The Brain, the Criminal and the Courts

This might well prove to be the best defence an XXY person who finds themselves in a Court Room will avail of and is considerably more advantageous than the present system where (if the defence is lucky to afford one)Paediatric Endocrinologists take the stand to argue the case for the defendant focusing on areas of immaturity, cognitive dysfunction and the influence the potency of androgen’s  have on the psychological capacity of such an individual. Of course if PE’s had erred on the side of caution and sought a psychological assessment before first administering hormones there’s every possibility the individual would not be in that situation, which is not to say every XXY person who administers Testosterone will end up in a courtroom, only that such precautions ought to be standard as they presently are for non-XXY’s administering the same treatments.

The task of challenging a conviction is daunting and one the majority of people inclusive of  non-XXY’s who find themselves in that situation would struggle to overturn. This is why “expert support witnesses” are so crucial to the defence though, even they struggle to give substance to the clients reasoning for acting in a certain manner. To properly understand why one must first realise how XXY/ Klinefelter’s Syndrome is also known as the Invisible Syndrome where, outside of a female body habitus that most people seldom notice, there aren’t a lot of give away signs the individual might be XXY. Such invisibility does a remarkable job at concealing the impact of three Sex Chromosomes amongst every cell of the body, and no where is this more evident than in the brain with profound effects on frontal, temporal,and motor regions which can play host to brain differences ranging from Executive Dysfunction, ADHD, Dyspraxia, Dyslexia, Expressive Language difficulties, Autism, Schizophrenia, Auditory Processing etc, etc. You might think a doctor armed with such detailed information of that impact might be seen as a credible witness but given the legal professions notoriety for cherry-picking and discrediting evidence, it becomes clearer how a specialist Endocrinologists viewpoint might be listened to, though not adhered to because they speak outside of that speciality.

On March 30, 1981, 25-year-old John W. Hinckley Jr. shot President Ronald Reagan and three other people. The following year, he went on trial for his crimes.

Defence attorneys argued that Hinckley was insane, and they pointed to a trove of evidence to back their claim. Their client had a history of behavioural problems. He was obsessed with the actress Jodie Foster and devised a plan to assassinate a president to impress her. He hounded Jimmy Carter. Then he targeted Reagan.

In a controversial courtroom twist, Hinckley’s defence team also introduced scientific evidence: a computerized axial tomography (CAT) scan that suggested their client had a “shrunken,” or atrophied, brain. Initially, the judge didn’t want to allow it. The scan didn’t prove that Hinckley had schizophrenia, experts said — but this sort of brain atrophy was more common among schizophrenics than among the general population.

It helped convince the jury to find Hinckley not responsible by reason of insanity.

Nearly 40 years later, the neuroscience that influenced Hinckley’s trial has advanced by leaps and bounds — particularly because of improvements in magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and the invention of functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), which lets scientists look at blood flows and oxygenation in the brain without hurting it. Today neuroscientists can see what happens in the brain when a subject recognizes a loved one, experiences failure, or feels pain.

Despite this explosion in neuroscience knowledge, and notwithstanding Hinckley’s successful defense, “neurolaw” hasn’t had a tremendous impact on the courts — yet. But it is coming. Attorneys working civil cases introduce brain imaging ever more routinely to argue that a client has or has not been injured. Criminal attorneys, too, sometimes argue that a brain condition mitigates a client’s responsibility. Lawyers and judges are participating in continuing education programs to learn about brain anatomy and what MRIs and EEGs and all those other brain tests actually show.

Most of these lawyers and judges want to know such things as whether brain imaging could establish a defendant’s mental age, supply more dependable lie-detection tests or reveal conclusively when someone is experiencing pain and when they are malingering (which would help resolve personal injury cases). Neuroscience researchers aren’t there yet, but they are working hard to unearth correlations that might help — looking to see which parts of the brain engage in a host of situations.

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