Over the years, cases dealing with psychopaths have made the news headlines in the country. Psychopaths engage in violence and they murder people. They cause a lot of suffering for those who are left. Therefore, everyone would expect that the psychopaths receive a punishment that fits the crime. This often ranges from a lifetime in prison or the death penalty depending on a state’s legal system. Therefore, it is unthinkable to consider that there are factors that can lead to reduced sentencing of such crimes. Recent studies show that biological factors can affect the emotions that a person has. According to such studies, psychopaths are not capable of expressing empathy and this makes them different. However, there is insufficient evidence intend to absolve the offenders and consider them less responsible for the actions they do.
In the article My Brain Made me Do It: Psychopaths and Free Will, Maia Szalavitz discusses the changing sentiments that judges have when sentencing psychopaths after learning that they have a biological condition that affects the way they behave. She was reporting on a research article, which aimed to find out whether the brain and gene differences in psychopaths should determine the length of their sentence. Judges are more likely to consider the fact that a person is a psychopath an aggravated factor when they are making their ruling. However, they are more willing to reduce the sentence of a psychopath if they learn that they are influenced by a biological condition. The mention of genetic factors or brain conditions elicits a reaction from the judges and they reconsider their sentencing decisions. However, when the biological conditions are not mentioned, judges will give a harsher sentence. Szalavitz notes that judges will consider the side giving the expert testimony when making decisions. She notes that the judges are more willing to listen to the defense side arguing this point concerning the plaintiff. Despite the fact that judges reconsider their decision when ruling, they only reduce their sentence by an average of one year.
The researchers used a hypothetical base that was based on the events surrounding the case of Stephen Mobley who killed a Domino manager in 1991 during a robbery. Mobley’s lawyer argued that his client had a brain condition. He told the court that MAO-gene, which is also known as a warrior gene affects the amyldagala. This part of the brain contains the violence inhibition mechanism. It enables normal people to become anxious when others are in pain. The lawyer argued that a convicted psychopath does not experience the normal brain reaction and he or she is not able to recognize when others are in distress. The argument did not stand at the time because research on the area was relatively new. Mobley was sentenced to death and he was executed in 2005. Despite the argument presented, the judges were not convinced that the psychopaths lacked free will. However, they did consider it and they offered reduced sentences.
The information concerning the functioning of the brain has become of considerable importance in the justice system today. In her report, Szalavitz includes the opinion of the director of the center for neuroscience and society at the University of Pennsylvania who noted that the interest in neuroscience stems from the fact that the brain controls everything that people do. The director noted that some people believe that neuroscience can find ways of absolving people from personal responsibility. This will eventually lead to a situation where people will blame their brains for the actions they do. Judges consider mental illness as a mitigating factor and they claimed that individuals who committed the crimes were not fully responsible. One of the judges opined that the lack of the MAO gene in the brain was similar to physical disability since the lack of emotions meant that the perpetrators were disabled morally.
The paper needed a
substantial amount of revision. I followed the teacher’s revision comments and
guidelines when revising the paper. I was able to find the areas that needed
rectifying based on the suggestions that she had made. Part of the revision
included finding a way to connect the different statements I had made. I was
able to make the work more understandable by connecting different ideas and by
explaining more on some of the statements that I had made. In addition, I also
noted the importance of giving details concerning the people involved in the
study. I was able to distinguish between the author’s comments when reporting
the study, and the information provided by the people who were involved in the
research. Another correction I made was rectifying the background information
to make it clear for the reader to understand the basis for the research. I
realized that this was important in enabling the reader to determine the
relevant of the report that would follow. I was also keener on the grammatical
mistakes and I made sure that I read my work.
Szalavitz, Maia. “My Brain Made Me Do It: Psychopaths and Free Will.” Time. 17 Aug. 2012. Web. 14 May 2015