Dillon Hershey and Michelle Friedman - Predicting Crime Podcast

For this final Science and Society project, Dillon and I created a podcast where we acted as Karl Kobalt and Dwight Dewalt (the long time twin brothers and short term enemies) on the show Bomb-Ass-Brothers. The characters bicker and learn about interesting scientific topics.

This installment of the show featured research data from Lebanon and studies conducted on young children. Ultimately, we recognized there might be some debate in this contentious topic and though some data might have harsh consequences, it is all very applicable to society and policies. 

Find the podcast here.

We hope you enjoy listening. Thank you!

Predictions on Psychophats

As society progressed we, as a human species learned how to use technology in our advantage, later on inventing new ways of predicting new things such as how many foods will need to be harvested in order to feed a population or even better for safety such as finding patterns or predicting crime in certain minds. As we know finding patterns that relate a psychopath can help the world from a lot of hurt and sadness so machines that can find these patterns can be very useful.

Some major issues associated with this are the fact that brain changes over time altering the outcomes for example if a young child were to be labeled as the black sheep or the bad seed of the family it could ruin their future due to the fact that the machine is not perfect affecting the individual's life and everyone around them.

Other reason why this practice isn’t very useful is the issue of since the brain changes and the studies need to be done on young teenagers it could never really be very accurate due to the fact that the brain is done maturing around the 20’s even late 20’s and that is when you can find a better formed example of a fully grown psychopath. For example psychopaths tend to start doing rebellious acts at a young age some even at the age of 7! But most of or at least a minimum of these acts are later on stopped due to the parents taking actions which later on changed the outcome of their brain.

Most of the signs of being a psychopath are the lowering of affection due to other humans distress which means that if a psychopath and a average person were having a “heart to heart” conversation the psychopath would show little to no care about the others feelings almost as if there was nothing wrong. A lowering in decision making, meaning if the psychopath were to talk about a very gruesome act such as blowing up a building he wouldn’t really feel the nervousness or think of the acts following such act meaning they wouldn’t really think of caring about jail etc. Lastly as a psychopaths they see their wrongs as rights and not care about others, meaning if I were to think robbing a bank it’s a terrible idea they would see it as a good or average thing with “fun” feelings.

In conclusion this would be a very useful experiment and machine to predict psychopaths but currently technology is not too advanced to have a proper result and more data is needed.

Adolescents, Crime and Brain Development

For the people who believe that adolescents should be punished when committed a crime,

  My name is Charlotte and I am a teenager who robbed and brutally beat an old lady with my friend Emily. I know you think that I should go to prison for this crime but I am here to tell you all of the many reasons why I should not go to jail. For one, our brains have weak breaks. If we see something that intrigues us enough than we go after it. Our reward system is very aroused hehe. Very aroused I said. The braking system to make sure we don’t follow the leader with our negative decisions is turned off at that time. Also, we are more likely to take more risks with our friends. There was a study done at Temple Hospital where when people played games without their friends, they don’t play it differently than any other adult. A student mentioned that by even knowing their friend is watching them, it doubles the number of risks we take but if we look at adults, playing with friends has no impact on their behavior. Let’s not forgot that the behavior-governing prefrontal cortex is morphing. This part of my brain isn’t even developed yet. It is still in the stages of developing correctly so that I make the right decisions and not do idiotic things….just like this situation. Another important factor is adults. Adults guidance makes a huge difference so that we don’t follow the wrong crowd. My mother wasn’t active in my life at all. I barely knew her so I didn’t have the skills to think good enough so that I wouldn’t make negative decisions. By having a parent in your life, you are more willing to do positive things instead of doing risky behaviors. In a case called Atkins v. Virginia, it banned the execution of mentally retarded people so if that was an option, that’s now illegal. What about our hormonal changes?? Being an adolescent, we undergo many emotional and hormonal changes. One of the hormones that has the most effect on our body is testosterone. Emotionally, an adolescent is part child and part adult. Not only that but my father was also abusive which is why I committed this crime. All I know is violence. Research studies shows that abusive childhood experiences can cause violent behaviors. Some situations that can trigger it is being a witness to domestic violence or substance abuse with the family, and also being the victim of physical or sexual assault. This is the reason why I committed the crime that I did. Myself was not only physically abused by my father but I was also bullied in school. I would do one thing wrong, like forget to do the dishes one time and the next thing I knew, my face was being slapped or I got pushed down to the floor. When I was at school, people would call me words like ugly, worthless and fat albert. This is my case as to why I should not receive jail time and walk a free woman.






Crime Prediction

It is possible that psychologist and criminologist through studying children develop will be able to tell if someone will be a criminal in the future. One viewpoint is that studying children's behavior to see if they will commit crimes will be beneficial to our justice system.

A psychologist, Adrian Raine studies have shown that children who show slower heart rates and reduced skin responses when irritated by loud tones or difficult questions tend to have criminal records when they get older. In 1996 the researchers showed that 15-year-olds with this pattern tended to have criminal records by age 29. Also, kids who had these results were identified as more aggressive by their teachers.

Many people believe that putting numbers on children of how much they could possibly a criminal is extremely risky and possibly detrimental to a child’s future. The author Josh Fischman stated, “It raises the specter of earlier scientific episodes in which researchers claimed that aspects of biology—like ethnic background—determined behavior or intelligence.” This science could go wrong so easily and give people a “bad seed” label and corner them. Brains change so much throughout childhood and adolescence so it is not fair to label a child for the rest of their life as a criminal.

The scientist saw that a lesion to the prefrontal cortex can cause a person to be a criminal in the future. However, protective factors can change a person. Social factors are very important, like religion, or a good teacher, or even certain diet changes. In his current study of Philadelphia children with the slow physical reactivity that has been linked to trouble, some kids are getting a diet rich in omega-3 fatty acids and calcium to see if those protect brain cells, some are getting cognitive-behavioral therapy, and some are getting both to see if trouble will eventually go away.

I find this research very interesting. This research could be helpful if when the researchers realize the child is having behavioral issues that they help the children instead of just labeling them. If this is a way for us to help people then I support this research. However, if this is going to segregate society more and also criminalize children then I am so not in support. Children are developing and also their development is affected by adults, so therefore not their fault. It is our job as adults to guide children to develop in the best and most positive way we can.







The Biological Factors In Criminality

Biological factors in criminality is a “deterministic approach” when a criminal behaviour has a psychological origin, meaning there can be inherited characteristics of person’s behaviour. There is a genotype which also has a low level of the enzyme that can cause violence in people. This gene and being exposed to abuse as a child connects together causing the violence to be present in person’s behaviour. A damage to the prefrontal cortex connects to antisocial behaviour. The damage usually happens because of the head injury.

An Italian army doctor, Cesare Lombroso collected the features and traits, which showed that the criminals were born with these features. According to Keith E Rice, The Biological Factors in Crime article states that “Based on the physical measurements he collected from Italian prisoners and non-criminal military personnel, Lombroso held that many criminals had been born with ‘atavistic’ features. Criminals had definite biological failings that prevented them from developing to a fully human level. They showed certain ape-like characteristics or sometimes just ‘savage’ features. Such physical anomalies included large jaws, high cheek bones, large ears, long arms, thick skulls and extra nipples, toes and fingers.” People with these features are seen as criminals in the society because these traits made them look like criminals in people’s minds. These features made people look bad and some people are judged because of it. It is not right to judge people based on how they look like.

William Sheldon argued that the person’s body shape describes what kind of person they are. People with mesomorph body shape are most likely to get involved with a crime. Mesomorph body shape is an aggressive and muscular frame so the question is why do people think that people with an aggressive body shape are criminals?






Lie Detectors (fMRI)

https://drive.google.com/file/d/0BxYG76szxTEpTmhnOHN6MkNRT0E/view?usp=sharing - Link to infographic

  1. What background info does the audience need in order to understand what’s going on? fMRI brain scanning can be used to do a lie detector test. This is much more efficient than the original polygraph test which dealt which heart palpitations and other signs of nervousness in the brain. You can stay calm and lie but your brain will still reveal if you are lying. Furthermore this science isn’t perfected yet and it still needs work.

  2. What is one viewpoint? What are some arguments/statements/facts that support this view? Some people argue that lie detectors take out the middleman in court cases. Lawyers in a court case can manipulate the case and make it so that a person who is guilty actually walks free and vice versa. However with lie detectors we don’t face this issue because you can’t lie to a lie detector which works through fMRI.

  3. What is another viewpoint? What are some arguments/statements/facts that support this view? Other people will argue that lie detectors can’t tell you the entire story and that evidence and court cases are the best way to reach a logical conclusion in the courtroom because it analyzes all sides of the story.

  4. What are some real-life examples/case studies on this topic? fMRI lie detectors haven’t been allowed in court yet but there are many studies which have been performed showing that we can in fact see if someone is lying by doing an fMRI scan on their brain to measure a change in brain activity.

  5. What are some thought questions and/or deep final thoughts that you can use to conclude your presentation, and leave your audience wanting to learn more? fMRI’s are not a perfect science. We shouldn’t treat fMRI’s as the be all end all in court, we should seen more like another piece of evidence we weigh in the courtroom.


Lie Detection in Court Rooms

When you’re lying it makes your heart race. It makes you pant, it drives up your blood pressure and makes you drip sweat. A polygraph machine detects lies by looking for signs of these physiological changes. The accuracy of polygraph testing has long been controversial. An underlying problem is theoretical, there is no evidence that any pattern of physiological reaction is unique to deception. An honest person may be nervous when answering truthfully and an dishonest person may be non-anxious. Lie detectors tests have become a popular cultural icon from crime dramas to comedies to advertisement. The instrument typically used to conduct polygraph tests consists of a physiological recorder that assesses three indicators of autonomic arousal: heart rate/blood pressure, respiration and skin conductivity. Polygraph examinations often include a procedure called a “stimulation test,” which is a demonstration of the instrument’s accuracy in detecting deception. 

People who believe that the test is accurate enough to question subjects and have them be correct most of the time. Lie detectors are found on some of the most famous t.v shows today like Maury. It makes people have closure proving their loved ones are innocent or cheating. But a majority of the people in America believe that it’s an affective way to detect lies. Enthusiasts say that polygraphs accurately detect lies 80-90% of the time. “Boosters of the government’s scheme say the point is that using polygraph tests made more than twice as many “clinically significant disclosures”- information that could prompt changes in the way that are managed -as those did not.” Jane Wood, a forensic psychologist at the University of Kent who co-authored the report on the pilot, says that some offenders found the tests helpful as way to convince their families they were being honestly about their behavior. Some experts claimed that a high proportion of persons who “failed” the polygraph subsequently confessed to crimes. 

Another viewpoint on this topic is that the lie detector test is not accurate nor reliable. “There is no test that can detect lies… The process in which the questions are asked and the sequence of the questions may affect how a person reacts.” “Courts don’t have to admit lie detector test, according to a U.S Supreme Court case that specifies how courts deal with scientific evidence. Instead, individuals judges have discretion to decide if a polygraph will be admitted based on certain criteria” There are many good liars. A polygraph like stated above, is not a lie detector test. It detects physiological expressions associated with lying in some people, such as racing heart and sweaty fingers. 

Sixty three sex offenders back in jail after lie detector tests. “Pedophiles and rapists are aught out breaking the terms of their release from prison after undergoing new polygraph tests, Ministry of Justice Figures show. “In the past year, 492 people convicted of serious sex offenses such as rape and child abuse in England and Wales have been forced to take polygraph tests under the terms of their release from custody “on license” “The offender, who has not been named, was found to have lied during the polygraph test but the results still revealed that he had been using the internet.” 

Lie detection is not an affection way to measure if someone is lying. There are too many factors to keep in mind when coming to doing a polygraph tests. We cannot incriminate someone due to a lie detector test. Some people are naturally anxious and others are calm. 




Brain Development v. the Law

Recently, it has come to our attention that people under their mid-twenties do not have fully developed brains. The lack of development in the prefrontal cortex and fewer pathways to the limbic system means that our brains can’t process rewards and punishments adequately, which directly impacts one's ability to make calculated, responsible decisions. All of this is now clear to us, but how can it be applied to the way our justice system operates?

It is cruel and unusual punishment to try eighteen year-olds as adults because their brains are not fully developed and they cannot be held fully responsible since their brain is malleable and they do not have full self control. The prefrontal cortex of the adolescent brain is developing, and since the prefrontal cortex is the part of the brain that is responsible for short and long term decision making, people are not capable of fully thinking through their actions and weighing the long term consequences until they are in their mid-twenties. Adolescents are vulnerable to being manipulated by their peers as well as the adults in their life, meaning that if they have poor guidance from their peers or parents they are more likely to act on them than people with fully developed brains. Ninety percent of adolescents who commit a crime do not continue to do so in their adult life, further demonstrating the extent to which brain development impacts a person’s ability to analyze their situation before they act.    

The issue is all the complexities that such adjustments would add to our already delicate justice system. Looking from the perspective of the judicial system.  While science does show that the brain has not fully developed by the age of 18, that is when a person legally becomes an adult. So, according to this logic it would make sense for a person to be tried as an adult at that age. Pushing back this cutoff may suggest that 18 year olds cannot be held responsible for their actions, and if this is the case, shouldn’t they still be considered minors who need supervision?  It is true that the neuroscience behind the other side’s argument is undeniable, implementing this solution that satisfies the needs of both sides. This is a solution that must embrace leniency as well as establish clear cut boundaries and rigidity necessary in order to keep America’s judicial system ticking.   

It is clear that both sides have valid arguments. Having knowledge is one thing, but it means nothing until it is applied to the real world. This knowledge needs to be used to advance our social structure and put the world in terms of this new found information. This is the stage that we are at currently while our perception of the development of the human brain changes, so must our judicial system. I believe that the most effective solution would be to set up different age cutoffs with increasing severity.

Our recent history shows how there have already been modifications in sentences because of lack of brain development and inability to make well thought out decisions, such as in Roper v. Simmons when in 2002 the Missouri Supreme Court stayed the execution of a man who had been committed of a crime committed at the age of 17. The Court determined that due to his immaturity, his case was comparable to a case in the U.S. Supreme Court which determined that execution of the mentally ill constituted a violation of the Eighth Amendment as it was cruel and unusual punishment for someone who could not control his actions in the same way as an average citizen. Following this, in Graham v. Florida in 2010, it was ruled that sentencing minors to a life in prison without parole, except in cases of homicide, was unconstitutional in that it constituted cruel and unusual punishment.  

    While we have not yet arrived at a scientific way to easily scan each lawbreaking young adult for neurological maturity, at least our judicial system is for the most part more aware of the difference between juveniles, young adults and mature adults. This shows that there is still hope for improvement.

Access research template and sources here

​The Biology of Criminology

Adrian Raine, Professor of Criminology & Psychiatry at the University of Pennsylvania, was the first psychologist to study the brains of murderers. After doing PET scans on the brains of 41 murderers and 41 control test subjects at a lab at UC Irvine, Raine found significant results. Compared to the 41 control subjects, brain functioning in the very front of the prefrontal cortex in the 41 murders was very poor. The prefrontal cortex is the part of the brain responsible for our highest order tasks - decision making, impulse control, and emotional regulation. As you would imagine, if your brain has a harder time making decisions, controlling impulses and regulating emotions, you might be more likely to have angry turn to rage, and rage turns into homicide.

Criminologists and geneticists around the country are looking to the genetics of criminology. While they know there is no “crime gene,” markers for aggression and antisocial behavior could play a role in a criminal's activity. For example, Terrie E. Moffitt, a behavioral scientist at Duke University discovered a gene linked to violence that alters the production and regulation of serotonin in the brain. They also found that the gene is most often triggered to “turn on” by stress.

Both Raine and Moffit’s findings about criminal nature are incomplete without the measure of nurture. As the New York Times reports, “genes are ruled by the environment, which can either mute or aggravate violent impulses. Many people with the same genetic tendency for aggressiveness will never throw a punch, while others without it could be career criminals.”

Nurture could start as early as in the womb. Mothers that smoke or drink while pregnant double or triple the odds of a baby becoming a violent offender later. In childhood, poor nutrition nearly triples the rate of antisocial personality disorder in adults.

This raises the question that Adrian Raine puts well in his interview on Fresh Air, "if bad brains do cause bad behavior, if brain dysfunction raises the odds that somebody will become a criminal offender — a violent offender — and if the causes of the brain dysfunction come relatively early in life ... should we fully hold that adult individual responsible?"

What does the biology of criminology mean for the law?

