IQ, Culpability, and the Criminal Law’s Gray Area: Why the Rationale for Reducing the Culpability of Juveniles and Intellectually Disabled Adults Should Apply to Low-IQ Adults
23 Pages Posted: 30 May 2019
Date Written: May 8, 2019
For too long, the criminal law has only provided legal protections for defendants who exist on the margins, namely, those who suffer from mental retardation, insanity, or are too young to appreciate the consequences of criminal conduct. In so doing, the criminal law has failed to address the gray area in which most defendants reside, and for which all defendants lack sufficient legal protections. For example, at the guilt/innocence phase of a criminal trial, the legal system offers little, if any protections, for defendants afflicted with mental illnesses, personality disorders, neurological impairments, and borderline intellectual functioning. This is fundamentally unjust, contrary to relevant empirical evidence regarding the effects of cognitive, psychiatric, and psychological disorders on culpability, and results in profoundly unjust sentences that, in many cases, are entirely disproportionate to a defendant’s culpability. As such, the time has arrived for the courts and legislators to recognize that defendants need not be intellectually disabled, insane, or under the age of eighteen to trigger legal and constitutional protections at the guilt/innocence phase that account for a defendant’s reduced or, even, zero culpability in certain cases.
Keywords: Criminal Law, Constitutional Law, Criminal Procedure, United States Supreme Court, Neuroscience
JEL Classification: K14
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation