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Life, Death, and Neuroimaging: The Advantages and Disadvantages of The Defense’s Use of Neuroimages in Capital Cases - Lessons from the Front

25 Pages Posted: 1 Jun 2011  

John H. Blume III

Cornell Law School

Emily C. Paavola

Cornell Law School

Date Written: May 31, 2011

Abstract

The use of neuroimaging in capital cases has become increasingly common. An informal survey of cases produced over one hundred opinions from reported decisions alone discussing the use of computed tomography (CT) scanning, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), functional MRI, positron emission tomography (PET) scans, single-photon emission computed tomography (SPECT) scans, and similar technology in capital cases. This article gives practical advice to defense counsel considering the use of neuroimaging in a capital case. We discuss how, in the right case, this technology can be a valuable investigative tool used to produce an important component of a successful mitigation story. However, we also discuss a number of pitfalls we have encountered in our own practice. Using case examples, we elaborate on the serious risks involved, including: (a) errors in analysis; and, (b) overreliance on imaging, and provide specific guidance on how to navigate the pros and cons of the defense’s use of neuroimaging in capital cases.

Keywords: Death penalty, Capital cases, neuroimaging, tool, evidence

Suggested Citation

Blume, John H. and Paavola, Emily C., Life, Death, and Neuroimaging: The Advantages and Disadvantages of The Defense’s Use of Neuroimages in Capital Cases - Lessons from the Front (May 31, 2011). Mercer Law Review, Vol. 62, 2011; Cornell Legal Studies Research Paper No. 11-18. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1856188

John H. Blume III (Contact Author)

Cornell Law School ( email )

Myron Taylor Hall
Cornell University
Ithaca, NY 14853-4901
United States

Emily C. Paavola

Cornell Law School ( email )

Myron Taylor Hall
Cornell University
Ithaca, NY 14853-4901
United States

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