Neuroscience and the Law!

MRIs have been used in court cases for a little while. This technology offers evidence as to criminal intent and mindset. This evidence is used to change jury’s decisions and decide sentences for defendants. This type of evidence has been extremely valuable to many cases in the past, and has become the deciding factor in a few as well. Since it is possible to reduce a sentence for a crime to time in a mental facility, lawyers have been trying to get MRIs done on inmates in order to prove that their criminal behavior was something out of their control. If it can be proven that a criminal committed a crime because of a “problem” within his brain, the criminal may just get by with a mental facility sentence.

This could be advantageous if a criminal really has no control over their actions; if the defendant is mentally unable to comprehend the difference between doing what is good or bad. The defendant could have diseases within the brain that make them do things, and they really may not be as “evil” as they are made out to be with guilt. Should a criminal have done something based on mental illness or a difference found within the brain that does not coincide with a “normal” human brain, it could be extremely valuable to the court case. This proof of mental illness in criminals could lead to their getting help within mental facilities that could eventually lead to their recovery.

However, I believe that not all people are alike. I believe that this evidence should not always work the same for each and every person. I believe that some may thrive on a chance for recovery, and in this case the MRI evidence would be beneficial to the criminal and to the good of the public. However, there are others who may use the slightly lessened watchfulness and caution in a mental facility as a chance to escape or cause harm unto another. I believe it is impossible to judge whether people’s motives stem from problems within their brains or their own character. A person’s brain and a person’s character are two different but comparable things, depending on what one believes. The two line themselves up in a very indistinct grey area, making this idea of studying the brain vs. character flaws in court cases such a controversial idea.

I do believe that MRIs should be used in court cases. I feel as though they should be used to substantiate the evidence whether for or against the defendant. However, I do not believe that this evidence should be the deciding factor in the jury’s sentencing decisions. I believe that the former evidence should allow the jury to make the decision. After the evidence has been sorted through and motive has been established, I believe that the MRI evidence for mental illness, etc. can be put to use. Only then can a clear and just decision about the fate of the criminal be made.

2 responses to “Neuroscience and the Law!”

  1. Madiha Shafquat says:

    The problem is, how can scientists and/or judges make the degree of reliability clear to juries. One of the main issues (IMO) is that juries might place a disproportionate worth in fMRI findings out of respect for scientific study.

  2. Swathi Srinivasan says:

    I agree with your point of view on the matter. Neuroscience technology such as MRIs should be used to further prove preexisting evidence, not as a sole factor.

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