There are several theories about what the biology of criminology means for the practice of law. The first is genetic consideration. Genetic consideration asserts that not all criminals are created equal biologically, so not all criminal offenders should receive the same punishment for the same crime. People who commit crimes that are proven to be under the influence of brain dysfunction and genetic make-up out of their control should be sentenced using less harsh tactics.

The opposite is deterrence theory. Deterrence theory disregards genetic consideration altogether, by arguing that the fear of punishment should deter people from committing crimes, regardless of their biology. Criminologist Amanda R. Evansburg argues “while evidence of a genetic predisposition to violent behavior may potentially be significant, it would be imprudent, as well as politically infeasible, to allow genetic determinism to substitute for the assumptions of free will in the criminal law.”

What do you think? What should be the future of genetics and the law?





Caitlin Keough Q4 Slideshow

For my week 1 art piece I chose to draw this statue when we visited the Rodin Museum. It had some shadows on it and I really wanted to practice drawing those. My second art piece is just a coloring sheet that I found online and printed out. I'm happy with how it turned out and with the colors I chose. For my third art piece I drew some simple drawings of bugs. I like the drawing of the dragonfly best because of the dot work I did on it. For my fourth piece of art, I found a random piece of wood and I started painting it. I was really happy with how the blue background turned out and how nicely it blended together. I kind of regret adding my name onto it because it looks a little messy. 

Q4 Work — Zack Hersh

The first piece in the final quarter of art was a sketch at the Rodin Museum on the parkway. His sculptures were very interesting, but I was captivated by the intricacy in one of the gates and sketched some of that instead.

For the next project, I thought I would do another ceiling tile since it was a project I really enjoyed in the first quarter. I spent the next several classes brainstorming and doodling ideas. I experimented with pop culture I like, quotes, my own band (302b), and even my initials. I ended up not going through with the ceiling tile though because I felt like too much of the decisions would've been made on which colors of paint I could actually find.

For the next piece, I experimented with abstract art, which is something I did in middle school art class and enjoyed so decided to just mess around with it, and create a piece with shapes and colors without much planning and see how it turned out. I ended up not being satisfied at the end of two weeks and spent the remaining time adding more to it until it was finished. I really like the way it turned out and was a nice finale to a year of art class.

Insanity Defense by Jesse and Allison

The Insanity Defense

By Allison Kelly & Jesse Shuter

The following information provides complete knowledge of what the insanity defense is, main and interesting arguments for and against the plea, and also includes a lot of famous in which the insanity defense was either successfully used or rejected in court cases. 


A criminal defendant who is found to have been legally insane when he or she committed a crime may be found not guilty by reason of insanity. In a lot of cases, the defendant is then sentenced to mental help instead of a punishment. In other cases, the defendant may be found guilty but sentenced to a less severe punishment due to a mental impairment. In states that allow the insanity defense, defendants must prove to the court that they did not understand what they were doing; failed to know right from wrong; acted on an uncontrollable impulse or some variety of these factors.

Those in favor of the insanity defense feel the need for its existence in order to distinguish between those defendants charged with a crime who are and those who are not responsible for their acts. Those with a mental disability fall into the category of those who are not responsible for a crime committed due to the fact that their actions were based upon uncontrollable actions. The insanity defense is not present in order to state that what the defendant did wasn’t wrong, but just that the punishment they would face for their crime would not be effective. Those with a mental illness will not understand or learn any lessons by being placed in prison or a punishment as such. They need mental help to understand why what they did was wrong, something that they will not receive just by being locked up.

One very interesting argument against the insanity defense is that it is known as the “a rich person's defense”. This is because being able to prove that someone is mentally ill enough to threaten someone’s free will can only be done by high-priced psychiatric experts, who can only be afforded by wealthy defendants. Persons represented by public defenders are usually afforded a psychiatric examination for the defense, but they may not get the same quality of exam, nor are they typically able to hire more than one examiner. This splits a criminal justice system into the rich against the poor which is why it should be abolished.

One very notorious example of a case where the insanity defense was used was the Jeffrey Dahmer case. Dahmer was a serial killer who murdered quite few people and even committed some other gruesome acts and crimes like cannibalism and necrophilia. He committed over 15 murders in his life. He’d even keep trophies of his murders, he’d keep the victims skulls or genitalia. He plead not guilty by reason of insanity, which it is quite clear that he has a screw loose, but the judge rejected his plea and he was given 15 life sentences. Many viewed it is as the end of the insanity plea because if someone as blatantly insane as Dahmer couldn’t get the plea, no one would be able to. Another famous example is John Hinckley. Hinckley was known for being obsessed with the movie Taxi driver starring Robert De Niro and Jodie Foster. In the movie De Niro plans to assassinate a presidential candidate. After watching the movie many times, Hinckley became infatuated with Foster and wanted her attention. At first he was going to commit suicide in front of her to gain her attention, but then he decided to assassinate President Ronald Reagan, similar to the plot of the movie. He failed in his attempt, however, upon being tried with attempted murder he plead the insanity defense and it was granted to him.

Insane or not, murder and crimes as such are obviously wrong. There is no going around it. But, the point of imprisonment and punishments as such is so that the defendant learns a lesson and accepts that what they did was wrong. The insanity defense is not present in order to get someone off the hook for wrongdoing, but just to give them an effective punishment. Someone mentally ill enough to have their free will threatened is too sick to learn any sort of lesson by being locked up in a prison, so what’s the point? A more sufficient “punishment” would actually be to get them some mental help in order for them to be forced to understand that what they did was wrong. But, it is true to say that to be able to sufficiently claim insane would cause for the defendant to have a little bit of money does put a split in the justice system. There should be a fair system of evaluation for the insane within the justice system to keep things fair.

Insanity Defense

What it is: A defense for criminals in trials arguing that their state of mind is not sane, and their actions reflect that. Due to mental illness, they should not be held accountable to the same standards as regular sane beings.

Viewpoints: One) The criminal should not be held accountable for their actions. Reasons for this include that they might not be fully aware of their actions, and if they are aware, they might not know that it is a “bad” thing, or the neurological synapses in their brain do not function like they should causing them to be excessive in behavior. Some people refer to the criminal as lacking the appreciation to what they did.

       Two) This is not a thing/there are variants of mental illness. Reasons these two viewpoints exist are because the victim believes even though the person might be mentally ill, they are still guilty. Some believe that people use this excuse too excessively. And some people think that the person did it, they should receive punishment for their actions.

Real life example: There were two men. William Freeman and Jack Furman. Jack Furman had stole a horse but blamed Freeman. Through a long court case of back and forth, Freeman was finally sentenced to five years in prison. Freeman spent his time, but got beat. He even got hit on the head by a guard. People said when he got out, he was slow, not his normal self, and had an eerie constant smile.

Shortly after he got out he murdered a family, and was taken to jail again. The argument for Freeman’s case was that he was not in the same mind as he was before incarceration the first time. There was a lot of deliberation, but the jury thought Freeman’s slow behavior and unemotional state was due to him being African American. In the end, Freeman died, and died from brain deterioration.

Questions: I wonder, how much research is there on mental illness?

Why can any defendant use this type of defense? It makes me question it because in a study less than one percent of cases using this plea are successful, what would happen if this argument was only used when the defendant was proven insane?

Adolescents, crime, and brain development

A dilemma that has been plaguing law enforcement for ages is whether or not adolescents who commit crimes should be treated the same as an adult who commits crimes. It’s only fair that criminals should be held accountable for their actions but should that be reconsidered when it comes to children? That is the question that the criminal justice system can’t come to a decision on.

First, let’s get the facts straight. Adolescents act different when out in groups. In a study conducted by Temple University, adolescents were asked to participate in an activity where they had to make a last minute decision on whether they should stop for a yellow light or keep going and hope for the best. When the adolescents were under the impression that their friends were watching them complete the activity, they were much more likely to run the yellow light. Although for adults, there was no change in behavior when they were told a friend was observing them. When compared to the results gathered from adults who participated in the experiment as well, it was obvious how much of an impact the presence of peers has on adolescents’ decision making skills. When adolescents are out in group the part of their brain that has to do with rewards light up which makes them more focused on the reward for making a risky decision than the possible dangers.

Some people think that in order to fix this problem, actions should be taken to try to reduce the crime rates of adolescents so that they don’t have to get involved in the criminal justice system in the first place. They want to stop the problem at the source. Changes that can be made to make this possible are better enforcement of curfew and increased adult supervision. Although there are some people who believe that adolescents should be held to the same standards as adults, regardless of their age. These people doubt that adolescents’ not yet fully-developed brains affect their behavior and that they should be able to control themselves and their urges when around their friends.

Another unique viewpoint on this debate is to blame the parents of the young offender. These people believe that the child acts out because of economic or social problems in their family. Children are a product of their parents and if the kid is a bad egg, the parent must be too. This poses the question: Who is really to blame? The adolescent with the easily influenced brain, the bad parent, the bad friends, all of the above?



The Insanity Defense and the Law

A man named William Freeman, the son of a former slave and Native American woman, was wrongfully arrested for the theft of a horse. He was treated horribly in prison for five years, including getting beaten over the head by a guard with a piece of lumber. Once he was released from prison, he seemed to suffer from brain injuries, affecting his speech, hearing, actions, and decision making. He was always speaking of seeking revenge on people. Shortly after Freeman’s release from jail, a wealthy white family was murdered, which Freeman was then arrested for. Attorney William Seward defended Freeman, pleading insanity. Freeman was found guilty anyway. Freeman died in his jail cell a year later. An autopsy showed that he suffered from severe brain deterioration.
One viewpoint of this case is that William Freeman was not insane, and that he purposely committed the murders of the Nest family. The biggest argument for this viewpoint was that William Freeman’s stupidity and slow speech could be blamed on the fact that he was the son of a slave and Native American. Most people were extremely racist during this time period, and they didn’t want him to be proven innocent no matter what. Another viewpoint of this case is that William Freeman was insane, and did not know what he was doing. The argument for this case was that he was beaten over the head by a guard, and since the beating, his ability to function deteriorated.
Other than this case, there are many incidents of criminals pleading insanity. In one case, a schoolteacher was caught making sexual advances towards his female coworkers, and also towards his young step-daughter. Doctors found that the man had a large tumor in his brain. When that tumor was removed, his pedophilia symptoms went away. He was not charged for his actions because they could be blamed on his tumor.
Another example is a man who suffered from epilepsy who had the part of his brain removed which was causing his seizures. He didn’t know that during surgery his brain had been injured, which caused him to become addicted to sex and become interested in child pornography. He was arrested, and sentenced to five years in jail and five years on house arrest, instead of ten years in jail. The judge gave him this better sentence because she recognized that his actions were due to his injury, however at work he showed no signs of pedophilia, which meant he could’ve asked for help in those times of control.
These cases raise many questions. How much blame should a criminal have for their actions? How do you prove whether or not a person is insane? How do we ensure that no one is taking advantage of the system by claiming insanity, while still ensuring that those who are truly insane receive fair sentencing?

