Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
The Courts Science

Brain Scans Used In Murder Sentencing 328

Posted by kdawson
from the innocent-as-a-dead-salmon dept.
sciencehabit writes "For what may be the first time, fMRI scans of brain activity have been used as evidence in the sentencing phase of a murder trial. Defense lawyers for an Illinois man convicted of raping and killing a 10-year-old girl used the scans to argue that their client should be spared the death penalty because he has a brain disorder. Some experts say the scans are irrelevant because they were taken 20+ years after the crimes were committed. Others point out that the scans are only being considered because the sentencing phase of a trial has less stringent standards about evidence than those used to establish a defendant's innocence or guilt." In the Illinois case, the fMRI defense didn't help the defendant, whom a jury sentenced to death.
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Brain Scans Used In Murder Sentencing

Comments Filter:
  • Don't think about pink elephants or Fp's
  • Great defence! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Quasar1999 (520073) on Tuesday November 24, 2009 @08:11PM (#30220958) Journal
    If anything, it would help the jury decide to sentence him to death... obviously they're helping him by not letting him live, thus his horribly diseased brain won't make him suffer any longer... Really it's the humanitarian thing to do... :P
    • Re:Great defence! (Score:5, Interesting)

      by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Tuesday November 24, 2009 @09:46PM (#30221764) Journal
      There are some specific cases where brain abnormality evidence seems like it would be very valuable to the defendant. This guy [ama-assn.org] for instance. Initially pretty normal. Gradually develops increasingly problematic sexual misbehavior. Just before being sent to jail, goes to the ER with a headache and neurological symptoms. They MRI him and chop out a huge tumor pressing on his frontal lobe. Sexual misbehavior stops.

      Some time later, it starts up again. They check, and the tumor has partially regrown. Tumor is again resected, and patient is again fine.

      In a case like that, there seems to be a compelling argument to be made that the defendant's behavior is a medical problem rather than a criminal one(and a treatable medical problem, not an "well, enjoy the secure ward for the rest of your life" medical problem). If, though, your plea is basically "But, but, this MRI shows exactly the part of my brain that makes me a violent shitbag..." That seems fairly useless to you(though it might be helpful in the long term, if it helps us figure out how to stop producing people like you). Obviously, with sufficient scientific knowledge, it will be possible to identify the anatomic basis of your behavior. So what?
      • Mod parent up. It is ALL about whether or not the 'bad thing' can be prevented from occurring again.
        • Re:Great defence! (Score:5, Interesting)

          by fractoid (1076465) on Tuesday November 24, 2009 @11:10PM (#30222338) Homepage
          Is it, though? Now we're getting into the philosophy of punishment. There are three basic motivations that I can see for punishing someone for a crime (as distinct from forcing them to make reparations):
          • To reduce the likelihood of re-offending (especially applies to incarceration).
          • To serve as an example, to deter others from perpetrating the same offense
          • Revenge

          Imagine a kiddy fiddler of the worst order. He's molested scores of children, caused untold harm to them, etc. Now imagine that, on the day that he's caught, they can for whatever reason clinically prove that he's 'cured' and would be constitutionally unable to re-offend. Should he go free? I imagine the response would be a universal and emphatic "no, of course not!" The only motive for incarcerating or executing him at this point would be revenge.

    • Re: (Score:2, Troll)

      by Runaway1956 (1322357) *

      Thanks to actions taken by Nazi Germany almost 70 years ago, eugenics is a dirty word in most of the world today. But, eugenics actually makes sense. If this fool is defective, then those defective genes should be flushed from the gene pool.

      We have actually been practicing the reverse of eugenics. We assist congenitally deformed and defective infants to survive to adulthood, so that they can pass on their congenital conditions. It's admirable to accept Downs' syndrome children, for instance. As a socie

      • Re:Great defence! (Score:5, Insightful)

        by jamesh (87723) on Tuesday November 24, 2009 @11:00PM (#30222260)

        From a purely scientific point of view it does make some sense. The trouble is that you would be putting people in charge of who gets to breed and who doesn't, and we've already demonstrated that people are not capable of running a bank properly so imagine what's going to happen if you put them in charge of something like this... Once someone in power decides that pointing out flaws in the government is not a good trait to have, it all goes downhill really fast - there doesn't need to be a 'real' gene for it either, once the system is corrupt people can make up whatever they want.

        Also, have a look at some of the defects in some of the greatest people of our time. Einstein had a majorly lopsided brain etc. Obviously not necessarily genetic though.

      • Re:Great defence! (Score:5, Interesting)

        by hairyfeet (841228) <{bassbeast1968} {at} {gmail.com}> on Tuesday November 24, 2009 @11:01PM (#30222264) Journal

        You know, I always thought is was how a person was raised, and not their DNA, that made them who they were, that is, until it happened in my own family.

        My two cousins, lets call them Rick and Don, were raised exactly the same way, in fact until Rick turned 16 and everything came out we all thought they were biological brothers. It turned out my Aunt and Uncle had been told when they lived in Texas they couldn't have kids, and therefor adopted Rick at less than a week old, naturally boom a year later Don is born. They were very "all children are gifts from God" and spending many a night in their home and living down the street from them I can attest they never treated either kid differently from the other. But before Rick was even 12 there were problems-torturing animals, stealing, vicious behavior, bullying, etc. Finally they managed to get the court records unsealed and ....damn.

        It turned out Rick's mom was a whore who was doing 10-20 for cutting up a John over a fee with a razor, and his dad was her pimp who I swear was a fricking axe murderer! No shit, they guy got into an argument over cash, went to his truck, got an axe and chopped the guy into little pieces and got life without parole. Now Rick is locked up in the same prison where his biological dad died, charged as a habitual offender he most likely will never get out again. My aunt and uncle spent huge sums of money trying to help him, therapy, drugs, etc all to no avail. Don is about as boring as you can get, I don't think he or his wife have ever gotten so much as a traffic ticket.

        So I really have to wonder if there is something in the DNA. My aunt looked up his biological family and both sides were nothing but violence-rapes,beatings, killings, etc as far back as she could find.And as I said both boys were raised side by side, same house, food, treatment, etc, in a house filled with love and caring parents. So maybe there is something to the "bad gene" idea, who knows. Maybe we can isolate the genes and hopefully get rid of them. But watching it unfold in my own family killed the whole "it is just the environment they are raised in" BS for me. Because they got Rick straight from the hospital and he had never been exposed to his family, nor would he or any of us even known they existed if things hadn't gone so wrong.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by PitaBred (632671)
          The unfortunate thing is that he spent 9 months and a week with his biological mother. Who knows what she ate and how much proper nutrition he got while developing, what drugs she did, how well she took care of herself. There's research showing that children start out crying in their native languages, which means they can be affected quite a bit by pre-natal environmental conditions. It's hard to separate DNA from "environment" when you really can't tell what the environment was for a large portion of his q
          • Re:Great defence! (Score:4, Interesting)

            by hairyfeet (841228) <{bassbeast1968} {at} {gmail.com}> on Wednesday November 25, 2009 @04:07AM (#30223640) Journal

            Actually this is one question I know the answer to-It was the early 70s and she spent pretty much all of her pregnancy handcuffed to a bed, since she was in the pen over the whole "cutting the guy's face all to shit" with a razor thing. So she couldn't have been more than a month or so along when she ended up in prison, since of course cutting a guy is a parole violation that tends to get your ass thrown back in pretty quick. From what I understand they gave vitamins and decent food to pregnant women in the joint, or so I have heard. And I don't think she'd be able to score dope too well in a prison maternity ward. He was born in the pen and then taken to the hospital where my aunt got him.

            I know all this because my aunt damned near worked herself into the ground trying to find something that would help Rick. She found out everything she possibly could about every single relative of his she could find hoping to find something they could treat, and spent many a night crying on my mom's shoulder. Unfortunately there isn't exactly a treatment for "mean muthafucka" which is pretty much what his biological family was. Wife beaters, killers, hell I bet you could probably go back 100 years with that family tree and not find a single one that wasn't scummy. Sad but true. With Rick there was pretty much ZERO impulse control. I mean none, zip zero zilch. No empathy or remorse either.

            So while he may be a member of my family I say the best thing society could do is NEVER let that dude breathe a breath of free air again. Because if you let him out he would be robbing, beating, whatever probably before he even got 20 miles down the road. Maybe study him and try to figure out what in his DNA creates somebody like that, because we sure as hell don't want a bunch of him running loose. But from what I was told there pretty much wasn't a single member of that family without a rap sheet as long as your arm. Really nice bunch, huh?

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by big_paul76 (1123489)

          Stephen J. Gould said something about how any evidence that suggests nurture over nature, could usually be used just as well to suggest a nature over nurture.

          It turns out that nature vs nurture is a false dichotomy. For example, there have been genes identified in rats that are ONLY turned on by specific maternal behaviors.

          So genes matter, but environment is at least as important. Without the environment that "turns on" a gene, nothing happens.

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by mcgrew (92797) *

          But that doesn't explain Amy and Tami, who I mentioned in my slashdot journal yesterday. Here's the relevant part (no need to read the whole journal)

          The difference between Amy and Tami are striking. Tami's about ten years older than Amy, who was raised under horrible conditions; she was the result of two teenagers tripping on acid in the snow on high school property. She was shuffled from one foster home to another; she's told me some terrible horror stories, which she overcame, went to college and got a nu

  • Keep him/her locked up for life then. After all, we do have "medical" evidence that proves they were and continue to be a threat to society. Under no circumstances should they be allows to mingle with the rest of society out in the open.

    • In this situation were he mentally ill you would likely keep him in prison forever due to the chance of helpful drugs/treatments coming out.
  • Capital Punishment (Score:3, Interesting)

    by RichardJenkins (1362463) on Tuesday November 24, 2009 @08:21PM (#30221060)
    Sure stops re-offending, not sure about a deterrent effect but I could buy it. I just don't think I have the stomach for it.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday November 24, 2009 @08:26PM (#30221118)

      Capital punishment can encourage heinous crimes. If a suspect has already committed a crime that warrants capital punishment, then that suspect will have nothing to lose by committing more crimes.

      • by LordNimon (85072) on Tuesday November 24, 2009 @08:56PM (#30221400)
        If a suspect has already committed a crime that warrants life in prison without parole, then that suspect will have something to lose by committing more crimes.
      • by digitalunity (19107) <.moc.oohay. .ta. .ytinulatigid.> on Tuesday November 24, 2009 @08:57PM (#30221404) Homepage

        I could see that. Bank robbery goes wrong, accidentally kills someone, robber keeps killing because they've already crossed a line they didn't want to cross...

        Even if you're wrong, it certainly seems that capital punishment does little to reduce crimes we currently deem worthy of capital punishment.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Thinboy00 (1190815)

          -1 Troll != -1 Disagree

        • by h4rr4r (612664)

          Mod parent up. He makes a reasonable statement that is not trollish in anyway.

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by Opportunist (166417)

          It's worse than that, too "hard" punishment for a "minor" crime can push people towards committing worse crimes when the difference in sentence isn't too big. A "three strikes" law in a country without a death penalty would basically mean that you should always kill the witnesses when you've been in jail two times and commit another crime, because you will be sentenced for life if you get caught because it's your third time anyway and murder (sans death penalty) means life anyway.

          So why not kill the people

      • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday November 24, 2009 @09:01PM (#30221436)

        OK, so outlaw capital punishment. Then we have a new problem.

        Life imprisonment can encourage heinous crimes. If a suspect has already committed a crime that warrants life imprisonment, then that suspect will have nothing to lose by committing more crimes.

        See where this is going?

        I'm not in favor of capital punishment either, but your argument against it is specious.

        • by hedwards (940851)
          That's a specious argument to make. Life imprisonment has already been shown to do just that, with or without the death penalty. The third strike tends to be much more violent than the previous two offenses.

          Really what that's an argument for is bringing some degree of sanity to the whole process. Which can't really happen since a substantial portion of the populace defines the death penalty as the punishment for murder then says that somebody has been let off the hook if they don't get the death penalty,
        • So allow the judge discretion --- when a person commits a crime that carries the possibility of life imprisonment, they should know that at every stage it is in their interests to co-operate because they can be shown lenience. Keep it going post-sentence too --- if someone is given a lenience sentence for whatever reason, and later on they show that lenience was not warranted, punish them more.

          Suspended sentences, good behaviour bonds, ministerial pardons, etc.

      • by Shakrai (717556) on Tuesday November 24, 2009 @09:02PM (#30221444) Journal

        Capital punishment can encourage heinous crimes. If a suspect has already committed a crime that warrants capital punishment, then that suspect will have nothing to lose by committing more crimes.

        I'm not convinced that most violent criminals are worried about what they have to lose. Take armed robbery for instance. People who hold up convenience stores rarely walk away with more than $100. For that marginal gain they are risking 10 to 20 years of their freedom, more if they used a weapon in the commission of their crime. No sane person could look at the risk to reward ratio of armed robbery and conclude that it's a worthwhile endeavor -- yet people still engage in such behavior.

        I don't think the point of prison and/or the death penalty is to deter crime. Clearly neither one is effective at doing so. The point is to extract the debt that is owed to society for such behavior. The only method of payment for such debt is to require that you forfeit some of your limited time on this planet back to society.

        In the case of the death penalty, if your crimes are heinous enough (treason, murder, kidnapping and rape should all qualify IMHO) then I don't see any problems with society putting you out of our collective misery. My only issue with the death penalty is the fact that no justice system is 100% perfect, although I'm not convinced that spending your entire life behind bars for a crime that you didn't commit is anymore humane than being executed for it.

        • by evanbd (210358) on Tuesday November 24, 2009 @09:17PM (#30221532)

          In the case of the death penalty, if your crimes are heinous enough (treason, murder, kidnapping and rape should all qualify IMHO) then I don't see any problems with society putting you out of our collective misery. My only issue with the death penalty is the fact that no justice system is 100% perfect, although I'm not convinced that spending your entire life behind bars for a crime that you didn't commit is anymore humane than being executed for it.

          I tend to agree with you; however, the major reason I oppose the death penalty isn't that it's inhumane; it's that we make mistakes. Given an imperfect justice system (as all are), a life sentence made in error can be partially corrected later if new evidence comes to light. It's rare, but there have been a decent number of life sentences later reversed because of new evidence (in particular DNA evidence).

