Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Courts face challenges when linking genetics to criminal behavior

Date:
June 4, 2014
Source:
Cell Press
Summary:
Some people may be at increased risk of criminal behavior due to their genes, some say. Such research holds potential for helping judges and juries with some of the difficult decisions they must make, but it also brings a substantial risk of misinterpretation and misuse within the legal system. Experts suggest that addressing these issues will be of critical importance for upholding principles of justice and fairness.

Studies suggest that some people may be at increased risk of criminal behavior due to their genes. Such research holds potential for helping judges and juries with some of the difficult decisions they must make, but it also brings a substantial risk of misinterpretation and misuse within the legal system. Addressing these issues will be of critical importance for upholding principles of justice and fairness, according to an essay being published in the June 4 issue of the Cell Press journal Neuron.

Related Articles


"Genetic evidence, properly used, could assist with judgments regarding appropriate criminal punishments, causes of injury or disability, and other questions before the courts," says author Dr. Paul Appelbaum, who directs Columbia University's Center for Research on Ethical, Legal & Social Implications of Psychiatric, Neurologic & Behavioral Genetics.

Genetic evidence is being offered in criminal trials to suggest that defendants have diminished understanding of or control over their behavior, most often in arguments for mitigating sentences -- especially for defendants facing the death penalty. Genetic evidence may also play an increasing role in civil trials regarding issues such as causation of injury. For example, employers contesting work-related mental disability claims might want claimants to undergo genetic testing to prove that an underlying disorder was not responsible for their impairment.

"The complexity of genetic information and our incomplete understanding of the roots of behavior raise the possibility that genetic evidence will be misused or misunderstood. Hence, care is needed in evaluating the extent to which genetic evidence may have something to add to legal proceedings in a given case," says Dr. Appelbaum.

Moving forward, a number of questions must be addressed. For example, to what extent do specific genetic variants make it more difficult to understand or control one's behavior and what are the biological mechanisms involved? Also, how can we respond to individuals with genetic predispositions to criminal behavior to diminish the risk of recidivism?

Dr. Appelbaum notes that it will be an ongoing challenge for both legal and genetic experts to monitor the use of genetic data in the courts to ensure that the conclusions that are drawn validly reflect the science. Without such efforts, judges and juries may overestimate or underestimate the conclusions that can be drawn from genetic evidence, thus unfairly distorting the legal process.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Cell Press. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. PaulS. Appelbaum. The Double Helix Takes the Witness Stand: Behavioral and Neuropsychiatric Genetics in Court. Neuron, 2014; 82 (5): 946 DOI: 10.1016/j.neuron.2014.05.026

Cite This Page:

Cell Press. "Courts face challenges when linking genetics to criminal behavior." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 4 June 2014. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/06/140604123507.htm>.
Cell Press. (2014, June 4). Courts face challenges when linking genetics to criminal behavior. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 24, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/06/140604123507.htm
Cell Press. "Courts face challenges when linking genetics to criminal behavior." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/06/140604123507.htm (accessed October 24, 2014).

Share This



More Science & Society News

Friday, October 24, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Ebola Fears Keep Guinea Hospitals Empty

Ebola Fears Keep Guinea Hospitals Empty

AP (Oct. 23, 2014) Fears of Ebola are keeping doctors and patients alike away from hospitals in the West African nation of Guinea. (Oct. 23) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Despite Rising Death Toll, Many Survive Ebola

Despite Rising Death Toll, Many Survive Ebola

AP (Oct. 23, 2014) The family of a Dallas nurse infected with Ebola in the US says doctors can no longer detect the virus in her. Despite the mounting death toll in West Africa, there are survivors there too. (Oct. 23) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Academic Scandal Shocks UNC

Academic Scandal Shocks UNC

AP (Oct. 23, 2014) A scandal involving bogus classes and inflated grades at the University of North Carolina was bigger than previously reported, a new investigation found. (Oct. 23) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Chameleon Camouflage to Give Tanks Cloaking Capabilities

Chameleon Camouflage to Give Tanks Cloaking Capabilities

Reuters - Innovations Video Online (Oct. 22, 2014) Inspired by the way a chameleon changes its colour to disguise itself; scientists in Poland want to replace traditional camouflage paint with thousands of electrochromic plates that will continuously change colour to blend with its surroundings. The first PL-01 concept tank prototype will be tested within a few years, with scientists predicting that a similar technology could even be woven into the fabric of a soldiers' clothing making them virtually invisible to the naked eye. Matthew Stock reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Science & Society

Business & Industry

Education & Learning

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins