The science of neural development tangles with the juvenile death penalty
Later this year, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments about whether federal law should continue to permit executions of 16- and 17-year-olds convicted of murder. On this life-or-death issue, controversial legal and ethical views on teenagers' capacity to control their behavior and obey the law will take center stage. However, a relative newcomer to the debate—the burgeoning science of brain development—may critically influence the high court's final decision.
A coalition of psychiatric and legal organizations plans to submit a brief to the justices contending that teenagers often make poor decisions and act impulsively because their brains haven't attained an adult level of organization. Consequently,