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 March 6, 2015 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 March 6, 2015).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Science & Society News

Friday, March 6, 2015

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Gas Production Cut on Earthquake Fears

Gas Production Cut on Earthquake Fears

Reuters - Business Video Online (Mar. 5, 2015) The Dutch government has cut production at Europe&apos;s largest gas field in Groningen amid concerns over earthquakes which are damaging local churches. As Amy Pollock reports the decision - largely politically-motivated - could have big economic conseqeunces. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Republicans Propose Bill That Would Kill Net Neutrality

Republicans Propose Bill That Would Kill Net Neutrality

Newsy (Mar. 5, 2015) The bill proposed by Tennessee Rep. Marsha Blackburn would roll back the existing and any similar future net neutrality rules from the FCC. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Obamacare's Strange New Supreme Court Case

Obamacare's Strange New Supreme Court Case

Newsy (Mar. 4, 2015) President Obama&apos;s healthcare law is facing its second Supreme Court challenge, and it hinges on a single sentence. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Prince William Calls for Unified Effort Against Illegal Wildlife Trade

Prince William Calls for Unified Effort Against Illegal Wildlife Trade

Reuters - Entertainment Video Online (Mar. 4, 2015) Britain&apos;s Prince William pledges to unite against illegal wildlife trade on the final day of his visit to China. Rough cut - no reporter narration 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