I am a forensic neuroscientific consultant for local requesting agencies. Neuroscience is addressing novel perspectives regarding violent criminal behavior that can be a game-changer for your legal practice.
Consideration for a defendant’s mental state is requisite to fair judicial proceedings. Criminal conviction is contingent upon evidence that the commission of a prohibited act, actus reus, coincides with a statutorily defined mental state, mens rea. Knowledgeable agency may not be equivalent to ipso facto intention, and a legal gray zone emerges when neuropsychiatric, intellectual or cognitive deficits are less than overt. And resultant sentencing outcomes can be critically life-impactful. Research suggests that making inferential assessments about a defendant’s mental state can be a challenging task for legal counsel and jurors [1, 2]. What is the role of neurolaw?
Since violent criminal behavior may be regarded as a sequela of compromised functional neuroanatomy , a determinant in mens rea, the concept of the insanity defense has logically been extended to include other neuropathic disorders. Because brain scans have diagnostic credibility, by extension, they are increasingly becoming persuasive forensic evidence. In conjunction with a behavioral profile, such evidence can contextualize a psychiatric diagnostic opinion to mitigate legal outcomes or facilitate an insanity defense . The intercalated framework of neurolaw i.e., neuroscience applied to law, uniquely offers great power to characterize criminological factors within the statute.
To define the scope of neurolaw, as per the federal rule of evidence, expert testimony needs only to be helpful, relevant and reliable to the trier and impactful to jurors. As per the Daubert ruling (1993), the United States Supreme Court stipulates that the trial judge’s own discretion determines whether to admit expert evidence into their court. If any given witnesses’ testimony is grounded in scientific methodology, then their knowledgeable expertise is deemed admissible, in accordance with Daubert’s Rule 702 .
Neuroscientific evidence can be used to critically arbitrate criminal and/or civil cases. Expert witness testimony may be especially useful during pretrial motions, discovery and sentencing to assess the feasibility of rehabilitative contingencies, etc. [3, 5]. Given my background, I can effectively liaise with neurologists and/or psychiatrists to leverage your most pivotal cases and present findings.
My meta-analysis, ‘Forensic neurobiology underlying violent criminal behavior,’ is now published open access. My recent research entails rigorous review, integrating hundreds of high-ranking peer-review, integrating hundreds of high-ranking peer-reviewed modern scientific articles within this field.
Topics presented in my own meta-analysis include:
- Evidentiary neuroimaging
- Reactive vs instrumental aggression
Psychopathology vs antisoical personality disorder
Other neuropsychological disorders and acquired pseudopsychopathology
- Traumatic Brain Injury
- Intellectual Disability
Intentionality and mens rea
Requesting agencies: Please feel free to contact me. I am happy to discuss the role of neurolaw and the implications for your practice. If you cannot access my publication, let me know and I will send you a copy. I appreciate your input and look forward to working with you.
My references for this neurolaw website section:
1. Dixon, L., Gill, B., 2001. Changes in the standards for admitting expert evidence in federal civil cases since the Daubert decision. RAND Institute for Civil Justice.
2. Farahany, N.A., 2016. Neuroscience and behavioral genetics in US criminal law: an empirical analysis. J Law Biosci. 2(3), 485-509.
3. Du Beau, A., summer 2018. Forensic neurobiology underlying violent criminal behavior. ISBN 978-1-5342-0416-4, Glasstree Academic Publishing, 1-36.
4. Presidential commission for the study of bioethical issues, March 2015. Gray Matters: Topics at the Intersection of Neuroscience, Ethics, and Society.
5. Eagleman D., 2011. Incognito: The secret lives of the brain. Knopf Doubleday Publishing.