          We owe it to the convicted to acknowledge that, in some cases, we make mistakes.

          • by Thinboy00 (1190815) <[moc.liamg] [ta] [00yobniht]> on Tuesday November 24, 2009 @09:44PM (#30221742) Journal

            Hell yeah [wikipedia.org]!

          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            Mistakes are an issue(and they aren't just mistakes, some of the "prosecutorial misconduct" that gets pulled is basically judicial murder).

            What I would be very interested to see studied, though, is whether getting the death penalty, because of its high profile and controversial nature, actually improves the quality of representation, access to appeals, and the like. The ideal comparison would be between otherwise similar groups of inmates, some of whom got death, and some of whom got life or various long
          • My thoughts exactly. I am not opposed to death penalty from a moral standpoint, like a lot of other lefties seem to be - I fully recognize that there are such human specimens who truly do not deserve anything better than that - but the price of a mistake is infinitely high. Life imprisonment is more expensive, but otherwise achieves the same goal eventually, and at least a mistake can be corrected.

            • by evanbd (210358)
              Actually, by the time you count increased legal bills from appeals and such, life imprisonment is normally cheaper.
              • I've heard that argued either way, but in the end, I do not think that it is really important anyway. Ultimately this isn't about saving money (I sure hope so).

          • by shutdown -p now (807394) on Tuesday November 24, 2009 @10:38PM (#30222126) Journal

            There's one more point that just came to my mind, though it is, perhaps, somewhat U.S.-centric, and it may be my wrongful interpretation anyway as I'm not an American. If you start with the concept of inalienable rights, the famous "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness", then wouldn't any wrongful execution, being intentional deprivation of a person's life, violate his inalienable right? And therefore, unless you can guarantee with absolute certainty (meaning just that - 100% - not 99.9...%) that executions are never wrongful, death penalty as an institution is inherently in violation of the right to life?

            (Yes, I know that the phrase comes from the U.S. Declaration of Independence rather than Constitution, and therefore has no legal force. Nonetheless, if one subscribes to the notion of inalienable rights in the first place, they are inherently above laws.)

            • by SEE (7681) on Wednesday November 25, 2009 @05:52AM (#30224140) Homepage

              If you start with the concept of inalienable rights, the famous "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness", then wouldn't any wrongful execution, being intentional deprivation of a person's life, violate his inalienable right?

              Sure. But so would any wrongful imprisonment, being intentional deprivation of a person's liberty, violate his inalienable right. Wrongfully arresting the guy for the crime already is a violation of his inalienable rights by depriving him of his liberty. Demanding 100% perfection before any act that might deny an inalienable right means no law enforcement whatsoever.

              (The same type of problem undercuts the often-made "if it's wrong for an individual to do it, it's wrong for the state to do it" argument against the death penalty. Because the logic of that applies just as fully to the fact that it's not allowed for an individual to take somebody prisoner with force or the threat thereof, lock them in restraints, and imprison them behind bars.)

        • by Urza9814 (883915)

          My only issue with the death penalty is the fact that no justice system is 100% perfect, although I'm not convinced that spending your entire life behind bars for a crime that you didn't commit is anymore humane than being executed for it.

          The question usually isn't people who we never discover are innocent - the question is those cases where we do. Look at Troy Davis - the only evidence against him was the testimony of 9 witnesses. 7 of those have since claimed that their testimony was coerced by the police, and several even implicated one of the remaining two witnesses as the true killer. Yet even after this was discovered he remains on death row. The Georgia courts have refused to examine this new evidence. Thankfully his case got national

          • by Shakrai (717556)

            the only evidence against him was the testimony of 9 witnesses. 7 of those have since claimed that their testimony was coerced by the police, and several even implicated one of the remaining two witnesses as the true killer.

            Why aren't those 7 people in prison for perjury?

            Sure, losing 40 years of your life for a crime you didn't commit is horrific, but it's a hell of a lot better than dying for it.

            I disagree. I'd rather be executed than spend that much time behind bars for a crime I didn't commit. In fact I'd probably off myself in prison if the state was unwilling to do it for me.

            • I'd rather be executed than spend that much time behind bars for a crime I didn't commit.

              I concur, but there's a flaw in your reasoning none the less: not everyone would agree with us. In fact, I'd go as far as to say that most people would not agree and would rather continue to live even if it is living in prison.

              In fact I'd probably off myself in prison if the state was unwilling to do it for me.

              Same here. The difference is we would have made the choice die on our own--which is our right as human beings--not have someone do it for us.

              Personally, I'm ambivalent about capital punishment. On one hand, I can see some logic in it. But as others here have already said, all crimina

            • by Urza9814 (883915)

              Why aren't those 7 people in prison for perjury?

