For the past 40 years, the science of neurolaw has been more prevalent in court rooms. Neurolaw is using neuroscience such as MRI and fMRI to look at the brain. When it comes to the courtroom, neuroscience is used to diagnose mental health disorders when it comes to criminal defense and prosecution.
One of the first instances of this type of science being used in the courtroom was in the 1981 case of John Hinckley Jr, attempted to assassinate President Ronald Reagan. During the trial, Hinckley’s past behavioral problems were examined and used as a defense. Following the insanity defense, in what was then considered a controversial twist, the defense team used a CAT scan to prove that their client had an atrophied brain, which is consistent with schizophrenia.
Even with Hinckley’s diagnosis of the disease by a doctor, the judge didn’t want to allow the CAT scan to be used as evidence in his insanity defense. The neuroscience evidence in the case helped convince the jury to find Hinkcley not responsible by reason of insanity.
How the mind works in connection to criminal behavior has been studied for hundreds of years-it is no surprise that neurolaw and the science behind it is on the rise.
The science that lead to Hinkcley’s conviction has advanced in the past 40 years because of advancements in technology that allow doctors and scientists to look at brain activity. Despite the use of neuroscience in Hinkcley’s case, neurolaw has yet to have a major impact on the courts. Scientists, doctors, and legal experts are expecting the application of neurolaw to continue to grow in courtrooms. Attorneys working civil cases are using brain imaging to argue whether or not a client has been injured. Criminal attorneys have also been using brain scans to prove mental health disorders when arguing the insanity defense. Lawyers and judges have also been attending trainings and continuing education programs to learn about neuroscience and how it can impact court cases.
Lawyers and judges are concerned with how brain imaging could establish mental age, supply more dependable lie-detection, or can reveal whether or not a person is in pain.
The progress on implementing neurolaw into the courtroom has been slow yet steady. Advancements in technology have only gone so far when it comes to neuroscience, and the justice system has been keeping up. The use of neuroscience in the courtroom is for the most part, rare. However, as the technology advances and neurolaw becomes more prevalent, the use of the science in the courtroom continues to grow.
Source: Scientific American