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How NeuroImaging and Brain Function Can Help Our Defense Attorneys

As technology advances, society is provided the uncanny opportunity to see into what has been previously considered mysterious: the human brain. As doctors and researchers are learning more and more about the differing functions of the varied sections of the brain, we have become more and more fascinated with the brain process behind everyday actions. In a recent study, scientists questioned the brain functioning behind verdicts in criminal proceedings, and more specifically how jury members come to the decisions that they make when it comes to doling out a guilty or innocent verdict, as well as the brain functioning for a judge when he/she decides the appropriate sentence for a convicted defendant.

The Neuroimaging Study on Brain Function of Jury Members

Neuroimaging has provided a significant number of answers to these intriguing questions. According to the study, men and women were hooked up to neuroimaging machines and were provided a narrative for a homicide while another group received a narrative regarding an unintentional killing, such as a hunting accident or car accident.

Brain Activity in Subjects Dealing with Homicide

The group of men and women, who were reviewing the homicide, received a significant amount of gory details, and the neuroimaging revealed that two parts of the brain, the amygdala and the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, were being activated while the men and women decided the defendant’s sentence. The amygdala is the part of the brain that deals with strong negative emotions while the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex is the area of the brain integral to decision-making.

Brain Activity Throughout the Study

As the details of the story became more and more gruesome, the amygdala activity increased, which also led to increased activity of the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, showing that as negative emotions within the amygdala become more active, so does the decision-making process in the brain. This finding shows that gory details lead to significant emotional feelings, which could influence a jury member’s decision making abilities. This is important news for defense attorneys who should make it a tactic to limit the amount of gory details provided to jury members during a case so that their client is more likely to receive a lighter sentence.

Brain Activity in Subjects Dealing with Unintentional Killing

As for the subjects that were involved in assessing and providing a sentence for the narrative involving the unintentional killing, the brain activity was different than in the homicide case. Though the amygdala and the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex were both active, and were even more responsive with added, gruesome details of the killing, the jury members did not give the defendant a harsher punishment.

The reasoning? Other areas of the brain were active which were inhibiting the effects of the amygdala and dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, specifically the dorsal anterior cingulate cortex and the temporo-parietal junction. These structures in the brain deal with empathy and also the ability to understand and evaluate the perspective of another. These structures had the ability to counter the effect influenced by the negative emotions and decision-making areas of the brain by forcing empathy and understanding onto the jury members so that they would be more likely to decide on a less harsh punishment than for defendants involved in an intentional killing.

How Defense Attorneys Can Utilize This Information

Though this information is extremely helpful to those researchers and scientists involved in the neurology field, it can also be useful for defense attorneys when they know the type of cues that can influence the jury members’ brains, and on extension, their decisions. By limiting gory details and increasing empathy and perspective cues, defense attorneys may be able to lighten up the verdict and ultimately the sentencing for their clients.

Experienced Criminal Defense Attorney in Fort Lauderdale

If you or a loved one has been arrested for an offense, it is important to speak with an experienced criminal defense attorney like Kevin J. Kulik about your case and how the criminal justice system works in Florida. Contact Kevin J. Kulik today for a free and confidential consultation in the Fort Lauderdale area.

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