              I don't know. I do know that several of them were unaware of what they were doing - the police said 'sign this or you're going to jail' to people who couldn't read to get them to sign testimony against Davis. Plus, the statute of limitation on perjury is only 5 years, and it's now been close to 20. I'm not sure when exactly they recanted their testimony, but I would imagine it was past the 5 year point.

        • by Locke2005 (849178) on Tuesday November 24, 2009 @09:35PM (#30221664)
          Incarceration is not for punishment or revenge; it serves 3 purposes to society:
          1) Deterrent
          2) Rehabilitation
          3) Preventing the criminal from re-offending, at least for the time period they are incarcerated.
          Of these, it can only be proven effective at accomplishing the 3rd purpose. People with a high probability of re-offending should be kept locked away indefinitely for the protection of others. Capital punishment is probably cheaper than keeping somebody in jail for the rest of their lives, but risking the execution of even 1 innocent person before they are exonerated is not a risk I'm willing to take. Finally, truly twisted criminals tend to not last very long in prison anyway; they are eventually given the Jeffery Dahlmer treatment where they are left alone with a lifer who hates them while the guards look the other way. Even cold blooded killers have no stomach for someone who rapes and kills little girls, and I probably wouldn't go out of my way to protect them from the rest of the prison population either.
          • Capital punishment is probably cheaper than keeping somebody in jail for the rest of their lives

            Actually, it's not. Because of the series of appeals required in most states, it actually costs more to execute [deathpenaltyinfo.org] a prisoner than it does to keep them in prison for the rest of their life.

          • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

            by my $anity 0 (917519)
            It is more expensive in our society to dole out capital punishment as opposed to life inprisonment. This is due to the lengths which this drags out the appeals process. In order to be more certain innocent people aren't killed, we spend more to make sure we can kill the guilty. In a society where we don't care about the possibility of innocence, execution costs a bullet. Thankfully, we live in a society that attempts to be free and fair, but this means that capital punishment stops making sense.
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Anonymous Coward

          The point is to extract the debt that is owed to society for such behavior.

          What in the name of hell is wrong with you? Prison is used for rehabilitation and/or to segregate dangerous elements, not to "extract the debt".

          • Prisons don't "extract debt", they COST money*. If it were about "extracting debt", they'd be closer to either paupers' prisons, or like slave camps (and although prisons do have workshops, they aren't turning a net profit - private prisons profit mainly by government contracts).
          • We're not
          • by Runaway1956 (1322357) * on Tuesday November 24, 2009 @10:12PM (#30221942) Homepage Journal

            Anyone who claims that our prisons are rehabilitative are totally out of touch with reality. It is at least as accurate to say that petty criminals who find their way to prison get the opportunity to learn new and better ways of committing crime.

            If we ever correct the serious disconnect between the idealists' vision of prison, and the reality of prison, then we MIGHT begin to correct the abortion we have today.

            The United States has one of the highest per capita incarceration rates in the world. Those cells are built, and kept filled, more to keep revenue flowing throughout government and society, than to "rehabilitate" anyone. The prison system is so lucrative, private corporations are getting into the act.

            Please, just drop the rehab crap. IF rehab is really a part of the prison system, it's so relatively unimportant that we can ignore it.

        • by dissy (172727)

          I don't think the point of prison and/or the death penalty is to deter crime. Clearly neither one is effective at doing so. The point is to extract the debt that is owed to society for such behavior. The only method of payment for such debt is to require that you forfeit some of your limited time on this planet back to society.

          What type of payment are you expecting out of a dead person? Fly bait?

          (Note that past here, 'you' doesn't mean you personally, it means those whom believe in that sort of punishment. I'll try to use the generic 'they' instead.)

          That sounds just like the governments logic however.
          For example, if you owe them some money, in order to get that money from you, they take away your right to drive (IE to get to the places that give you money for your time) and ban you from getting a job (IE the very places willing

          • by Shakrai (717556)

            Maybe next time you should try reading my entire post before going off on a four paragraph rant. You might have noticed that I commented on the death penalty separately from the theory of paying back a debt to society.

    • Re: (Score:2, Troll)

      by radtea (464814)

      Sure stops re-offending,

      Except in the all-too-common case when the Organs of the State kill the wrong person.

      As for the deterrent effect: Texas has the death penalty and has for a long time, and the State of Texas is aggressive about killing people on Death Row. Texas has one of the highest murder rates in the US.

      North Dakota does not have the death penalty, and as far as I know never has. It has one of the lowest murder rates in the US.

      Anyone who is not batshit insane will look at those facts and ask, "

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        Short of the ability to alter the weather (Texas is a hot, humid, weather oppressive place to live), you're never going to turn Texas into North Dakota.

        • So that's what people mean when they say the weather is murderous.

          • So that's what people mean when they say the weather is murderous.

