Psychopaths get time off for bad brains | Science News



Support nonprofit journalism

Subscribe now


Psychopaths get time off for bad brains

Biological evidence may prompt sentencing break for violent offenders

4:08pm, August 16, 2012

A callous, manipulative psychopath convicted of a brutal crime can count on a long prison stint. But a judge may issue a slightly shorter sentence if presented with a biological explanation for the criminal’s psychopathic personality.

Supplying judges with scientific evidence about suspected brain deficits in psychopathy led to a reduction in prison sentences from about 14 years to 13 years, researchers report in the Aug. 17 Science. The results come from a nationwide, online survey of state judges given a hypothetical scenario about a psychopath convicted of what lawyers call aggravated battery.

Judges taking the survey tended to view psychopathic criminals as dangerous, whether or not scientific evidence was introduced, say psychologist Lisa Aspinwall, lawyer Teneille Brown and philosopher James Tabery, all of the University of Utah in Salt Lake City. A hypothetical psychopath in the new study got sent to the slammer for longer than the ave

This article is only available to Science News subscribers. Already a subscriber? Log in now. Or subscribe today for full access.

Get Science News headlines by e-mail.

More from Science News

From the Nature Index Paid Content