The Insanity Defense

Society Bit:
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Science Bit:
For a person to be legally insane their brain would have to be in a state of trauma. Trauma can be physical or purely mental. The reason trauma causes insanity is because it alters the function of the brain. For example, people with schizophrenia have a gene that actually causes the disease, when people see visions that aren’t really there it could cause them to do things they otherwise wouldn’t do. In determining someone's insanity, neuroscientific evidence has been shown to be much more useful than a psycho evaluated testimony in influencing a jury if guilty. This is because showing people that there is actually something wrong with the brain with data and images is much better than just having them take your word for it.

Lie Detection MINI PROJECT

Lie detection is already a sketchy subject when it comes to the law. It is often seen as unreliable considering it only measures heartbeat and how badly someone is sweating, but what if there was a type of lie detection that could test the witness’s brain activity while they are being asked a question? Well, have you ever heard of an fMRI brain scan? An fMRI is a brain scan that detects changes in the brain by following the blood flow unlike an MRI where radio waves and magnetic fields create images of the organs. An fMRI unlike other lie detection methods, tracks the brain's activity instead of the signs of anxiety. This scan could allow cases to have a different set of evidence, but is it too good to be true? Dr. Nita Farahany, a professor at Duke University, participated in an experiment to help give an example of how an fMRI can work and how effective it could be in a courtroom. In the experiment, Dr. Farahany went into an fMRI after seeing a series of faces. For the first scan, she was tested on her ability to recognize any of the faces she had seen earlier. After seeing if Dr. Farahany recognized the faces the first time around, they task her with trying to conceal her memories of the faces from the fMRI. The results ended with a 50/50 chance of the fMRI picking up if Dr. Farahany was “lying” or being truthful. This can prove that the fMRI scans can be just as unreliable as other lie detection methods. This is not the only problem with fMRI lie detection. Say you are an innocent suspect, there is no possible way you committed a crime but are still strictly interrogated as if you had. Would you feel as anxious as someone who was guilty? If there was to be a brain scan of your interrogation then you might be wrongly accused just based on that, especially by a jury. Bringing fMRI lie detection results into a courtroom without any other evidence can cause the jury to name you guilty. This causes judges to be more careful about viewing these results and if you have to be so careful about them, then why even view them? This also counts when it comes to pleading the fifth, your brain can not plead the fifth just because your mouth tells it too. You could possibly self incriminate yourself. For example there was a case in Tennessee where lawyers brought in  fMRI lie detection and it was unfit for the courtroom because of it’s unpredictable results. This only means that the fMRI is not ready for courtroom, it will take time for neuroscientist to get it exactly right. Will it end up being an unreliable and unused tactic or become something that is used in all courtrooms if it improves its accuracy? Right now, it is leaning towards unused because of it's many issues, but it might also be able to turn around with many more studies on the ability to pick out concealment. We'll soon find out.

Eyewitness Testimony

Eyewitness testimonies refers to people who have witnessed a crime. They usually have to give a description of what happened at the crime and who they remembered were involved.  The problem with eyewitness testimonies is that they are not always accurate or true.

Based in the case study that BBC produced. A  short experiment was filmed, where they played out a fake murder and they have 15 people witness someone getting stabbed then later dying. They took those people to asked them about what they had remembered about that incident that afternoon. Based on the results of what people had said, no one really remembered what happened and everyone missed or added details. What was shocking was the fact that some people said things that they thought happened but did not actually occur. They also put the same eyewitnesses into a room with the victim and the two suspects. The rest of the people who innocent and random people. The majority of the eyewitnesses believed that #2 was the suspect or they believed that he was at the scene. In fact he was one of the innocent men that they randomly put his photo there. So in conclusion it is very possible that your brain and what you remember is always accurate.

I think that personally this topic is very conflicting because there are cases and eyewitness testimonies all the time for cases like this. This could possibly lead to convicted or sending someone innocent to jail and letting the person who actually did the crime go free. I think that this has to do with witnesses being mislead. It is possible that based on how serious what they witness actually happened and if that affects them mentally. They could have anxiety which causes them to have mixed emotions and feelings. I think that possibly something like this could affect their memory. I think also a lot in cases there is a huge possibility that people have mistaken identification. I think that your brain tricks you into thinking someone or something was there when it really was not.

In this case, eyewitness statements and testimonies are not always accurate and reliable. 
However, they are still useful because they were the ones who saw and witnessed the crime so they were there when it happened. There are possibly ways to improve the accuracy I think. We could make sure that lineups are carefully looked over like certain characteristics or behaviors. But overall, eyewitness testimonies do play a big role in our justice system, so we have to make sure our brain remembers as much as it can to what really happened.

Sources: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ChgPk2OiZCw

The Insanity Defense (Myrna)

The insanity defense has been around for a while. A lot of people might not understand what that is, except for the fact that someone is “crazy” and gets to get away with whatever criminal act or wrong act they have done. However, the insanity defense has been part of the legal system for a while. “A criminal defendant who is found to have been legally insanewhen he or she committed a crime may be found not guilty by reason of insanity. In some cases, the defendant may be found guilty but sentenced to a less severe punishment due to a mental impairment.” Courts use different rules to test out to legally claim if someone falls under the insanity defense. Some states do not allow the insanity defense to be used as a way to defend the actions of a criminal act. Those states are Idaho, Montana, Utah, and Kansas.

The four different rules to test the insanity defense are: The M’Naghten Rule, the Irrisistable Impulse Test, the Durham Rule, and the Model Penal Code Test. Each one has a specific insanity claim that could correlate to what the defendant claims.

The M’Naghten Rule: The person did not realize what he/she was doing and they could not tell right from wrong because of a mind disease.

The Irrisistable Impulse Test: The person was unable to control their actions because of the mental disease.

The Durham Rule: Despite being diagnosed for a mental illness, the person still committed a criminal act.