            Yeah--for half the year, it's too damned cold in South Dakota to go outside long enough to commit a violent crime.

      • Sure stops re-offending,

        Except in the all-too-common case when the Organs of the State kill the wrong person.

        As for the deterrent effect: Texas has the death penalty and has for a long time, and the State of Texas is aggressive about killing people on Death Row. Texas has one of the highest murder rates in the US.

        North Dakota does not have the death penalty, and as far as I know never has. It has one of the lowest murder rates in the US.

        Anyone who is not batshit insane will look at those facts and ask, "What is it about North Dakota that keeps the murder rate so low, and what can we do to make Texas more like that?" Instead, ideological idiots distract everyone from the debate with their data-free imaginings.

        Texas has the second highest population of the US states and North Dakota is the second lowest.

        Population of Texas: 24,326,974
        Pop. of North Dakota: 641,481

        So we should just execute 23.5 million people, or so, in Texas and the problem's solved. Oh, and maybe carve some presidents faces in a mountain or something in Mexico (since there's no state directly south of Texas) just for good measure.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by radtea (464814)

          Texas has the second highest population of the US states and North Dakota is the second lowest.

          Assuming for some reason that population plays a role in murder rate--which seems a little weird to me--the more reasonable solution would be to break Texas up into lots of little states, if you really think that the number of people who happen to fall inside an accidental political boundary is determinative of the murder rate therein.

          If you're going to reify political boundaries in this way you're going to have t

          • Population density may make a difference, in which case artificially introduced boundaries won't change a thing.

            • The density wasn't given by GP.

              Texas: 35.25ppl/km2
              North Dakota: 3.58ppl/km2

              1/10th. Mind you that just gives an average anyways, information about clusters and such would likely be more meaningful. Mind you these two points don't conclude a study they are just two points.
      • It appears if you present a sensible well reasoned anti death penalty opinion today, you get modded down.

          Thats it I am not going to waste any more mod points on modding down coolforsale, I will kepp them to prevent these abuses of the moderation system.

      • Population density between Texas and North Dakota is hugely different. Sure Texas is huge, but they have major urban cities far far beyond anything in North Dakota. If you broke it down to counties and matched according to inhabitants per square mile, I'd wager that Texas and North Dakota would be very similar. The only exceptions being the big cities which would have no equivalent in North Dakota.
    • I just don't think I have the stomach for it.

      You do realize that most execution methods don't require obesity as a factor, right? ;)

      There was once a time when mere prison sentences would serve as a deterrent - getting chained to a straw-covered floor and being brutalized, underfed, and half-frozen tends to do that, and hard labor was usually thrown in for good measure. By the time you got out, you definitely did not want to get thrown back in. Executions were usually pretty ugly, and getting killed after sentencing was a swift near-certainty.

      Nowadays?

    • If it's your 10 year old daughter who is raped and murdered, you have more than the stomach for it. You have your own muscle and a sharp object.
    • by Artifakt (700173) on Tuesday November 24, 2009 @10:10PM (#30221920)

      The deterrent effect just doesn't happen. Looking at actual death penalty convictions, there's so few cases where the prisoner has shown any ability to imagine what their life might be like a mere six months down the road, they just aren't capable of thinking, "Ten years from now, if I do X, I could end up getting a lethal injection like that guy.".
                I don't see any way we could get the total time from arrest to execution down to six months in our legal system, and do anything remotely like justice. That's bad enough. But when so many of these cases can't even project six months ahead, any reasonable system of trial and punishment has zero deterrence.
              We have a case just finishing up in my area. Multiple defendants tried separately, for two murders with lots of additional nastiness like rape and torture. Going by what the two defendants convicted so far have said in the televised trial footage. if a program had come on the TV showing someone convicted of the exact crime they were planning, and how it took less than a week to get from the trial, to the graphically televised three day execution by slow torture, they would have still done it. You could have a 99.9% conviction rate and rotting heads on spikes on every street corner these idiots walked past, and they still wouldn't believe it was going to eventually happen to them.
              I'm not arguing for or against capital punishment, mind you, not taking a stand either way. I'm just saying a hope of deterrence shouldn't be why anyone decides to favor capital punishment, because the people who get it are just plain too stupid to deter.

  • by reporter (666905)
    In the United States, political correctness has concluded that all human behavior (in a "normal" person) is due to nurture and free will. To even hint that human behavior is due, in part, to genetics is taboo: it quickly leads to the conclusion that different races and ethnic groups can have different inclinations. This conclusion is forbidden.

    So, brain scans of a criminal defendant will not carry any weight. If his environment (e. g., an abusive childhood) did not cause him to commit the crime, then

    • by CannonballHead (842625) on Tuesday November 24, 2009 @08:27PM (#30221136)

      Let's assume, for a moment, that we have a murderer or rapist that does it because he's genetically wired to do it.

