Neuroimages as Evidence in a Mens Rea Defense: No Impact

Psychology, Public Policy, and Law, Vol. 17, No. 3, pp. 357–393, 2011

Posted: 8 Mar 2012

See all articles by N. J. Schweitzer

N. J. Schweitzer

Arizona State University

Michael J. Saks

Arizona State University (ASU) - Sandra Day O'Connor College of Law

Emily R. Murphy

affiliation not provided to SSRN

Adina L. Roskies

affiliation not provided to SSRN

Walter Sinnott-Armstrong

Dartmouth College

Lyn M. Gaudet

MINDSET

Date Written: August 1, 2011

Abstract

Recent developments in the neuropsychology of criminal behavior have given rise to concerns that neuroimaging evidence (such as MRI and functional MRI [fMRI] images) could unduly influence jurors. Across four experiments, a nationally representative sample of 1,476 jury-eligible participants evaluated written summaries of criminal cases in which expert testimony was presented in support of a mental disorder as exculpatory. The evidence varied in the extent to which it presented neuroscientific explanations and neuroimages in support of the expert’s conclusion. Despite suggestive findings from previous research, we found no evidence that neuroimagery affected jurors’ judgments (verdicts, sentence recom-mendations, judgments of the defendant’s culpability) over and above verbal neuroscience - based testimony. A meta-analysis of our four experiments confirmed these findings. In addition, we found that neuroscientific evidence was more effective than clinical psycho- logical evidence in persuading jurors that the defendant’s disorder reduced his capacity to control his actions, although this effect did not translate into differences in verdicts.

Keywords: neuroimage, scientific evidence, mens rea, juror decisionmaking

Suggested Citation

Schweitzer, Nicholas J. and Saks, Michael J. and Murphy, Emily R. and Roskies, Adina L. and Sinnott-Armstrong, Walter and Gaudet, Lyn M., Neuroimages as Evidence in a Mens Rea Defense: No Impact (August 1, 2011). Psychology, Public Policy, and Law, Vol. 17, No. 3, pp. 357–393, 2011. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2018114

Nicholas J. Schweitzer (Contact Author)

Arizona State University ( email )

PO BOX 37100
Phoenix, AZ 85069-7100
United States

HOME PAGE: http://lsprg.asu.edu

Michael J. Saks

Arizona State University (ASU) - Sandra Day O'Connor College of Law ( email )

Box 877906
Tempe, AZ 85287-7906
United States

Emily R. Murphy

affiliation not provided to SSRN

Adina L. Roskies

affiliation not provided to SSRN ( email )

Walter Sinnott-Armstrong

Dartmouth College ( email )

Department of Sociology
Hanover, NH 03755
United States

Lyn M. Gaudet

MINDSET ( email )

2441 Ridgecrest Dr SE
Albuquerque, 87108
United States

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