'Take the Motherless Children off the Street': Fetal Alcohol Syndrome and the Criminal Justice System
63 Pages Posted: 12 Sep 2022
Date Written: September 3, 2022
Remarkably, there has been minimal academic legal literature about the interplay between fetal alcohol syndrome disorder (FASD) and critical aspects of many criminal trials, including issues related to the role of experts, quality of counsel, competency to stand trial, the insanity defense, and sentencing and the death penalty. Nor has there been any literature about the interplay between FASD-related issues and the legal school of thought known as therapeutic jurisprudence.
In this article, the co-authors will first define fetal alcohol syndrome and explain its significance to the criminal justice system. We will then look at the specific role of experts in cases involving defendants with FASD and consider adequacy of counsel. Next, we will discuss how the impact of FASD on the major fundamentals of criminal law and procedure, especially as it relates to questions of culpability. Under this broad umbrella of topics, we consider questions that may arise in the criminal trial process, such as those related to competency to stand trial (and, to a limited extent, other criminal competencies), the insanity defense, sentencing, and the death penalty. We look carefully at the way that courts all too often dismiss effectiveness-of-counsel claims in such cases, and the implications of this case law.
Finally, we investigate why it is so significant that the caselaw in this area has totally ignored the teachings of therapeutic jurisprudence, and offer some conclusions and recommendations (based on therapeutic jurisprudence principles) that, we hope, can (at least partially) ameliorate this situation.
Keywords: Fetal alcohol syndrome, effectiveness of counsel, competency to stand trial, expert witnesses, insanity defense, sentencing, death penalty, therapeutic jurisprudence, criminal procedure
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