After our discussion last night of neuroscience and the law, I did some of my own digging in the news. The most interesting article I found is about Domenico Mattiello, a pediatrician in Italy who now faces pedophilia charges. He was a pediatrician for 30 years before being accused of abusing his young patients. Mattiello’s lawyers intend to introduce evidence and expert witness testimony that he has a 4 centimeter brain tumor that is putting pressure on his brain and causing altered behavior. This evidence is persuasive because the doctor acted normally for nearly 30 years and then went through a radical behavioral change. However, the use of this science leads to many questions.
The use of neuroscience in criminal proceedings raises questions about the goal of punishment and where to draw the line. In my opinion, the brain tumor scenario is a simpler matter to introduce into evidence than the argument that someone is not culpable because they have unusual responses to stimuli in a functional MRI. Pressure on the brain causing altered behavior is a relatively simple concept (in comparison with other neuroscience concepts) for jurors to grasp and the connection between the pressure and behavior is logical. However, introducing evidence of a brain function abnormality or a genetic predisposition towards violence is taking things too far at this point in time. Neuroscience is not yet conclusive enough to be used in that context. As the article suggests, complex and relatively new neuroscience is not ready for use in the courtroom.
The link to the article about neuroscience and the law is http://www.foxnews.com/health/2012/08/29/neuroscience-in-court-is-brain-to-blame-for-committing-crimes/.
On a side note, I also found an interesting article on how dogs’ brains may actually be hardwired to empathize with humans. The link to that article is http://news.discovery.com/animals/dogs-empathy-humans-120831.html.