The statement “Brain damage can cause aggressive behavior” raises the question of whether a violent offender, who is assessed to have any type of disinhibiting traumatic brain injury, is criminally responsible for his or her actions. As the public struggles with understanding the why of a crime, it becomes even more difficult when they are asked to forgive or accept less criminal responsibility for the cognitively impaired criminal.
The court system is full of cases where part of the defense was specifically focused on the offenders having less capacity to self-regulate their behaviors due to some type of brain dysfunction. However, it is rare that even when there is clear evidence of a significant impairment to their reasoning that the offender is found not responsible for some aspect of the crime. This may strike some as unfair. For example, epilepsy is also a brain dysfunction or neurological disorder but we do not expect people with epilepsy to not have seizures.
In the case of a person who has a permanent neurological disorder, how do we keep the public safe without discriminating against the damage implications such as impaired executive functioning, poor linear reasoning, or even inconsistent emotional regulation? Do we hold people accountable for their behavior when they have a physical condition? If they have a disorder that impinges on other people’s rights, do we see them as accountable or in need of treatment or some combination of both? These questions are posed every day in real-world legal cases and answered by psychologists and neuropsychologists trained in forensic evaluation. It is a dynamic that criminal justice professionals have to account for as they develop their strategy for trial or disposition planning.
In your main post:
- Determine if medical or neuro-psychological testimony should be allowed in court, keeping in mind that there is no clear correlation between a type of brain damage and the type or level of criminal behavior.
- Describe your position on how to accommodate for psychologically or biologically determined aggressive tendencies in the criminal justice domains, including trials.