Model Penal Code Test: The person was diagnosed for a mental disease, but was unable to understand the criminality behind their actions.

One such case of the Insanity Defense was of William Freeman. He had a head injury while he was in prison from being hit by lumber by a guard. After he was released, he was seemed to have gone deaf and become slow witted. He was then arrested for the murder of a farmer and his family. William H. Seward represented the casr for Freeman and used the insanity defense as the plea for Freeman. There was a guilty verdict, however, it was taken to the Supreme Court to be tried. Freeman died in his jail cell before a decision was made, but later on in an autopsy showed that he had advanced brain detrioration. It was not really proven that it was his mental illness that had caused him to murder.

The insanity defense is very hard to use to defend someone who has comitted a serious crime. How do we decide what level of insanity will allow a person to be guilty or not. I think that those who can prove insanity and fall under it should have some kind of repercussions. Even if they have no control over themselves, they still comitted a crime. There can be people who lost their lives, people traumatized for life, people losing their loved ones because of  one person. The insanity defense in my opinion should not be an excuse for people to be not guilty or set free. It should be taken to consideration but still be given the proper punishment or repercussions necessary. Many people have different ideas and beliefs on this issue.




The Insanity Defense:

“The criminal justice system continues to struggle for a method to distinguish offenders whose mental illness is so severe that society should not morally responsible for their behavior, from whose actions, while perhaps objective irrational nevertheless merit punishment.” There are also a few tests following that assessment of the insanity plea. The M’Nagten test or the Brawner test followed by the irresistible impulse test. The “M’Naghten” test is when “an offender is insane under this test if mental illness prevents the offender from knowing the difference between right and wrong.” Whereas the Brawner test is defendants are insane if, because of a mental illness or defect, they lack the substantial capacity to appreciate the criminality of their actions or to conform their behaviors to legal requirements. Followed by the irresistible impulse, under which offenders are insane if a mental disorder prevents them from resisting the commission of an illegal act that they know is wrong.

One viewpoint is from the person who’s claiming that they are mentally ill or the person defending the insanity defense.
It’s not a “Get out of jail free” card, defendants found not guilty by reason of insanity are rarely set free. Instead, they are almost always confined in mental health institutions. They may remain confined for a longer period of time than had they been found guilty and sentenced to a term in prison. States may compel defendants adjudged insane to remain in a mental health institution until they convince a judge that they are no longer legally insane. The defense may argue that due to a mental illness or disability it caused them to not know right from wrong regarding their actions or a third party factor that lead them to do the things that they did.

Another viewpoint is from the person opposing the insanity defense and believe that it’s just a tactic for criminals get off scots free. Many may argue that criminals, “insane” or not, still committed the crime at the end of the day and deserve punishment. Like for example, a teacher who thinks that his brain tumor was the cause of his pedophelia. Yes, the brain tumor may have caused him to have those urges, but they might have brought out prior urges to become a child molester and he used that brain tumor as a justification for his actions. One of the viewpoints is that it’s just an excuse. Many criminals are said to have planned out their killings, so if they had the mind to plan an intricate plan to kill someone they must know what they were doing.

The two most famous real-life examples are from Jeffery Duhmer & John Wayne Gacy. Both heinous men who did heinous acts against humanity.
Jeffrey Dahmer is a notorious serial killer and sex offender in 1991. His long list of offenses involved sex, cannibalism, necrophilia, and dismemberment. Since he was a child, he had shown symptoms of withdrawal and avoidance of any social interactions. He would collect dead animals, then dissect, dissolve, or mutilate them in various waters. In the trial, Dammer pled not guilty by reason of insanity. The plead was rejected and Dammer was convicted of all 15 murders charges and sentenced to 15 consecutive life sentences.
John Wayne Gacy is a profilec serial killer in the 1970s. He was notorious for dressing up as a clown and performing at parties and events. He later raped and killed 33 young boys and men in Chicago. Many of his victims were lured into his home and then murdered by asphyxiation. He pled not guilty by reason of insanity, and was able to produce psychiatric experts who would testify for his case. But he was found guilty.

Whether you believe that the insanity defense is probable we need to acknowledge that there are many mentally unstable people who deserve the help they need.






Tried for something that wasn't your fault?

The Insanity Defense

It is a legitimate excuse to blame your actions on psychological effects, and not yourself. For example, you could be a dilutional person. If you are convicted for murder, you can use the insanity defense, where as you say this wasn’t my fault and I am, or was not honest with myself for what I did. It’s not always the case and most likely hard to get away with something you have done. You will not serve jail time depending on your claims, although you might be sentence to an asylum. In the case of John Hinckley, he was suffering a mental illness that believed in order to win the heart of an actress of Jodie Foster to Reagan was by killing him based on a movie, John believed that this was the only way. But who are we to blame? Sure, one might argue that the events for John was completely his fault for targeting someone with very high power. Others may argue because of the effects of this was because of a diagnosed mental illness he grew up with which his parents knew about. See who’s fault it is now?

“John Hinckley Jr. was 25 years old when he quickly emptied a six-shot, .22-caliber revolver to try to win the affection of Jodie Foster by assassinating President Ronald Reagan. He had become obsessed with the actress after seeing her portray a teenage prostitute in Taxi Driver, in which Robert De Niro's deranged character, Travis Bickle, plots to kill a presidential candidate.”

His intentions were indeed wrong, but he never would have done this because his reasoning was because he wanted to impress someone he cared about even if it meant his life. He truly believed this was the only way as he said so himself when sending letters to Jodie. “Jodie, I would abandon this idea of getting Reagan in a second if I could only win your heart and live out the rest of my life with you, whether it be in total obscurity or whatever.

