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Neuroscience Nuance: Dissecting the Relevance of Neuroscience in Adjudicating Criminal Culpability

Journal of Law & the Biosciences, Forthcoming

Vanderbilt Law Research Paper No. 17-44

24 Pages Posted: 4 Oct 2017  

Christopher Slobogin

Vanderbilt University - Law School

Date Written: October 1, 2017

Abstract

Most scholars who have written about the role of neuroscience in determining criminal liability and punishment take a stance somewhere between those who assert that neuroscience has virtually nothing to say about such determinations and those that claim it will upend the assumption that most choices to commit crime are blameworthy. At the same time, those who take this intermediate position have seldom clarified how they think neuroscience can help. This article tries to answer that question more precisely than most works in this vein. It identifies five types of neuroscience evidence that might be presented by the defense and discusses when that evidence is material under accepted legal doctrine. It concludes that, even on the assumption that the data presented are accurate, much commonly proffered neuroscientific evidence is immaterial or only weakly material, not only at trial but also at sentencing. At the same time, it recognizes that certain types of neuroscience evidence can be very useful in criminal adjudication, especially at sentencing.

Keywords: Neuroscience, Criminal Liability, Sentencing

Suggested Citation

Slobogin, Christopher, Neuroscience Nuance: Dissecting the Relevance of Neuroscience in Adjudicating Criminal Culpability (October 1, 2017). Journal of Law & the Biosciences, Forthcoming ; Vanderbilt Law Research Paper No. 17-44. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3046213

Christopher Slobogin (Contact Author)

Vanderbilt University - Law School ( email )

131 21st Avenue South
Nashville, TN 37203-1181
United States

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