      What then? Put him in a "special" place and do genetic "testing" on him? That doesn't sound so nice.

      Let him go, because "he couldn't help it" and thus he is not culpable? Hm. That, from a protect-society standpoint, sounds incredibly stupid.

      • by santiago (42242)

        That's what Fritz Lang's classic film M is about. If you are mentally ill and commit crimes as a result, do you deserve leniency because you cannot help yourself, or do your deserve death because you cannot reform? (The ending is, admittedly, a bit of a Lady-and-the-Tiger cop-out.)

      • by Burning1 (204959)

        Let's assume, for a moment, that we have a murderer or rapist that does it because he's genetically wired to do it.

        This seems to relate to the insanity clause, and the issue surrounding a retarded man put to death in Texas.

        My understanding is that the insanity plea is usually used in places where it is believed that the perpetrator of a crime could either be cured meidcally, or would not repeat the crime, because the circumstances that caused them to become temporarily insane no longer exist.

        For instance, b

    • that's idiotic. a great number of mental disorders have a genetic basis or predilection. this is well-known.

      however, as far as i know there are no disorders or behaviours that are based on race or ethnicity. some ethnic groups or races have higher rates of certain disorders, but this fact isn't taboo. it too is quite well-known.

    • If we are to have justice, concepts such as "free will" should be put aside. Beyond being satisfied that there is criminal intent, I don't care why someone did what they did or if they feel remorse or if they are likely to re-offend. Justice should not be an exercise in mind reading.

      What is this MRI supposed to prove? That someone who raped and killed a 10-year-old child is abnormal? I already knew that. It's the act we should pass sentence on, not the mind.
  • by reverseengineer (580922) on Tuesday November 24, 2009 @08:24PM (#30221096)
    I'm curious to see how this will turn out in terms of practice of the death penalty in Illinois. There has been a moratorium on executions since 1999- Illinois still has a "death row," as well as the facilities for lethal injections, but hasn't actually executed prisoners in some time.
  • ... bear in mind that when you get to sentencing for a capital crime, the options are not "death penalty" or "10-20 years with probation and time off for good behavior". Rather, it's "death penalty" or "life without parole".

    You may now return to your previously-scheduled flame war.

  • by macraig (621737)

    Did this happen in 1990, by any chance?

  • Cool. This way they won't feel so bad when he's dead and evidence exonerates him. They can point to a brain scan and say "the dark/bright spot said he was sane/crazy". The jury can sleep soundly knowing they were misled by science and not at all responsible for an innocent person's death.

  • Personally... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by jd (1658) <.imipak. .at. .yahoo.com.> on Tuesday November 24, 2009 @09:09PM (#30221500) Homepage Journal

    I regard the death penalty as somewhat childish and immature. "If X can't be alive, then... then... Neither Can Yoooooo! So nyah!" The idea that it gives closure to anything seemed to get a kick in the nuts with the Beltway Sniper's execution. If you don't get closure when the other person doesn't cry, then I'm not sure it's "closure" you're looking for. Try looking up "schoolyard bully".

    I'm also not keen on the way a lot of these trials are handled, especially the insanity stuff. A person being insane doesn't alter whether or not they did something, it merely alters their culpability. That should be obvious.

    Ergo, it follows that insanity should not be a plea in the trial phase but confined strictly to that phase which deals with culpability, the sentencing.

    However, I also disagree with this idea that there are two options - total all-out criminal insanity and total all-out sanity. For a start, it doesn't leave you with anywhere to put lawyers or politicians.

    I would far prefer to see a system in which sanity is regarded as a sliding scale and where sentencing allows the judge to split the time between punishment, treatment and rehabilitation (as and where appropriate) according to what produces the best outcome overall, rather than according to what gives the weenies in the press box a vicarious thrill.

    Obviously, if a person is going to be incarcerated forever, then rehabilitation to the point where the person would be safe outside is not terribly useful. On the other hand, it seems reasonable to assume that having them stew, rebel and resent is both less cost-effective and less mature than encouraging them to make effective use of their abilities.

    Just because someone is sealed off from society doesn't mean society can't benefit from their mind - there's probably plenty of intellectuals and artists behind bars.

    Ian Brady is probably one of the craziest crazies to be in Broadmoor, but his book on the way serial killers think, feel and act should certainly be at least browsed by psychiatrists and detectives for insights no rational mind could ever have produced. No matter how little value it really is, the chances are really good that it'll do more good than the British Police's DNA database and CCTV camera system.

    I'd rather let a hundred cold-blooded killers live in jail and receive at least some respect as a person if it meant that just one of those hundred produced a masterpiece of art or a book that had significance than have all hundred die purely for the viewing pleasure of Weekend Warriors.

    In a hundred years time, which makes the difference? Something that might only rarely advance humanity - but when it does, advance it a lot - or something that provides a momentary mental orgasm for a bunch of f'ed-up "witnesses" and some losers outside and that's it?

