I all too often suggest that the legal community ought to be aware of the limitations of neuroscience, but this doens’t imply it shouldn’t go the other way as well. Most of the expert witnesses I worked with were overly cautious since their opinion matters in not just the current case accepted, but possibly, in any case like it from that point forward. Opinions can be manipulated pretty easily, and the two evils you’re faced with is either a door too narrow or too wide.
At the end of 2011 The Royal Society published a report stating that in the USA, neurological or behavioural genetics were used as evidence for 722 legal defences between 2005 and 2009. In Italy, a woman had her sentence for murdering her sister reduced after the defence lawyers presented genetic and imaging evidence that her brain’s anatomy was different to that of 10 normal women. On the other hand, in 2008 an Indian woman was convicted of poisoning her husband when a scan of brain activity allegedly revealed that she had knowledge of events surrounding her spouses death which could only have been gained through experience. Neuroscientists are now often called upon as expert witnesses and so should have a understanding of the legal and ethical implications of their testimonies. [-Natasha Bray, via]