     I will admit to you that the reason I'm going ahead with this attempt now is because I just cannot wait any longer to impress you.  I've got to do something now to make you understand, in no uncertain terms, that I am doing all of this for your sake!  By sacrificing my freedom and possibly my life, I hope to change your mind about me.”

Readers, you may be asking yourself, “Ok, so what? What does this have to do with science?” This man is confused, how do you pled not guilty after trying to murder the president of the united states? The answer is not so easy to explain, but if you compare it to a different case, you might see why. A 40 year old teacher had a mental illness because of a tumor he had in his brain. This tumor caused him to have sexual urges around small children, in this case, he was a pedophile. Once his tumor was removed, he had no such desires and could continue teaching without being a child predator (without the kidnapping). Now who's he to blame? The tumor or the man?

In society, these are real life cases that are really hard to point out. But because of his psychological condition, maybe the man did have urges before, but kept it in a controlled and professional manner that it was harmless, much like trying to conceal an erection when giving a speech in front of an audience. This is a valid reason to why a person like himself should’t be tried, if ever so. The doctors couldn’t even tell exactly why these urges ended once the tumor was removed. This is like trying to prove how kids develop autism, even though there are no evidence to how it is lead. See the similarities? The insanity defense is a valid excuse to use if someone is unable to stand trial because of something they probably had no control over, and some people might need a psychiatrist in court to prove whether or not they should or should not be guilty.


  1. "The Trial of John Hinckley." The Trial of John Hinckley. Famous American Trials. Web. 06 June 2016. <http://law2.umkc.edu/faculty/projects/ftrials/hinckley/hinckleytrial.html>.

  2. "Doctors Say Pedophile Lost Urge after Brain Tumor Removed." USA TODAY. USA TODAY, 2003. Web. 06 June 2016. <http://usatoday30.usatoday.com/news/health/2003-07-28-pedophile-tumor_x.htm>.

  3. The Insanity Defense. Psychology Today. N.p., 16 Aug. 2012. Web. 06 June 2016. <https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/almost-psychopath/201208/the-insanity-defense>.

Winter, Michael. "John Hinckley: The Man Who Shot Brady, Reagan." USA Today. Gannett, 2014. Web. 06 June 2016. <http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2014/08/04/james-brady-john-hinckley/13598699/>.

Insanity Defense

Throughout the process of conviction and court cases, there comes a variety of different standards that are put into place, in order to make sure criminals are put to justice in ways that make sense. This is the most common of scenarios. However, this can change, if those convicted are believed to be mentally incapable of standing trial, which can be plead if one doesn’t believe they are either innocent or guilty. Individuals may make this plea themselves, or, in the case that the judge or the jury believes that the convicted falls along that criteria. This defense, while almost rarely used today, is critical, in order to provide fair and equal treatment for anyone who happens to find themselves in a court of law.

There are many different opinions regarding this defense. Proponents of the argument believe that, with enough evidence, allows those who severely need help are able to be provided with that help, specific to the extent of psychological or psychiatric impairment, and while this is entirely true, it isn’t always the case, as opponents tend to believe this defense is a means to allow criminals to be released on charges that range from shoplifting to full blown manslaughter. The morale is often challenged, considering the fact that there are often times exceptions to this defense that work against whoever happens to be using it. The term ‘insanity’ itself is a very broad term, legally, because there are vast differences from each psychiatric disorder, both in how it affects patients, and what comes out of these afflictions.

A modern case study comes from that of James Holmes, who opened fire into a movie theater in Aurora, Colorado back in 2012. While the motives for this case are to this day still unknown, evidence found gives a bit of insight on what might have gone on in Holmes’ mind before the shooter, as journal entries written by Holmes himself showcases pretty disturbing content. Without getting down into the nitty gritty details, Holmes appears to be very apathetic about the way society and the world looks. The theme of death and humanity appear quite often in his writings, which  could lead one to believe that yes, maybe there was a touch of depression, however, often times during such a state, one is still mentally in control of their behaviors, without regard to more serious cases, typically ones ending in depression induced psychosis. While psychiatric evaluations were complete, in order to gauge Holmes mentality, the further notes he had taken down describe how the shooting was to take place, even going as far as to describe the ETA of police officers, depending on his location. It’s disturbing to think someone would put so much effort into planning the deaths of innocent civilians, which typically is the case in mass shootings. The insanity defense is very tricky in that there are many factors that can and cannot dictate how we view someone as, quote, ‘insane.’ While one can be mentally incapable to stand trial, Holmes eye for detail really shows that he knew what he was doing, down to the last second, and knew how he was going to carry everything out, something one typically doesn’t have should they meet the requirements of this defense.

Scientifically, this defense helps allow for psychiatric advances for criminal behaviors. What causes them? Is there any correlation between a certain ailment, and a certain crime? Are we really meant to judge the criminally insane, when they’re not completely ‘there,’ in a sense? The human brain is extremely fascinating as it is complex. While it has already been proven that there are in fact specifics in the brain that often times make for these criminal behaviors, being able to classify each sickness to its victim, and finding appropriate treatment or punishment is key, in order to keep things in the legal system with some level of morality. As a societal whole, giving those who wouldn’t necessarily have the chance to obtain such a substantial amount of treatment for behaviors that harshly inflict everyday living is key. The US legal system has many advantages as it does flaws, especially in the gray areas revolving around psychiatric disorders and how the affect criminals. Having the knowledge to determine what makes sense to do in what situation is an advancement, as too many people are getting off with charges lesser than their actual crime, for reasons that make absolutely no sense. Yes, it’s imperative that every potential inmate have a fair trial, the outcomes are sometimes less than beneficial.





Attached is a more informal look at this defense.