    I don't see why I should pay taxes for someone getting off on watching another die, when I could be paying taxes to give those in prison a chance to do something positive and worthwhile.

    • Re:Personally... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by dissy (172727) on Tuesday November 24, 2009 @09:25PM (#30221582)

      I regard the death penalty as somewhat childish and immature. "If X can't be alive, then... then... Neither Can Yoooooo! So nyah!" The idea that it gives closure to anything seemed to get a kick in the nuts with the Beltway Sniper's execution. If you don't get closure when the other person doesn't cry, then I'm not sure it's "closure" you're looking for. Try looking up "schoolyard bully".

      Well at least you fully understand the American justice system.

      It is one thing and one thing only: Revenge

      If the powers that be, and those that put them in power, even cared in the slightest about justice, stopping crime, and helping people, then our legal system would be turned on its head and look totally different.

      Unfortunately this is what most people in America want however. Not justice, just revenge. Not lack of crime, just to create more crime to dish out more suffering. It satisfies both the animal rage instincts as well as gives a false sense of superior morality.

    • I'll glad they're going to kill this worthless loser so my tax dollars arn't wasted feeding him in jail.

      The death penalty serves two purposes:

      1) Public safety - PERMANTENTLY makes sure sickos like this never do it again

      2) Public vengeance - creates a lawful society by creating lawful just punishment for heinious crimes

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by big_paul76 (1123489)

      The best argument on this, especially when talking to the religious right, is biblical.

      Matthew 25:34-40.

      And Jesus said, For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.'

      "Then the righteous will answer him, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When di

  • A man that raped and killed a 10-year old has a brain disorder?!? And here I thought that was perfectly normal behavior than anybody was capable of! If anything, this only helps prove that they got the right guy -- anybody that would do something like that must have some sort of mental disorder! Unfortunately, drawing attention to this brings up the possibility of testing people for brain disorders and removing them from society before they commit heinous acts... which sounds like a great idea, until you ar
  • by Fantastic Lad (198284) on Tuesday November 24, 2009 @09:56PM (#30221824)

    I don't care to waste time on the three endless debates being revisited here. (Well, sort of revisited. It's such an old and tired set of problems that nobody here is even giving a full effort). Capital punishment, nature v.s. nurture, and the morality of punishing a natural-born killer.

    Don't care. None of that will be solved here or today.

    What I AM interested in is the use of medical technology to detect psychopathy in people. We have the technology right now. I want to see a reliable and open system of testing introduced so that we can filter people who are climbing power ladders. -We could have avoided the whole last ten years of bloodshed and economic ruin if we had a simple testing system in place for recognizing psychopaths. What we do with them after this is fodder for those endless debates, and that's fine. History will sort it out. I just think it would be nice if we stopped giving leadership roles to reptiles. You know, so we can stop living in a world where corruption and mass-murder are considered normal? That'd sure be nice.

    I want to see this happen. I want to see this happen. I want to see this happen. It's my intention to live in a world where everybody wakes up.

    -FL

  • So, you still have the death penalty...
    fyi: the civilized world thinks you are bloodthirsty barbaric slaughterers... (which we also think for your gun-laws and your armed robbery of helpless countries)

    the human life is the highest good there is so nobody - NOBODY (including the state) has the right to decide that someone deserves to die - even if that guy killed a lot of people.

    I know this will cost me karma, but that can't stop me from telling the truth...
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Shakrai (717556)

      which we also think for your gun-laws

      Sorry if our freedom is offensive to you.

      The MAFIAA is a bunch of mindless jerks who will be the first up against the wall when the revolution comes

      That's a pretty funny signature line for someone that claims to hate American gun-laws. How effective do you suppose the revolution is going to be without weapons in the hands of those who are revolting?

  • As much as I dislike fMRI research due to the technical problems compounding with far too little understanding of the technology and errors on the part of far too many researchers, this is one topic on which it has some merit. There's been enough MRI (including the f- variant) work done on limbic systems and disorders that the body of results approaches validation. In the absence of deep brain trauma (there being none on this case) one can assume the structural abnormalities to have pre-existed, making the

  • The rape and murder he got the death penalty for is not his first - he was already in prison for two other murders. Also, he plead guilty to the rape and murder of this child, so he won't have the same appeals process. He is the poster boy for the death penalty.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by martinX (672498)
      I just read about the Jeanine Nicario [wikipedia.org] case. Two men were convicted and sentenced to death for her murder. The murder that Dugan has now confessed to. Although Dugan is obviously the worst scum, the fact that 14 cops, prosecutors and deputies were indicted (They were found not guilty of anything naughty.) and nearly got two innocent men killed by the "Justice System" kind of puts me off the death penalty in general.

"Look! There! Evil!.. pure and simple, total evil from the Eighth Dimension!" -- Buckaroo Banzai

Working...