Predators and Punishment
Steven K. Erickson
affiliation not provided to SSRN
Michael J. Vitacco
Mendota Mental Health Institute
May 31, 2011
Psychology, Public Policy and Law, Forthcoming
Psychopathy is characterized as an emotional disorder tightly woven with persistent antisocial behavior. Prevailing legal doctrine and social norms hold psychopaths responsible for their conduct and punishment legitimately flows to psychopaths who violate the law. Recent scholarship, however, has challenged that view by claiming the emotional and cognitive deficits inherent in psychopathy should preclude culpability for some psychopaths. This view necessarily imposes a substantial modification on how the law conceptualizes culpability that is ultimately unwise. Legal responsibility entails the capacity for rationality and psychopaths comport with the established meanings of rationality as understood by the law and the communal intuitions which guide it. Extant scholarship indicates psychopaths are rationale agents and can be fairly subjected to punishment for conduct which violates the law. The law should reject efforts to include psychopaths within its excuse jurisprudence.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 40
Keywords: psychopathy, criminal responsibility, punishment, psychology
Date posted: June 2, 2011
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