Chapter 10: “My Brain Made Me Do It!” Neuroscience, Criminal Justice, and Media

This chapter documents the pairing of the terms neuroscience and law in recent years and shows the transition of testimony in courtrooms from the more ambiguous field psychology to the data-driven and seemingly less fallible neurosciences. News articles about crime use neuroscience to connote a voyeuristic peering into the minds of psychopaths, and behavioral genetics provides a basis for courts to question the agency of criminals who may be victims of “bad genes.” This chapter concludes that the transfer of power from psychology to neuroscience has resulted in the perception of neuroscientists as the mythical experts of human behavior.

Emilia Musumeci is temporary lecturer in criminal justice at the University of Catania, Italy. Her primary research interests are legal history, criminology, and history of medicine. In 2012 she earned a PhD in “Profiles of Citizenship in the Construction of Europe,” in the curriculum of history and philosophy of law, with a thesis on the legacy of biological theories of crime that emerged during the second half of the nineteenth century in the current neuroscience and law debate. Among her publications are the book Cesare Lombroso e le neuroscienze: un parricidio mancato (2012) and the essays “New Natural Born Killers? The Legacy of Lombroso in Neuroscience and Law,” in Paul Knepper and Per Jørgen Ystehede’s The Cesare Lombroso Handbook (Routledge, 2012), and “The Positivist School of Criminology and the Italian Fascist Criminal Law: A Squandered Legacy?,” in Stephen Skinner’s Fascism and Criminal Law: History, Theory, Continuity (forthcoming).

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