Is Brain Imaging the Future of Criminal Law?
Florida criminal defense attorney Stephen G. Cobb and Dr. Daniel Amen teach a joint Continuing Legal Education/Continuing Medical Education seminar on the use of neuro-imaging for criminal law cases.
SPECT (Single Photon Emission Computed Tomography) is a well-established brain imaging technology
Dr. Amen, the author of twenty-nine books and numerous technical publications in medical journals about SPECT brain imaging, displayed actual brain images of several high profile, violent offenders, next to healthy, normal brain images. He noted that SPECT “cannot tell if someone is innocent or guilty” and that “SPECT brain imaging is not a doctor in a box.”
Mr. Cobb, a Florida Bar Association Board Certified Expert in Criminal Trial Law and the host of Florida Criminal Law Television, has long advocated the abandonment of the current criminal Crime and Punishment paradigm in favor of one focused on Crime and Treatment.
“Since 2006, I have sent patient-defendants for neuro-imaging evaluations in order to see if my clients had normal, healthy brains. Over the last seven years, none have come back with a brain scan that was even close to a healthy, normal range brain image,” Cobb said. “We need to change our thinking about criminal law,” he elaborated, since “our present system is broken and costing taxpayers a fortune.”
An attorney present questioned the value of imaging in psychiatric evaluations versus psychiatric evaluations and treatment without imaging. Dr. Amen explained that SPECT brain imaging makes the diagnosis more accurate, which makes the treatment more effective.
Cobb was more blunt: “Those who don't get imaged before treatment frequently VOP (violate probation) or get re-arrested. Those who get imaged as part of the diagnostic procedure almost never do.”
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Page Updated Last on: Mar 04, 2013