Advancements in technology have now made it possible for scientists to provide assessments of an individual’s mental state. Through neuroimaging, scientists can create visual images of the brain that depict whether an individual has a mental disorder or other brain defect. The importance of these advancements is particularly evident in the context of criminal law, where defendants are able to dispute their culpability for crimes committed where they lack the capacity to form criminal intent. Thus, in theory, a neuroimage depicting defective brain functioning could demonstrate a defendant’s inability to form the requisite criminal intent. Due to early successes in high-profile cases where advanced neuroimaging was used in this way, many researchers believe that the use of neuroimages to substantiate claims of diminished capacity and insanity is a viable option for criminal defendants. This Issue Brief argues, however, that though the use of neuroimages may have a positive effect on outcomes in theory, in actuality, the use of neuroimages will only have a negligible impact on sentencing outcomes.
Tanneika Minott, Born This Way: How Neuroimaging Will Impact Jury Deliberations, 12 Duke Law & Technology Review 219-230 (2014)