
Other authors / contributors:University of Chicago. degree granting institution.
Notes:Advisors: Eugene Raikhel Committee members: Tanya Luhrmann; Richard Shweder; Richard Taub.
This item is not available from ProQuest Dissertations & Theses.
Dissertation Abstracts International, Volume: 77-05(E), Section: A.
Summary:This project examines how neuroscience is being employed to address questions of criminal responsibility and behavior within scholarly discourse and the criminal courts. Chapter One reviews neurolaw scholarship and public discourse from 2000-2014 that engages the impact of neuroscience on the concepts of criminal responsibility and punishment. Two main areas related to the use of neuroscience within the neurolaw discourse are examined: the debate regarding the impact of neuroscience on concepts of free will and criminal responsibility and how neuroscience is employed to issues of treatment and punishment. This debate must be understood within the context of trends within the criminal justice system that both emphasize personal responsibility and diminish the role of legal determinations of criminal responsibility in the workings of the criminal justice system. Rather than neuroscience being a catalyst for transforming responsibility, neuroscience interacts with and is utilized as a tool for shifting how responsibility is understood in broader society and enacted within institutions such as the criminal justice system. Chapter Two contributes to the body of research that addresses the impact of neuroscience evidence in the courts. Judicial opinions from the years 2010-2012, in which neuroscience is applied to questions of responsibility in criminal cases, were reviewed. Analysis of the judicial opinions focused on how neuroscience knowledge is discussed in these opinions in relation to responsibility. While the judicial opinions discuss neuroscience in terms that affirm its value over and above other forms of psychological and behavioral expertise, they also indicate that in practice, neuroscience evidence is downplayed or given lower weight when it is perceived as going against an otherwise persuasive narrative of the case or common sense ideas of behavior. Neuroscience evidence that establishes diminished capacity can serve to reduce punishment. However, neuroscience evidence may also increase the perception that a defendant is dangerous and therefore deserving of more punishment. In this review of judicial opinions, this "double-edged sword" effect did appear to be present. In particular, the judicial opinions were examined to see how neuroscience evidence could influence perceptions of whether the defendant's mental dysfunction was outside of his her or control and the treatability of the symptoms. Chapter Three examines the way in which neuroscience has been invoked as a part of efforts to change the way in which juvenile offenders are punished within the criminal justice system is examined. "Developing brain" theory draws upon neuroscience to show that behavioral differences commonly seen in adolescents, such as risk-taking and impulsiveness, should be understood as resulting from differences in the adolescent brain. Advocates for reforming the criminal justice system's handling of juvenile cases have utilized developing brain theory in order to advance the idea that adolescents, as a category or class, should be treated differently than adults because of the neurological or developmental stage of the adolescent brain. While the Court's supposed reliance on neuroscience lends some authority to brain-based views of adolescence in popular media, the traction gained by developing brain theory in criminal justice should be seen more as reflecting popular attitudes towards adolescence as a time of vulnerability, rather than as demonstrating the power of neuroscience within the courtroom.